New police body camera footage captured a visibly distraught Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito and her fiancé after an alleged physical altercation between them on a cross-country road trip in Utah.
It showed an officer talking to Brian 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 nearly hourlong video, the couple admitted to arguing all morning. 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."
On Thursday afternoon, an attorney for Petito's family, Richard Stafford, read a letter from her parents that was written to Laundrie's parents. In it, they begged for information that would lead to their daughter's discovery.
"We are writing this letter to ask you to help find our daughter. We understand that you are going through a difficult time and your instinct is strong to protect your son," the letter stated. "We ask you to put yourself in our shoes. We haven’t been able to sleep or eat, and our lives are falling apart.
"We believe you know the location of where Brian left Gabby. We beg you to tell us. As a parent, how could you let us go through this pain and not help us? As a parent, how could you put Gabby’s younger brothers and sisters through this?"
The family went on to talk about how excited the Laundries were when Petito and Brian Laundrie got engaged.
"Gabby lived with you for over a year. She’s going to be your daughter-in-law. How can you keep her location hidden?" the letter said. "Please if you or your family have any decency left, please tell us where Gabby is located. Tell us if we are even looking in the right place. All we want is for Gabby to come home. Please help us make that happen.”
Through their attorney, Steven P. Bertolino, Laundrie's family declined on Thursday to comment on the latest development in the case.
In a police report released Wednesday, 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 incident appeared to be more a mental and emotional "break" than a domestic incident, police said.
“No one reported that the male struck the female, both the male and the female reported they are in love and engaged and to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime," according to the report. "There were no significant injures reported and both agreed that Gabbie suffers from serious anxiety.”
Petito said she had hit Laundrie in the arm to get his attention as the officer was trying to pull them over, which caused the van to swerve into the curb, according to the report. But Laundrie said he thought Petito was trying to grab the wheel while he was driving, resulting in the swerve. The officer said Laundrie's account "was not consistent with Gabrielle's statement" and reported he saw scratches on Laundrie's arm.
The couple had spent the past four or five months traveling together, which "created emotional strain between them and increased the number of arguments,” the report said.
The couple 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.
The revelation that police in Utah encountered Petito, of Blue Point, Long Island, before she went missing comes as authorities continue to look for her and piece together her whereabouts. Petito was last known to be in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming in late August when she stopped communicating with her family.
The couple had been documenting their travels in the 2012 van on YouTube under the monikers Nomadic Statik and Van Life. That van, with Florida plates, and Laundrie eventually got back to the city of North Port, south of Tampa, but without the woman, police said.
According to police, Laundrie has "not made himself available to be interviewed by investigators" and has "not provided any helpful details." He has been named a person of interest by North Port police. The FBI is assisting with the investigation.
On Wednesday, responding to news Laundrie had been named a person of interest, Bertolino said in a statement that Laundrie will not speak on the matter because "intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this and the warning that 'any statement made will be used against you' is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito's disappearance."
Police Chief Todd Garrison did not provide any new details about the case during a Thursday afternoon press conference, but said authorities were continuing their search.
"We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past few weeks," he said in a statement Wednesday. "The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation. The answers will eventually come out. We will help find Gabby and we will help find anyone who may be involved in her disappearance."