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Strange text message, disturbing 911 call suggest dire situation in days before Gabby Petito vanished

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New developments in the Gabby Petito case suggest that the 22-year-old may have been concerned about her safety in the days before her disappearance after the release of a strange text message as well as a 911 call that she was being physically abused by her fiancé Brian Laundrie.

On Monday, the FBI executed a search warrant on Laundrie’s Florida home and collected boxes of evidence that may contain critical clues that could shed light on what now appears to have been a troubled relationship between the young couple.

Last week, police released bodycam footage of their interaction with Petito and Laundrie when they responded to a witness call about a domestic incident in Moab City, Utah, and while no arrests were made, it was decided that the two needed to be separated after what was described as a “mental health crisis.”

Now, a recording of the call has been released and it doesn’t reflect positively on Laundrie who was named a person of interest after he returned alone from the tour of western national parks that the two had embarked on in their converted Ford van.

According to the caller, he observed Laundrie “slapping” Petito in the August 12 incident. “We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” he said to the dispatcher, “and then we stopped, they ran up and down the sidewalk, he proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off.”

Further adding to the disturbing picture of a sightseeing trip that went terribly wrong is a peculiar text message sent by Petito to her mother Nicole Schmidt on August 27 that was included in the search warrant.

Petito wrote, “Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls,” the document states, “The reference to ‘Stan’ was regarding her grandfather, but per the mother, she never calls him ‘Stan.’ The mother was concerned that something was wrong with her daughter.”

The reference to the grandfather suggests that Petito may have been under duress in her final days and it was possibly an effort to send a distress signal to her family that wasn’t obvious to Laundrie.

The FBI’s search of Laundrie’s North Port home came the day after the FBI announced that they had found human remains that matched Petito’s description at a remote camping area in the Grand Teton National Monument in Wyoming.

They were tipped off by a YouTube vlogger who spotted the couple’s white van at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest on August 27, the same day that Petito sent the cryptic text message to her mother.

With an autopsy scheduled to be conducted on Tuesday, positive identification of the remains, as well as a possible cause of death, could be determined although the weeks that passed between Petito’s final minutes and the grim discovery could be complicated by the exposure to the elements.

Law enforcement also found what could be a memorial in the vicinity of the remains with stones arranged in the form of a cross although it is unclear when it was placed there.

Laundrie, who has been missing since last Tuesday will remain the focus of an intensifying investigation, especially if the autopsy shows evidence that Petito died violently.

Chris Donaldson

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