A U.S. park ranger in Utah reportedly urged Gabby Petito to distance herself from fiancé Brian Laundrie just weeks before the road-tripping New York native’s remains were believed to be found near Grand Teton National Park.
Melissa Hulls, the ranger, was among several officers who responded to a 911 call reporting a possible domestic assault between downtown Moab and Arches National Park on Aug. 12.
Fox News previously obtained bodycam video from one of the male officers interviewing Petito – who appeared distraught and on the verge of tears. Officers ultimately filed no charges and said they separated the couple.
Ranger Melissa Hulls stepped aside to speak with Petito in private, believing she would be more open to speaking one-on-one with a female officer alone, according to Salt Lake City’s Deseret News.
Hulls told Deseret reporter Kyle Dunphey she "was probably more candid with her" than she should’ve been when she told the young woman, who was reported missing on Sept. 11, that her relationship with Laundrie appeared "toxic."
Dunphey, who initially visited Moab over the weekend in connection with a different story, said he informed the ranger that he had filed a public records request for her bodycam video ahead of the interview and that she had nothing to hide. Fox News also filed such a request and has not yet received a response.
"This was a hard interview to get on the record," said Dunphey, who had initially scheduled a meeting with Hulls on the unrelated story. "She did not want to talk to me about this."
But she did – and she said she "was imploring" Petito to "reevaluate the relationship."
"I can still hear her voice," Hulls told Dunphey. "She wasn’t just a face on the milk carton, she was real to me."
Moab police pulled over Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito on the road leading into Arches National Park around 4:45 p.m. MT on Aug. 12 in response to a 911 caller who said he witnessed a male "slapping" a female before the couple got into the van and headed north out of town.
Bodycam video from one of the responding Moab police officers suggests Laundrie was behind the wheel, driving 45 mph in a 15 mph zone, before slamming into the curb after the police lights went on.
Several other law enforcement agents arrived at the stop, including another Moab officer, Hulls and at least one more ranger. Petito appeared agitated or in tears the entire time – in stark contrast to the calm and collected Laundrie.
The couple downplayed the incident and made it sound like Petito was the aggressor – a story the officers appeared to accept despite the 911 call and a witness statement that alleged Laundrie tried to take Petito’s phone at the Moonflower co-op and drive away without her.
The authorities can be heard discussing whether to classify the encounter as a domestic call or a mental health incident – which would mean the difference between making an arrest or letting the couple go. Ultimately, officers declined to press charges but booked Laundrie a hotel room in town through a nonprofit for domestic abuse survivors.
The motel owner told Fox News last week that he could confirm a room had been reserved but did not know whether Laundrie actually spent the night there.
The Petito case and another unsolved double homicide have rocked Moab – a crossroads community with 5,000 full-time residents.
Two prominent local women – Kylen Schulte and Crystal Turner – were found murdered in a campground just outside town. The newlyweds were found shot to death by a local store owner named Cindy Sue Hunter, who told Fox News over the weekend that she was on the phone with Schulte’s father when she came across the grisly crime scene.
"I just went into shock," she said. "And he’s screaming, you know, ‘Get in the car, get the f--- out of there.’ … He’s all of the sudden realizing that I could be in danger."
The Grand County Sheriff’s Office said it has ruled out a connection between the two cases – but that means whoever was responsible for the heinous slayings is still at large.
An FBI-led search for Laundrie is underway in Florida. His parents told North Port police Friday that they hadn’t seen him since Tuesday, Sept. 14.
Laundrie is believed to have driven back from Wyoming to his parents’ house in Petito’s van, arriving on Sept. 1. He allegedly kept mum about his fiancée’s disappearance the entire time, and her mother reported her missing on Sept. 11.
That same day, authorities seized the van at the Laundrie family home – but they did not search it at the time.
The FBI said Sunday that search teams had uncovered what they believed to be Petito's remains at a campground north of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, near her last known whereabouts.