Gabby Petito showed 'victim behavior' in bodycam video, say domestic violence experts
Gabby Petito 'talks about her mental health issues, her OCD specifically, and that that there was some tension between the two'
The mysterious disappearance of Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Petito continues to baffle people all over as Brian Laundrie, Petito’s boyfriend, remains silent on what might have happened during their cross-country road trip. But while Laundrie is exercising his right to not talk to law enforcement authorities, domestic violence experts have some insight to offer in the matter.
A new police body camera footage, released on September 16 by the Moab City Police Department, shows what police officers saw when they were called to a co-op after a complaint about a “domestic problem” was filed on August 12 when a witness saw the couple get into an argument. Police said they spoke with Petito and Laundrie, who told officers that Laundrie had tried to “create distance” after the argument by telling Petito to go take a walk and calm down.
The video showed an officer talking to Laundrie and an emotional Petito after authorities pulled over their white van near a grocery store in the city, about 140 miles southeast of Provo. The footage captured the officer separating the couple as they individually described the incident that prompted the report of a potential domestic incident. Petito could be seen wiping away tears as she told the responding officer she was struggling with her mental health.
“I’m sorry," Petito said after the officer asked her why she was crying. "We’ve just been fighting this morning. Some personal issues." Laundrie added, "It was a long day. We were camping yesterday.” In the video, when the officer asked Laundrie about scratches on his face, he responded: "She had her phone and was trying to get the keys from me. I said, 'Let's just step back and breathe,' and she got me with her phone."
In a police report released Wednesday, September 15, a responding officer wrote Petito slapped Laundrie after an argument, but the two told the officer neither wanted to press charges and they love each other. The officer spoke with Petito, Laundrie, and a witness whose name was partially redacted in the report.
“All three individuals gave me a similar and consistent story, consisting of the basic idea that the driver of the van, a male, had some sort of argument with the female, Gabbie," the report said. "The male tried to create distance by telling Gabbie to take a walk to calm down, she didn’t want to be separated from the male, and began slapping him. He grabbed her face and pushed her back as she pressed upon him and the van."
The couple reportedly agreed to separate in lieu of police making a case against Petito for domestic assault, the report said. The officer said he needed to make sure Laundrie wasn’t a victim of “battered boyfriend syndrome". Petito was given the van and Laundrie was taken to a hotel, police said. The couple separated for the night and no charges were filed.
"She talks about her mental health issues, her OCD specifically, and that that there was some tension between the two," described Clara Reynolds, president, and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, after watching the video. Reynolds told Fox News that her agency handled daily calls from people looking for help in domestic violence situations. She said it is important to trust your gut if you see something.
"And so, at least at this point, there is recognition that within a couple of weeks of the disappearance that there was at least one interaction that demonstrated that there were some issues between the two individuals. And so, I think it really will help as this investigation moves forward, having that evidence available," Reynolds said.
Mindy Murphy, the president, and CEO of The Spring of Tampa Bay, a Department of Children and Families certified Domestic Violence Center, said she saw the behavior of a victim in Petito. "It was not unusual to hear her taking responsibility for her behaviors and, kind of, him not taking any responsibility for his. I tend to think that probably there was a lot more that he did to contribute to the situation than at least I saw in that first 20 minutes," said Murphy.
"It's really important that law enforcement knows what they're doing, that they give a potential victim space to be able to safely talk about what's been going on," Murphy added.