ROAD HORROR GRIPS US
WASHINGTON: US authorities have launched a search for a 22-year-old woman who vanished during a road trip with her boyfriend, now declared a “person of interest” in a case gripping the nation.
Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito quit her job and packed her life into a camper van for the cross-country adventure with Brian Laundrie, 23, documenting their journey in a stream of idyllic-seeming Instagram posts.
But more than two weeks ago, Mr Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida, alone in Ms Petito’s van. Ten days later, her family filed a missing person report.
Mr Laundrie has declined to co-operate with police.
“We share the frustration with the world right now,” North Port police chief Todd Garrison said. “Two people went on a trip, one person returned and that person that returned isn’t providing us any information.”
Mr Garrison said the FBI was helping with the case.
The couple embarked on their journey across the US in July, leaving from New York on the east coast and posting photos of magnificent views of the American West and themselves smiling happily next to their small white van.
However, in August, police in Utah responded to a domestic violence report involving the pair.
Police bodycam footage showed a distraught Ms Petito saying she had had an altercation with Mr Laundrie and that she struggles with mental health problems. She said she slapped Mr Laundrie after an argument, but added she meant no harm.
“He wouldn’t let me in the car before . . . he told me that I needed to calm down.” she said to the officers.
Mr Laundrie told police that Ms Petito tried to get the van keys from him and he pushed her before she hit him. The police officer decided no charges would be brought but told the couple to spend a night apart to calm down.
Ms Petito last communicated with her parents in late August from Wyoming, the family said.
Meanwhile, police in Utah said they were looking for any connection between the disappearance and the murder of married lesbian couple Kylen Schulte, 24, and Crystal Turner, 38, in Moab last month.