A 911 call recording released this week alleges Brian Laundrie was seen hitting and slapping his fiancée days before her disappearance in late August. Gabby Petito’s body was recovered Sunday by FBI investigators in a remote spot near Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest. For a week Laundrie has been missing, presumed hiking in a Florida swamp near his parent’s home. That search was redirected Monday.
Laundrie declined to assist authorities with information about Gabby’s last known whereabouts after he drove her van home to Florida without her on September 1st. His parents only reported him missing from their home September 17th. The story is largely still a mystery, but Gabby might be alive today if the mental disorder known as intimate partner abuse (IPA) weren’t so difficult to identify in action.
Brian, 23, and Gabby, 22, were childhood sweethearts growing up on Long Island, NY. “I’ve always known Gabby to just be so kind and caring,” said her cousin Zoey Wickman. “She really was just a free-spirited mind, and she was always happy.” She had a tattoo on her forearm that read, “Let it be.” Gabby van-blogged the extended trip with Laundrie cross-country on Instagram and TikTok from July 2 to August 26, the day of her last visual post. After that, several texts to her mother seemed contrived.
Does Laundrie fit the profile of an intimate partner abuser? Could anyone have defused him a month ago? Domestic abusers are smooth and disarming in public, often described as malignant narcissists who believe their delusions; they have built-in radar for seeking out tender traits like Gabby’s with a core vulnerability only the radar senses.
Intimate partner abuse describes how a dominant personality attempts to control a subordinate by alternating kindness and terror when the victim least expects. Domestic abuse doesn’t necessarily begin with intention to physically or sexually harm, rather psychologically deconstruct. This is done dispassionately over time by giving, then rescinding, emotional assurances to keep the victim on eggshells.
Gabby’s friend Rose posted that the two shared iPhone locations to “keep each other safe in case we got lost,” but Laundrie made Petito stop sharing when he found out. “Brian has a jealousy streak,” Rose said. “I’m her only friend in Florida and that’s not because she can’t make friends, he just didn’t want her to have friends.”
Acquaintances speculate Laundrie is a textbook narcissist obsessed by one-upping others when he doesn’t get his share of attention. An explanation for his going AWOL might be mere attention. The question is whether Laundrie knew Gabby’s fate?
Judging from videocam interviews with both—filmed by Utah police August 12 after the original 911 call—Gabby was already resisting Brian’s control.
Visibly hyperventilating and apologizing nonstop, she told police how her boyfriend threatened to leave her behind on the salt flats after locking her out of her own van. She said she was mean sometimes and admittedly punched him after crawling back through the passenger window, causing him to swerve into a curb. The all-male officers concluded Laundrie was the victim of “battered boyfriend syndrome” and ordered the couple to spend the night apart.
Apparently, no one asked Gabby if she feared Laundrie; she was so busy blaming OCD for her struggles. Another officer asked Laundrie if he was always hyper, to which Laundrie admitted struggling with anxiety. Neither took medication for mental issues, he said. Neither drank, she said.
Charges against Petito were dropped when she assured officers she had no intention of hurting her fiancé. “I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis,” Officer Daniel Robbins wrote in the police report, according to CNN.
Herein lies the tragedy. Robbins didn’t recognize both situations were escalating, inseparable. It is unsurprising in hindsight. Police were duped by Brian’s cool, if hyper, façade. Gabby’s authenticity presented as jittery, erratic, even untruthful.
She was assumed the aggressor!
Intimate partner abuse is insidious because it is more often the rule than the exception that someone innocent must get hurt or killed to be believed. Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime in the U.S.
Rest in peace, Gabby.
Want to help prevent future tragedies like this? Learn to spot the warning signs of abuse. *
- They use physical aggression. They often slap, hit, shove, or push their partner.
- They are unpredictable. Their moods tend to change rapidly and radically.
- They are often jealous, suspicious, and/or angry – even if they have no reason to be.
- They control their partner’s time. They monitor and control their partner’s activities, including whether they go to work or school, and how much they see their family and friends.
- They control their partner’s money. They make important financial decisions with shared money by themselves, or they take their partner’s money without permission.
- They use verbal threats. They are not afraid to name-call, swear, and yell at their partner.
- They isolate their partner. They may limit their partner’s use of the phone or other sources of communication, or may force their partner to stay at home.
- They minimize their partner’s feelings. They may also make their partner feel guilty or ashamed.
- They blame. They often try to blame their partner or others for their problems.
- They threaten – a lot. They may threaten to hurt themselves, their partner, or their partner’s loved ones if their partner tries to leave.
- They may force their partner to have sex – even if their partner does not want to.