Would Gabby Petito be alive if abuse warning signs were acted on earlier?

This story previously aired on Sept. 17, 2022. It was updated on May 27, 2023.

Gabby Petito's road trip in the summer of 2021 started as an adventure story. Months later, it turned into a nationwide search for a missing woman before ending with the discovery of her remains in Grand Teton National Park.

It has now become a cautionary tale.

Mary Fulginiti: Ultimately her death … will hopefully lead to many women being rescued and saved from these situations, well before it gets to murder.

Gabby Petito / Credit: Instagram/Instagram
Gabby Petito / Credit: Instagram/Instagram

Former prosecutor and CBS consultant Mary Fulginiti says Gabby's story is really about recognizing the warning signs of domestic violence, which are often hard to read.

Mary Fulginiti: There are people who believe that Gabby Petito's story didn't have to end the way it did. If only the warning signs had been picked up on, would it have been different.

To most eyes, Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie were compatible in every way.

GABBY PETITO (internet video): Gabby Petito never goes outside.

Joseph Petito: Coolest chic you've ever met, man. By far, she's going to make you — she's going to make you smile

Gabby's dad, Joseph.

Joseph Petito: She's the coolest chic you ever met. Simple as that.

Twenty-two years old, a New York girl from Long Island with an appetite for adventure.

Her mom, Nichole Schmidt.

Nichole Schmidt: She knew she wanted to take this trip.

Nichole Schmidt: She had told me about it probably a year before it started.

GABBY PETITO (internet video): Brian's stretching, doing some morning yoga.

Rose Davis: Brian's very charismatic. He always comes off as such a sweet person and just kind of, like, "I'm here."

One of Gabby's close friends is Rose Davis. They met soon after Gabby moved to Florida.

Rose Davis: She texted me one of the sweetest messages I think I've ever got from someone. And it was just, like, "You seem so cool. I really wanna be your friend." And I was just — "absolutely."

They made TikTok videos together for fun. Rose says Gabby was good friends with Brian back in high school in New York. Then, after Brian moved to Florida, Gabby moved there too — to be closer to him.

Rose Davis: I always told her her life is kind of like a movie because I was just, like, this happens in movies.

Soon, they were in love and living together.

Rose Davis: She'd let me know what they did and, you know, he'd — he'd make her breakfast. And it was always such a cute little thing. And they did cute, little dinners.

In July of 2020, they got engaged. They even got tattoos together. But Rose says Brian could sometimes exhibit what she calls toxic traits."48 Hours" spoke with Rose when Gabby was first reported missing.

Rose Davis: When Brian wants something, he's going to get it. And I don't mean in a physical way, he's going to force it. He's just going to — I don't want people to say I'm calling him a full manipulator, but he'll manipulate the situation to get what he wants out of it. And, you know, he didn't want her to go out one night with me and he stole her ID because you can't get into the bar without your ID. And, you know, this was really upsetting to her. You know, you're engaged, it's not like — you know, it's not supposed to be like that.

But the couple seemed to put any drama behind them as they got ready for their adventure. Gabby worked hard at Taco Bell and with Brian at Publix supermarket, saving money for their trip.

Nichole Schmidt: They bought the van, they converted it.

The goal was to spend four or five months crisscrossing the country, having adventures, even working on organic farms and chronicling it all in real time on social media.

Rose Davis: She was just, like, "I want to document this. This is so cool to be doing." And she just kind of — yeah, kind of like a vlogger, just let everyone know what she was up to.

Nichole Schmidt: She was excited starting her van life — digital journey where she's creating this whole, you know, following of van lifers, and that's what she was really into at the moment.

Briian Laundrie and Gabby Petito at the start of their journey on July 4, 2021. Gabby would document their adventure on social media. / Credit: Brian Laundrie/Instagram
Briian Laundrie and Gabby Petito at the start of their journey on July 4, 2021. Gabby would document their adventure on social media. / Credit: Brian Laundrie/Instagram

They rolled out officially on July 2. Gabby posted constantly — every little detail.

GABBY PETITO ("Van Life" video): You can't keep chocolate in Utah — not in July.

But all those selfies may have been hiding a darker story.

Rose Davis: It's everything behind the scenes you don't know.

Six weeks into their trip, on the afternoon of August 12 in Utah near the Arches National Park, Gabby and Brian's Instagram road trip came to a shuddering stop.

It was around 4:45 p.m., according to a police officer's bodycam:

OFFICER [bodycam video]: Driver is showing some obscure [sic] driving. Possibly intoxicated.

OFFICER: Currently doing 45 miles an hour, zone through here is 25. Oh — subjects just hit the curb! Correction, speed limit is 15.

OFFICER: What is your guy's name?



OFFICER: Gabby, Brian? OK.

It was the stop that could have changed everything.


This 911 call was made on August 12, 2021, in Moab, Utah, four weeks before Gabby Petito was reported missing:

OFFICER: Grand County Sheriff's Office …

911 CALLER: We're driving by and I'd like to report a domestic dispute …

The caller reports seeing what appeared to be an alarming confrontation between Gabby and Brian:

911 CALLER: Florida license plate … white van.

OFFICER: What were they doing?

911 CALLER: Uh, we drove by 'em. A gentleman was slapping the girl.

OFFICER: He was slapping her?

911 CALLER: Yes. Then we stopped, they ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off.

Officers from the Moab Police Department are dispatched, and within minutes Gabby and Brian's white van is spotted driving erratically outside the Arches National Park. 

They're pulled over. The officers separate the couple and begin questioning them. Gabby is visibly shaken.

OFFICER: You wanna tell me what's going on?

GABBY PETITO: Yeah, I don't know. It's just — some days I — I have really bad OCD and I just — I was just cleaning and straightening up the back of the van before and I was apologizing to him and saying, "I'm sorry that I'm so mean ..."

Police body camera video shows Gabby Petito talking to a Moab, Utah, officer after police pulled over the van she was traveling in with Brian Laundrie, near the entrance to Arches National Park on August 12, 2021.  / Credit: Moab Police Department
Police body camera video shows Gabby Petito talking to a Moab, Utah, officer after police pulled over the van she was traveling in with Brian Laundrie, near the entrance to Arches National Park on August 12, 2021. / Credit: Moab Police Department

GABBY PETITO: And I'm trying to start a blog, I just have a blog. So — so I've been building my website so, I've just been really stressed and … he doesn't really believe that I can do any of it so that's kind of been like a — I don't know, he's like — I don't know, we've just been fighting all morning and — and he wouldn't let me in the car before, and then I –

OFFICER: Why wouldn't he let you in the car? 'Cause of your – 'cause of your OCD?

GABBY PETITO: He told me I — he told me I needed to calm down.

The officer walks over to Brian.

Police question Brian Laundrie about a 911 caller's report of seeing an alarming confrontation between Brian and Gabby Petito. / Credit: Moab Police Department/AP
Police question Brian Laundrie about a 911 caller's report of seeing an alarming confrontation between Brian and Gabby Petito. / Credit: Moab Police Department/AP

OFFICER: So, tell me, what's going on?

BRIAN LAUNDRIE: Well, she just gets worked up sometimes, and I try and really distance myself from her, so, like I – I locked the car and I walked away from her.

Brian tells them Gabby attacked him — scratching his face and his arm — as she tried to get back into the van.

BRIAN LAUNDRIE [to officer]: She had her phone and was trying to get the keys from me. So, I was backin' away — I was just trying to — I know I shouldn't have pushed her, but I was just trying to push her away to go — let's take a minute to step back and breathe. And you see — she got me with her phone [shows officer his face].

Another officer asks Gabby for more details about what happened.

OFFICER: — people that came to us and told us that they saw him hit you …

GABBY PETITO: Well, to be honest, I definitely hit him first.

OFFICER:  Where'd you hit him?

GABBY PETITO: I slapped him on the — on the face.

OFFICER: You slapped him first? Just on his face?

GABBY PETITO: He had just told me to shut up.

OFFICER: How many times did you slap him?

GABBY PETITO: Just a couple maybe.

OFFICER: And then what? And his reaction was to do what?

GABBY PETITO: Grab my arm … and so I wouldn't slap him.

OFFICER: He just grabbed you?


OFFICER: Did he, did he hit you though? I mean, I mean it's OK if you're saying you hit him, I understand if he hit you, but we want to know the truth if he actually hit you. 'Cause you know —

GABBY PETITO: I guess — I guess yeah but I hit him first.

OFFICER: Where did he hit you? Don't worry. Just be honest.

GABBY PETITO: Well, he, like, grabbed my face like this, I guess. He didn't, like, hit me in the face. Like, he didn't, like, punch me in the face or anything.

OFFICER: Did he slap your face or what?

GABBY PETITO: Well, like, he, like, grabbed me, like, with his nail and I guess that's why it looks — I definitely have a cut right here 'cause I can feel it. When I touch it, it burns.

The officers never directly asked Brian if he slapped or hit Gabby. They also didn't talk to the 911 caller who reported seeing Brian hit Gabby. But one of the officers did speak with a second eyewitness that day.

OFFICER [talking to another officer on bodycam video]: The witness says I never saw him hit her, I saw him shove her, but I couldn't tell if it was an aggression against her or a defense against her … So, at this point, from what — unless the guy's screaming that he needs to go to jail and did something to this girl — it sounds to me like she was the primary aggressor.

In Utah, if officers find evidence of a domestic violence assault, they are required to make an arrest or issue a citation. An independent investigation would later conclude that the officers did not have a clear understanding of the law.

OFFICER 2 [bodycam video]: Gabby. This is a very, very important question. How you answer this question is going to determine what happens next. But the only person who can answer this question is you.


They mistakenly believed that Gabby had to intend to harm Brian to mandate an arrest.

OFFICER 2: When you slapped him those times, were you attempting to cause him physical pain or physical impairment? Is that what you were attempting to do to him?


OFFICER 2: What were you — what were you attempting to do? What was the reason behind the slapping and stuff? What was it you were attempting to accomplish by slapping him?

GABBY PETITO: I was trying to get him to stop telling me to calm down.

OFFICER 2 [to the other officer]: Well, it doesn't sound to me like she attempted to injure him.

Ultimately, officers on the scene decided to separate the couple for the night – Gabby was told to stay with the van.

OFFICER [to Gabby]: I'm gonna give you the keys to the van.

OFFICER: I'm giving him a ride over to the hotel.

As the assumed victim, Brian was sent to a hotel.

BRIAN LAUNDRIE: I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

OFFICER: No problem. Nice meeting you Brian. [officer shakes Brian's hand]

BRIAN LAUNDRIE: Nice to meet you.

No one was arrested or issued a citation.  Forensic psychologist Kris Mohandie has worked closely with law enforcement on issues of domestic violence.

Kris Mohandie: The officers that responded to Gabby and Brian were compassionate their hearts were in the right place of wanting to help. … they were trying to do what they mistakenly believed was the right thing … by cutting them a break.

Weeks later when the bodycam footage was released, there was a public uproar. For Gabby's friend Rose, those images were almost impossible to watch.

Rose Davis: It takes a lot for her to get her that hysterical. … so, when I saw the bodycam, I knew it was more than a little argument. She's not gonna slap him for no reason.

GABBY PETITO [to officer on bodycam]: But I'm so calm, I'm calm all the time and he really stresses me out.

The release of the 911 call drew outrage.

Followers of the story on social media erupted in anger.

"… my blood is boiling at how they failed this poor girl."

"All I Know is this didn't have to end like this. Police missed an opportunity."

Mohandie says the officers seemed to miss signs of domestic abuse, such as Brian describing Gabby as "crazy" and Gabby accepting the blame:

BRIAN LAUNDRIE [to officer]: She's just crazy. No. [laughs] …

GABBY PETITO [to officer]: And I was apologizing to him saying, I'm sorry that I'm so mean.

Kris Mohandie: In a domestically violent relationship, it's not uncommon for one party, you know, to take the blame, you know, for what really is the behavior of the other party.

The independent investigator later wrote that "it's very likely that Gabby was a long-term victim of domestic violence."

The ramifications of the officers' actions during that stop would play out in the days ahead — and months later would be questioned by Gabby's parents and their lawyers 

Just days after that traffic stop, Gabby and Brian were back on the road headed north to Salt Lake City.

On August 19, Gabby posted an edited eight-minute video showing their journey together.

GABBY PETITO ["Van Life" video]: Hello, hello and good morning ... It is really nice and sunny today.

The video showed no signs of any tension between Gabby and Brian.

Later, Gabby told her mom they were leaving Utah and driving to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Nichole Schmidt: She was happy, she was excited to keep going on her journey and that was the last time I spoke to her. Verbally.

One of the series of photos in Gabby Petito's last Instagram post. / Credit: Gabby Petito/Instagram
One of the series of photos in Gabby Petito's last Instagram post. / Credit: Gabby Petito/Instagram

On August 25, Gabby posted a series of photos on Instagram in front of a butterfly mural in Ogden, Utah. It would be her final post on Instagram.


The Instagram post on August 25, 2021, was the last time Gabby Petito would publish on social media. And shortly after she'd said she and Brian were headed to Grand Teton National Park, Gabby's parents stopped hearing from her.

Mary Fulginiti: She seemed to have been in communication with her parents on a regular basis throughout the totality of this trip … and they were checking in on her regularly

Gabby Petito photographed at Bryce Canyon National Park on July 21, 2021.   / Credit: Gabby Petito/Instagram
Gabby Petito photographed at Bryce Canyon National Park on July 21, 2021. / Credit: Gabby Petito/Instagram

Then, on August 27, 2021, her mother says she received a strange text message from Gabby's phone.  It read, "Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls." Stan is Gabby's grandfather.

Mary Fulginiti: The mother thought it was odd because she never refers to her grandfather as Stan.

It was out of character and disconcerting, but as far as the Petito family knew, Gabby and Brian were still together on their trip.

MIRANDA BAKER [TikTok video]: Hi, my name is Miranda Baker and on August 29th, my boyfriend and I picked up Brian at Grand Teton National Park at 5:30 at night at Colter Bay.

Forty-eight hours after Gabby's mother received that cryptic text, Miranda Baker says she and her boyfriend picked up a man she believes was Brian Laundrie. She says he was alone.

MIRANDA BAKER [TikTok video]: He approached us asking us for a ride, 'cause he needed to go to Jackson. … Before he came into the car, he offered to pay us like $200 to give him a ride like 10 miles, so that was kind of weird. … He then told us that he was camping for multiple days without his fiancé — and that she was working on their social media page back at their van.

Suddenly, says Baker, things took a turn when there was confusion over where they were going.

MIRANDA BAKER [TikTok video]: He freaked out — he's like, "Nope, I need to get out right now. Like pull over" … We dropped him off at 6:09 p.m. on August 29th.

Meanwhile Gabby's mother, Nichole, did receive one more text from Gabby's phone. It said that there was "no service in yosemite."

Nichole Schmidt [September 13, 2021]: The last text I received from her phone was August 30th.

Jericka Duncan | "48 Hours" contributor: Are you confident that was from her or you're not sure?

Nichole Schmidt: I can't comment on that.

During Gabby's travels, she had been staying in touch with her friend Rose Davis. Rose was expecting to hear from Gabby on her birthday.

Rose Davis: So, we talked and my birthday's August 29th. So, we decided, "Call me then …"

Friends Rose Davis and Gabby Petito / Credit: Instagram
Friends Rose Davis and Gabby Petito / Credit: Instagram

But But no birthday call or text came.

Rose Davis: I honestly didn't think anything of it when she didn't text me or anything 'cause … she's traveling cross-country. And, you know, once it got — it got later into it — around, like, the — the — 8th and 9th of September … that was the point where I was, like, "She woulda called me … Why haven't I heard from her yet?"

What Davis did not know was that on September 1, Brian Laundrie was back in North Port, Florida. He had driven the van there — and he was alone. The Petito family knew none of this, but they had already become alarmed when they stopped hearing from Gabby altogether, and her cellphone had stopped working.

Jericka Duncan: Did you ever reach out to her boyfriend to figure out what happened and where — where your daughter is?

Nichole Schmidt: We can't comment on it.

Jim Schmidt: We're not commenting on that.

But Gabby's mother did reach out to police.

Nichole Schmidt: It was actually Friday, the 10th, that I decided to call police because I had had 10 days, 10 — almost 11 days was enough for me to not hear from my child. And I got the runaround. Nobody wanted to report her missing. She's an adult. She's traveling. … As a mother, I said, "it's not like her." Finally, that Saturday, I went personally to Suffolk County Fifth Precinct … and now this is where we are.

Gabby Petito was officially declared a missing person on September 11, just over two weeks after her last Instagram post. As the nation remembered so many lives lost 20 years earlier, the Petito family focused on one life — that of their missing daughter.

Nichole Schmidt: We're looking for her and only her, not the van, not the two of them, just — just her. Keep your eyes out and we'll find her.

On Monday, September 13, 2021, the story of Gabby Petito's disappearance hit the news.

WINK NEWS REPORT: A woman disappeared on a cross-country trip with her boyfriend.

KRISTINE JOHNSON | WCBS: The parents of a missing woman from Long Island need help finding her.

Gabby's mom and stepdad, Nichole and Jim Schmidt, held up her photo for reporters.

JIM SCHMIDT: Gabby is 22 years old. She is an absolutely beautiful, beautiful soul inside and out.

Rose Davis was devastated to see her friend's picture on TV.

Rose Davis: My mom called me into her room, and Gabby's face was all over the news. … and I kinda just went into shock.

What happened to Gabby Petito?


Once it became clear that Gabby Petito had gone missing, her mom and stepdad, her father, Joe Petito, and stepmom Tara, set up a "Find Gabby" page where people could post tips and information. She was reportedly last seen near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming around August 27, 2021.

On September 11, 2021, Nichole Schmidt, Gabby Petito's mother, files a missing person's report with the Suffolk County, New York, Police Department. Schmidt and husband Jim appeal for Gabby's safe return. / Credit: WCBS
On September 11, 2021, Nichole Schmidt, Gabby Petito's mother, files a missing person's report with the Suffolk County, New York, Police Department. Schmidt and husband Jim appeal for Gabby's safe return. / Credit: WCBS

NICHOLE SCHMIDT: We want her home.

JOSEPH PETITO: We want her home safe and sound

Rose Davis: I immediately, immediately — made, like, a collage of all of our photos, edited it for a TikTok and posted the information … Facebook, Instagram, everything.

Within days, videos about Gabby's disappearance exploded across social media. Even people with no connection to Gabby joined the search to help to find her.

WOMAN [TIKTOK VIDEO]: We are going to be going to the Grand Tetons to see if there's anything that we can do to help in the search of Gabby Petito.

Joseph Petito: You know, the social media has been amazing watching it, getting everybody to post it repost it …  we need for her to come back home. And anything you guys can do to help us get there is is just appreciated … and we just got to keep doing it.

For Gabby's parents, this spotlight — in the media and online — was invaluable. But as former federal prosecutor Mary Fulginiti points out, not all missing persons cases receive this level of attention.

Jericka Duncan: What was it about Gabby Petito's story that resonated with so many people across the world?

Mary Fulginiti: You know, there seems to be a tendency in these types of cases to give a disproportionate amount of attention to … a certain type of individual … and I think Gabby Petito was a young, beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed girl.

Forensic psychologist Dr. Kris Mohandie.

Kris Mohandie: This case, you know, is a bit of a commentary on who gets news attention, traction in social media … There are people in these situations every single day that don't fit that description. … Native American communities, you know, gay communities … Are they being treated differently? Are they being ignored?

Mary Fulginiti: Whether it's newsworthy or not shouldn't be dictated by somebody's color of skin … because these stories … if they rise to a level of notoriety, I mean, they really can help solve the mystery behind some of them.

But there was one person who wasn't helping solve the mystery of what happened to Gabby: Brian Laundrie. North Port Florida, police spokesman Josh Taylor said investigators were frustrated. Neither he nor his parents would answer their questions even though Gabby had lived with them.

JOSH TAYLOR (press conference): We were essentially handed the information for their attorney. That is the extent of our conversation with them.

Rose Davis: First word that popped in my brain was "coward," to be honest with you. You're supposed to love her. You're supposed to marry her. Where is she?

Police confiscated the white Ford van, searched it for evidence and then released it, posting that Brian was now a person of interest in Gabby's disappearance. Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino spoke briefly to the press.

STEVEN BERTOLINO [press conference]: On behalf of the Laundrie family, our hope that Ms. Petito is located and that she's reunited with her family.

Gabby's parents responded through attorney Rick Stafford with a scathing letter:

RICK STAFFORD [press conference]: "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?"

Six days after Gabby was declared missing, the Laundrie family reported that they didn't know where Brian was. They said he'd left for a hike at the Carlton Reserve days earlier. Police immediately began to comb the huge local park, looking for Brian.

MICHAEL GEORGE ("CBS Evening News" |September 9, 2021): A massive search. More than 50 officers and FBI agents combing a 24,000-acre park near Sarasota, Florida, looking for Brian Laundrie.

Protesters gather outside of the home of Brian Laundrie's parents in North Port, Florida, on September 20, 2021. Police served a search warrant at the home. / Credit: WINK
Protesters gather outside of the home of Brian Laundrie's parents in North Port, Florida, on September 20, 2021. Police served a search warrant at the home. / Credit: WINK

Anger at the Laundrie family's silence prompted protesters to gather outside the Laundrie home demanding answers. While authorities were searching for Brian in Florida, the search for Gabby in and around Wyoming intensified.

Mary Fulginiti: It was, like, a nationwide hunt too, you know, between social media and all the other avenues …  people were looking for the van. People were looking for where it went, when it went. They were looking for Gabby Petito.

And in this case, all of that social media attention ultimately helped investigators locate Gabby when Kyle and Jenn Bethune came forward with information they had spotted Gabby and Brian's van.

The Bethunes had been in Wyoming's Teton National Park around the time Gabby's family last heard from her. On August 27,2021, the Bethunes had their GoPro cameras rolling for their YouTube channel when they went looking for a campground.

Jenn Bethune: We're driving down this road … passed this van … and it had Florida plates ... However, the van was completely dark … we assumed that they were just out hiking or doing something else.

Once the Bethunes left the park, they didn't think about the van again until late on September 18, when Jenn checked her phone and was stunned to learn authorities now believed Gabby had been in the Tetons the very same night the Bethunes were there. Jenn instantly remembered the white van.

Jenn Bethune: And I immediately got goosebumps all over my body. I rushed back to the computer … and I saw that white speck of van, and I was like, please keep going, please keep going, please keep going, and it did, and it got bigger and bigger.

Kyle Bethune: We just some reason instantly knew that it was hers.

Jenn Bethune: When I called the FBI I was like, "I have found Gabby's footage, like, patch me across to somebody, like, this is huge"… because I knew deep down what it was, and I knew how important this footage would be to finding Gabby.

As instructed, the Bethunes uploaded their footage to the FBI website. They also posted it on YouTube and Facebook. 

Just hours later came the devastating announcement.

CHARLES JONES [FBI press conference]: Today, human remains were discovered, consistent with the description of Gabrielle" Gabby" Petito.

The FBI says Gabby's remains were found at the Spread Creek camping area inside Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. An autopsy confirmed the remains were Gabby's and the coroner determined her death was a homicide, by manual strangulation.

CHARLES JONES (press conference): We have no additional comments.

Gabby's family asked for privacy, but her father Joe sent out a tweet that summed up the moment. It read simply: "she touched the world."

Hours after it was announced Gabby had been found, over a dozen FBI agents and police officers swarmed the home of Brian's parents.

JERICKA DUNCAN [at the scene]: Police arrived, the FBI arrived, they were carrying a battering ram, and they also announced they had a warrant … I think seeing these FBI agents and police here, you now wonder, "do they know know where he is?"

The next day, North Port Police, the FBI, and other agencies ramped up the search of the nature preserve near Brian's home.

POLICE OFFICER: The terrain is very difficult. 75% of it is underwater.

On October 20, 2021 — 49 days after Brian had returned home without Gabby — the FBI made an announcement:

FBI PRESS CONFERENCE | Tampa: Earlier today, investigators found what appears to be human remains …

An autopsy revealed Brian Laundrie had died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. And, there was something else.

FBI PRESS CONFERENCE: … along with personal items such as a backpack and notebook belonging to Brian Laundrie.

That notebook contained writings from Brian explaining what he says really happened to Gabby Petito, writing:

"I ended her life, I thought it was merciful ..." 


Before Brian Laundrie put a bullet through his head, he wrote a story describing how Gabby died.

Mary Fulginiti: It was dark, they were running across a stream. She must have fell and hurt herself. And he went to help her, but she seemed to be in extreme … pain.

In that small notebook found in a dry bag near Brian's remains, he wrote:

"I ended her life, I thought it was merciful, that it is what she wanted, but I see now all the mistakes I made."

Kris Mohandie: It was a self-serving narrative that portrayed that there had been an accident and that there had been a mercy killing by him of her because she was suffering.

Kris Mohandie: … it speaks to selfishness and a degree of narcissism that it was important … how other people looked at him, his image. … He had the last word.

While Gabby's parents will never see Brian Laundrie face a jury, they are seeking their own version of justice. They sued Brian's estate for wrongful death and his parents for intentional infliction of emotional distress .

Patrick Reilly | Attorney: It's our belief that … the Laundrie family was aware … that Brian had murdered Gabby and … was aware where her body was located.

Reilly says that belief is based on information from the FBI. He says the FBI believes that Gabby was murdered on August 27, 2021 … and that Brian made a lengthy phone call to his parents on August 28. He says, according to the FBI, Brian's parents then contacted an attorney that same day.

Jericka Duncan: How damning is that? Why would they get an attorney so fast?

Mary Fulginiti: It's very damning. … It does not pass the smell test.

The Laundries' attorney issued a statement denying the allegations made in the lawsuits, and saying "this lawsuit does not change the fact that the Laundries had no obligation to speak to Law Enforcement or any third-party including the Petito family."

But there's more says Reilly — a letter allegedly written to Brian by his mother Roberta Laundrie. Reilly says he and Gabby's mom read it while reviewing evidence at the FBI's Tampa office.

Patrick Reilly: There was one part that sticks out, which is, "If you go to prison, I'll bake a cake with a shiv in it." … And by the way, the envelope that the letter came in — had written on the front of it, "Burn after reading."

If it can be proven when and if Brian's mother did indeed write that letter, it could be very damaging, says Fulginiti.

Mary Fulginiti: 'Cause it shows the mindset of the mother, that she'll do anything to protect her child.

In addition to the cases in Florida, Gabby's parents filed a lawsuit against the Moab Police Department relating to how they handled that domestic violence stop with Gabby and Brian.

Attorney Brian Stewart: The family believes that Gabby would still be alive today if the police officers had had the proper training and had followed the law in how they responded to — Gabby's situation.

According to attorney Brian Stewart, the bodycam footage shows there was a fundamental problem.

OFFICER [to Gabby Petito]: The very best thing I can do is call my supervisor and see if I'm missing something here.

Brian Stewart: It's clear that the officers did not have a clear understanding of the law that they were supposed to enforce that day.

OFFICER: Gabby, try to calm down and I'm going to go call a supervisor …

The Moab Police Department commissioned the captain of another Utah police department to conduct that independent review of the officers' actions that day. Among the report's conclusions: there was "probable cause for an arrest."

Brian Stewart: So, by choosing not to apply the statute and effect an arrest, the officers left Gabby and Brian in a dangerous situation.

The report cited other unintentional mistakes, says Mary Fulginiti.

Mary Fulginiti: They didn't follow up with a key witness, which is the 911 caller. …  They did not follow up with questions to Brian Laundrie about whether or not he grabbed her face or grabbed her arm. … They didn't document Gabby's—wounds … photographically or in the report.

Gabby Petito in Colorado Springs, Colorado on July 8, 2021. / Credit: Gabby Petito/Instagram
Gabby Petito in Colorado Springs, Colorado on July 8, 2021. / Credit: Gabby Petito/Instagram

Fulginiti believes they also missed some classic telltale signs of domestic violence.

Mary Fulginiti: Here was a girl who is hysterically crying, who's immediately takin' the blame, who's also tryin' to minimize her boyfriend's actions … All of this while he remained calm, cool and collected through his interview. So, I think if you look at that in the totality — and had all those things been addressed, we might've had a different outcome here.

Kris Mohandie: This could have been a game changer. We don't know for sure, we'll never know. But certainly, intervention would have been more possible under that scenario.

One of the officer's involved told the independent investigator after Gabby's death, "I would have done anything to stop it if I would have known that was coming."

In a statement, the City of Moab said it believed the officers showed kindness, respect and empathy in their handling of this incident.

OFFICER: Let's get you in the van. Let's get you on your way, alrighty?

The city intends to implement the recommendations of the independent review which include more "domestic violence investigation related training" and "legal training to ensure officers understand Utah State laws."

The attorneys for Gabby's parents insist their lawsuits are not about money. They're about raising awareness.  Gabby's mother Nichole recently told the Associated Press: "I get people messaging me all the time that they were inspired by her to get out of a relationship.

Mary Fulginiti: Yeah, and I think that in and of itself is a huge, huge victory for a family that has sadly — encountered such tragedy … but there can be … these bright lights that come out of these bad circumstances. And if there is one to be … shined here, it will be hopefully that there will be young girls out there that say, "You know what? I'm gonna walk away. I'm not gonna stay," or "I'm gonna get myself the help I need to get the strength to walk away."

A smiling Gabby Petito at Zion National Park on July 16, 2021. / Credit: Instagram
A smiling Gabby Petito at Zion National Park on July 16, 2021. / Credit: Instagram

Gabby Petito. Doing in death, what she did in life.

Rose Davis: I've always described her as this light, you know? She'll do everything to bring the light out in you. And if she can't, she'll give you some of hers.

Gabby Petito's family was awarded $3 million in their wrongful death lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's estate.


Gabby's parents have formed the Gabby Petito Foundation, which has partnered with the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, call the Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Produced by Liza Finley, Lauren Clark, Paul LaRosa, Chuck Stevenson, Chris Young Ritzen, Ruth Chenetz, and Mary Ann Rotondi. Mead Stone is the producer-editor; Tamara Weitzman is the coordinating producer; Ryan Smith, David Dow and Cindy Cesare are the development producers; Emily Wichick, Jordan Kinsey and Richard Fetzer are the field producers; Marcus Balsam, Mike Vele, James Taylor, Atticus Brady, Gary Winter, Philip J. Tangel, Michael McHugh and Marlon Disla are the editors. T. Sean Herbert and Anam Siddiq are the network producers; Hannah Vair, Chelsea Narvaez, Emma Steele, Elizabeth Caholo and Danielle Arman are the associate producers; Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor; Anthony Batson, Patti Aronofsky and Lourdes Aguiar are the senior producers; Judy Tygard is the executive producer.

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