Death of Gabby Petito: Inside Her Last Days With Brian Laundrie

“You’re young and Brian is a little controlling,” Rose said, hastening to add, “But do whatever makes you happy, and I’m here to support you.”

Meanwhile, Brian stewed. Luring Gabby away from Long Island, into a house where she would not need to pay rent, had likely ensured in his mind that he would finally have Gabby to himself, with no outside obligations like family, friends, or work to divide her attention from her . Later, a longtime criminal profiler would say he suspected that Brian’s “entire self-worth” was rooted in the relationship with Gabby, and that without her, “he’s got nothing.”

Then, in June 2021, Gabby’s dad moved from New York to Vero Beach, Florida, in part to be closer to Gabby. Gabby’s family didn’t know about the screaming and shoving, but Gabby had confided in her mom, Nichole, that she felt like things were moving too fast—Gabby had been excited at first, she said, when Brian had initially proposed to her, but now she was starting to think, “We’re very young.” Gabby even told Nichole that she and Brian weren’t engaged anymore—they were back to being boyfriend and girlfriend—though whether or not Gabby ever shared this with Brian is unknown.

That same month, Brian decided that he and Gabby would start the road trip early. They embarked on July 2, 2021.

one month later, blistering heat, stinging flies, and unrelenting wildfire smoke were conspiring to drive Brian insane (17). Sleeping in a tent, on account of the van’s cramped quarters, offered little protection from smoke inhalation, which is known to cause neurological issues, like stress and confusion. Worse, Gabby’s attention was divided between him and her phone, as she generated content for Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. That she’d finally started posting pictures of him, along with loving captions, did little to lessen Brian’s anger. The whole point of the road trip, in his mind dele, was to isolate Gabby, but thanks to the internet, she was connected to the world.

The tension between them first snapped on August 12, when Gabby retreated to an air-conditioned coffee shop in Moab for six hours to toil on their Van Life website while Brian sawthed across the table, pissed off at how “OCD” Gabby was being ( 18). Finally, he snatched Gabby’s phone and keys from her, and made for the van, threatening to abandon her. When Gabby caught up with him on Main Street and lunged for her phone, Brian slapped her in the face.

A passing driver saw the slap and called 911, watching as Brian slid into the van and started the engine. Somehow, before he could drive away, Gabby managed to wriggle across his lap into the vehicle.

Who knows what they talked about, speeding out of Moab. Brian was driving at 45 mph in a 15-mph zone. It wasn’t long before police lights flashed in their rearview mirror.

As a result of the 911 call, police were on the lookout for a white van with Florida plates. Officer Daniel Scott Robbins, who was nearing the end of his police training, had been trailing the van for about a mile. He was aloud if the driver was intoxicated.

Once Brian pulled onto the shoulder of the road, Robbins parked behind him and approached on foot.

Gabby rolled down the passenger window, her face red and wet with tears, and profusely apologized. Brian smiled as if nothing was wrong.

“How come you’re crying?” Robbins asked Gabby.

Brian eyed Gabby warily from the driver’s seat.

“Some personal issues,” she said.

“It was a long day,” Brian interjected, talking so fast that Robbins would later ponder whether he might be on drugs. “Flies and stuff.”

Robbins invited Gabby to talk to him in private.

She stood hunched near Robbins’s squad car, unable to stop crying, already blaming herself for the altercation. “It’s just…some days, I have really bad OCD.” It was unclear whether a doctor or Brian had diagnosed her with the disease.

Sounding kind and patient, Robbins asked about the road trip.

Gabby stood up a little straighter. She gestured at the van with both hands, like a presenter on Wheel of Fortune. “I quit my job to travel across the country.” Suddenly, her face crumpled, as if she might cry again, as if overwhelmed by the prospect of what she said next. “I’m trying to start a blog—so I’ve been building websites and I’ve just been really stressed.” She gazed up at the sky, as if to keep the tears back with gravity. “But he doesn’t really believe that I could do any of it.” Her voice her quavered. “He really stresses me out.”

“Well,” Robbins interjected. “Why don’t we do this: Why don’t I sit you down in the backseat of my car.”

Tears filled Gabby’s eyes. The prospect of getting into a squad car terrified her. She seemed to think she was in trouble.

“You’re not in any trouble,” Robbins promised—then he amended himself. “I’m not going to be putting handcuffs on you.”

The mention of handcuffs made it seem as if Gabby were, in fact, in trouble—not enough trouble to require handcuffs, but trouble nonetheless.

As more squad cars pulled up behind them, Robbins shut her in the back of his police cruiser, the same place where criminals sat.

Staring through the unbreakable divider, Gabby would not have been able to open the door from the inside. The notion that she was “not in any trouble” was understandably in question for her, as she watched Robbins approach her beloved white van to talk to Brian.

Brian leaned forward nervously in his seat, talking to Robbins through the passenger window.

“You talked to Gabby, right?” Brian asked, one of his thick eyebrows vaulted above the other. He wrung his fingers in knots, looking afraid.


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