NEW YORK — Gabby Petito was crying and having an anxiety attack on Aug. 12 when police officers in Moab, Utah stopped her white van, a vehicle Petito was sharing with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie.
The officers were reacting to a 911 call made by a motorist, outside a market in Moab.
“We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller told the 911 dispatcher.
But what exactly happened during the argument between Petito and Laundrie still remains a mystery.
A crying Petito later gestured as she told one police officer, “He like, grabbed my face, like this,” as she yanked at her jawline. Petito then quickly added that Laundrie hadn’t hit her.
But a female officer who responded to the incident was later shown on camera advising Petito, essentially telling her, if the relationship is troubled, it might be a good time to reflect on it and make a decision on whether it was a healthy one — and perhaps choose a new path.
Petito stayed with Laundrie, who flew home to Florida shortly after the incident and then returned to meet Petito out west. There was another argument witnessed by restaurant patrons later in August, about the time that Petito stopped Facetiming her family on Long Island.
Laundrie returned to Florida alone on Sept. 1 in Petito’s white van and never reported his fiancée’ was missing. He didn’t take calls from her worried parents. They reported Petito missing on Sept. 11, and her body was found Sept. 19 in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.
Now, with the announcement from Teton County that Petito died by “manual strangulation,” that Aug.12 argument might merit another review.
In 2019, PIX11 presented a two-part special report called “Stranglehold.”
The report detailed “The Strangulation Initiative” formed by the Bronx County District Attorney’s office, helmed by Darcel Clark.
Amy Litwin, an assistant district attorney in the DA’s Domestic Violence Bureau, pointed out that a woman who survives a “choking” incident is seven times more likely to become a homicide victim in the future.
Adrienne Giunta, director of the bureau, said at the time “strangulation is a ‘lethality indicator.'”
What exactly happened when Laundrie allegedly grabbed for Petito’s jawline on Aug. 12? Was that a lethality indicator?
Laundrie has been named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance, but not in her death, at least not publicly, at this point.
He vanished four weeks ago, not long before Petito’s remains were found in the woods of Wyoming.