Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie 'always had some drama' between them, friends say
Petito's body was found in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park over the weekend, and her fiance Brian Laundrie is absconding
Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie seemed like the perfect couple. We previously reported how one of their friends described them as "couple goals." However, as the tragedy unfolded, so did the truth of their relationship. A couple of friends told People that there was often tension between the high school sweethearts.
Petito's body was found in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park over the weekend, and her death has been ruled a homicide. Meanwhile, authorities have continued their search for Laundrie, who has been missing for a week. Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, had been traveling across America in a converted Ford Transit van for nearly two months. The fiance returned to his parents' Florida home by himself on September 1. Petito was reported missing on September 11, more than a fortnight after her mother last spoke to her by phone. Meanwhile, Laundrie refused to cooperate with detectives working the case and mysteriously disappeared on September 12. While Laundrie is still not a suspect in the case, he was named a "person of interest" last Wednesday, September 15.
"One minute, they'd be all over each other, the next minute, he'd be like, 'We're fighting,'" Laundrie's friend, Ben Matula, told People of their relationship when they were teenagers in Long Island, New York. "They always had some drama. There was always something below the surface where things weren't 100% wonderful," he added.
Petito's friend Alyssa Chen, 23, told the magazine that their on-again, off-again relationship had many ups and downs. "They had times they were toxic and times where everything seemed a lot more healthy," Chen explained. "They had very low lows and very high highs. But they really seemed to love each other. When things were good, you'd be like, 'Why can't I have a relationship like that?' When they were bad, you'd be like 'Oh my God, just break up and spare yourself from the drama and everyone else from having to hear about it.'"
Investigators are yet to establish how Petito was killed but believe she died sometime between August 27 and August 30. Authorities said the relationship between Petito and Laundrie became more strained as their tragic road trip progressed, per a newly unsealed search warrant linked to the case. The warrant, filed on September 17, enabled detectives with the North Port, Florida police to examine an external hard drive in their investigation of Petito's disappearance, People reported.
North Port police detective Daniel Alix wrote in the "probable cause for issuance" section of the warrant application that texts between Petito and her mother suggested "there appeared to be more and more tension between her and Laundrie" during the road trip. The detective also listed the "domestic disturbance" between the couple -- which eventually led to the widely discussed police stop that was captured on bodycam -- as a reason to justify the warrant. At the time, it was reported that the person who called 911 said he witnessed Laundrie striking and "slapping" Petito.
Speaking to People, Matula said the tragedy of their road trip made him rethink what he thought he knew about the couple. "The guy who he's being made out to be isn't the guy I knew," Matula insisted. "But then I have to look at what's going on and realize that he did some stuff that seems like it was shady — seems like maybe he wasn't on the up and up. And because he did that stuff, a girl might be dead and he might be in trouble.
"It seemed like they were seeing the world with the person they loved," Matula explained. "They were living the dream that all of us want to do. But they were doing it. All their friends were either still in college or searching for entry-level jobs, and they're out there killing it. I was jealous, and I know I'm not the only one. I was happy for them," he added.
If you or anyone you know has information on this case, you are urged to call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).