Tarleton students give their thoughts on the Gabby Petito homicide
By: Madison Reed
In July, 22-year-old Gabby Petito and her fiancé 23-year-old Brian Laundrie started their four-month road trip across the United States in their converted van. Petito and Laundrie documented their adventures on their personal Instagram accounts and a Youtube channel called Nomadic Statik that Petitio started.
On Aug. 12 a 911 call was reported after a bystander saw a confrontation between Petito and Laundrie in which Laundrie was allegedly seen by the caller hitting Petito. Moab police officers pulled the van over after witnessing the van driving recklessly and jumping a curb near the entrance to Arches National Park.
In a police bodycam video, Petito is seen crying and appeared upset due to an alleged fight she and Laundrie had been in that morning. After being pulled over, police separated the two and got each of their sides of the story.
According to Petito, her fiancé had locked her out of the van earlier that morning. In a second police cam video, Petito is first heard telling an officer that Laundrie had hit her, but changed her story saying she was the aggressor.
“I guess, I guess, yeah, but I hit him first…” Petito said to an officer who asked if Laundrie hit her. “He like grabbed my face, like, I guess…he didn’t, like, hit me in the face. He didn’t, like, punch me in the face or anything.”
According to Laundrie, Petito had hit him with her phone in a dispute earlier that morning and grabbed the wheel when they were getting pulled over which caused him to hit the curb.
“She had her phone and was trying to get the keys from me,” Laundrie told the officers. “I was just trying to, I know I shouldn’t push her. I was just trying to push her away to go, let’s take a minute and step back and breathe and see, she got me with her phone.”
Laundrie had a few scratches on his face, neck and arms allegedly from Petito during their dispute.
The police claimed Laundrie was a victim of domestic violence and were planning on giving Petito a citation; however, after asking Petito if she hit Laundrie “intending to hurt or cause harm” and her responding no, they dropped the charges.
The police separated Petito and Laundrie for the night. Petito stayed in the van, and Laundrie was taken to a hotel. The two later reunited and continued their travels as seen in the first and only YouTube video posted a few days later on Aug. 19 titled “Van Life: Beginning our Van Life Journey.”
On Sept. 1 Laundrie returned home to North Port, Florida, without Petito—whose family had not heard from since receiving a text from her on Aug. 30.
Less than two weeks later, on Sept. 11, Petito’s family reported her missing and on Sept. 15, the North Port Police reported that Laundrie refused to cooperate and was named a person of interest in the disappearance of Petito.
Laundrie’s parents told police two days later they had not seen their son in three days, and on Sept. 18, police started their search for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota, Florida.
The next day, remains were found near Grand Trenton National Park in Wyoming and were later identified in an autopsy on Sept. 21 as Petito. According to the initial autopsy, the death was ruled as a homicide, but the cause of her death remains pending until the results of the final autopsy are released.
As of now, Laundrie has still not been found; however, a warrant for his arrest has been issued and the FBI and Florida police.
Tarleton students were asked what they thought of the ongoing investigation and gave their opinions on the Petito case.
Tarleton State University senior English major Kaylee Pippins said, “[The situation] definitely could have been avoided, and I think there is no possible way that [Brian’s] parents were not involved…they definitely knew.”
When asked if she believes Laundrie is guilty of murdering Petito, Pippins said, “Oh yeah, for sure. I think they all are—including his parents.”
Senior history major Nicholas Williams said, “With the few videos that I have seen, especially the body cam video, you can see that there was actually something very wrong going on.”
“You can tell that she has been often, like, gaslit or manipulated in a way that her feelings didn’t matter and his were better than hers,” he added. “You can even tell that with the officer, the way how there wasn’t a true belief, in like, what was happening in the situation besides the evidence which was given.”
When asked if he believes the reason Petito’s case got such national publicity was due to her influence on social media, Williams said yes.
“If she goes missing, you find—you look her up online, that’s going to be immediately what you see,” Williams explained. “You’re going to see an Instagram; you see a YouTube video. So, her face is out there…I think that’s what happened. You take a semi-famous or known face and now this face is missing.”
Williams also believes that Laundrie is guilty of murdering Petito, “From the videos that have been posted from body cam videos—just how he’s acting, she disappeared, then it wasn’t reported from Wyoming all the way to Florida—like that’s a big chunk of time…and how he’s just gone.”
Authorities are currently searching for Laundrie, and the official autopsy for what killed Petito is still being processed. There is currently a $180,000 reward for the capture of Laundrie.
Texan News Service is dedicated to keeping Tarleton informed and will update the story as more information is discovered.