Police in Utah were called to a fight between missing YouTuber Gabby Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie just days before her disappearance, according to a police incident report.
A witness called the Moab City Police Department at about 4:45pm on August 12 to say he “feared the worst” after witnessing the couple come to blows in their van.
Attending officer Daniel Robbins said the couple appeared to have been going through a “mental health crisis”, according to a police incident report obtained by The Independent.
The officer reported that the couple both suffer from a mental illness which caused them to argue more, and they had not been taking medication during their cross-country trip in a converted Ford Transit van.
“That time spent created emotional strain between them and increased the number of arguments,” Mr Robbins wrote.
Ms Petito, 22, was last seen checking out of a Salt Lake City hotel with Mr Laundrie on August 24.
Her family last heard from her the next day when she told them she was in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and was on her way to Yellowstone.
Mr Laundrie was named as a “person of interest” by North Port Police in Florida on Wednesday after returning to his parent’s home alone. He has so far stonewalled police, instead referring them to a family attorney, and did not report her missing.
On Wednesday afternoon, Ms Petito’s mother Nicole Schmidt issued a fresh appeal for Ms Laundrie to come forward with any information he might have on her whereabouts.
In a statement through her lawyer Richard Stafford, Ms Schmidt said their search was growing more desperate each day.
“Brian claims he wants to sit in the background while we search for Gabby in the wilderness of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks,” she wrote.
“Brian left Gabby in the wilderness with grizzly bears and wolves while he sits in the comfort of his home. In his home!
“Brian, how could you do this to Gabby?” Ms Schmidt asked, adding his silence was “reprehensible”.
Ms Schmidt implored Mr Laundrie to come forward with what he knew.
“Brian, whatever happened in Wyoming, happened. The only thing you can control is what you do now. Tell us where Gabby is.”
Early on August 12, the day of the alleged fight between the couple, Ms Petito posted several pictures to her Instagram account. They included several of herself standing underneath the famous Delicate Arch landmark at the national park, and one of her and Mr Laundrie.
She described hiking to the arch at 7am, and meeting other hikers along the track.
“We also camped for one night in Devils Garden with the cover off of our tent to fall asleep watching the stars, trying to catch a glimpse of the Perseid meteor shower,” she wrote.
Later that afternoon the couple began arguing in the centre of Moab and according to police Mr Laundrie told his girlfriend to go for a walk while they both calmed down.
Two police officers, Mr Robbins and Eric Pratt, responded to the incident, and wrote up reports of what they saw.
Mr Robbins wrote that Mr Laundrie had tried to lock his girlfriend out of the van, but she managed to get in through the driver’s door.
“He got into their van and Gabrielle had gone into a manic state. Brian said Gabrielle, thinking he was going to leave her in Moab without a ride, went to slap him,” Mr Robbins wrote.
“As Gabrielle started to swing, Brian pushed her away to avoid the slap.”
According to the statement Ms Petito was off balance but still caught Mr Laundrie’s face and right arm, leaving visible scratches.
When police pulled the couple’s transit van over, Mr Laundrie said he thought Ms Petito had “grabbed the wheel of the van and pulled it, causing the van to hit the curb”.
Mr Robbins said he did not believe the incident “escalated to the level of a domestic assault”.
He decided to separate the couple for the night so they could “reset their mental states”.
Even though the couple wanted to remain together, police arranged for Mr Laundrie to spend the night at a hotel through Seekhaven, a family crisis center in Moab.
Ms Petito remained in the van for the evening.
“I instructed both Brian and Gabrielle to take advantage of this time apart to relax their emotions and regain control of their anxiety.
“I also asked them to avoid contacting each other until the net morning if at all possible.”
Officer Robbins said Ms Petito said she had not intended to hurt her fiance. He said she was crying and breathing heavily the whole time they were speaking.
The second officer who attended, Eric Pratt, said he had been able to corroborate the accounts of Mr Laundrie, Ms Petito and an eyewitness who all gave a “similar and consistent story”.
He mentioned Mr Laundrie had “grabbed (Gabbie’s) face and pushed her back” during the altercation.
“No one reported that the male struck the female, both... reported they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime.”
The police report noted that Ms Petito was about 5ft 2inches (1.57m) and 110-120 pounds (50-54kgs), “while her fiance is older, taller, and much heavier than her”.
“He had no fear and did not exhibit any indicators that he may be a victim of “battered boyfriend syndrome” etc.”
The FBI have set up a hotline for anyone with information on Ms Petito’s disappearance.
Anyone with information on her location or anyone who saw her van should call 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324).