Friend Says He 'Didn't See a Dark Side' to Brian Laundrie Before Road Trip: 'Normal Guy'
For those who knew Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie, they were a typical young couple who sometimes had their share of drama -- but nothing that raised any red flags or indicated that they were in any danger.
When the couple got together in high school, "it seemed like an immature love," friend Ben Matula tells PEOPLE in its latest issue. "One minute they'd be all over each other, the next minute he'd be like, 'We're fighting.' They always had some drama."
But Matula didn't think that the teenage angst would ever lead to violence. "Before this, I thought Brian was a dependable, ambitious normal guy who wanted to be a good friend," Matula says. "I didn't see a dark side with him."
But now, friends and family are learning a new side to the relationship between Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23. During their cross-country trip, the couple seemed to be unhappy, including an August 8 altercation in which a concerned bystander called 911, saying Laundrie was "slapping" Petito.
By the end of August, Petito went missing. Laundrie drove the couple's white van to his home in North Port, Florida, without her.
RELATED VIDEO: They Always Had Some Drama': Friends Reflect on Romance Between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie
On Sept. 11, after being unable to reach her for several days, Petito's family reported her missing — and held out hope for her safe return. But on Sunday, Sept. 19, the FBI confirmed they discovered a body in Wyoming matching Petito's description. An autopsy later confirmed it was her, and classified her death as a homicide.
For exclusive interviews and details on the Gabby Petito case, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands Friday.
Laundrie was identified as a person of interest in the case after he refused to sit down with investigators to discuss Petito's whereabouts. He has also since gone missing, with authorities in Florida currently conducting searches for him.
While Laundrie has not been named a suspect at this time, but Petito's family has been vocal in their criticism of him.
"We want the world to know that Brian is not missing," Petito's family wrote in a statement. "He is hiding."
Laundrie's lawyer has not responded to PEOPLE's requests for comment.
The latest developments have shaken those who knew the couple, who are now processing the last days of Petito's life. "I was jealous of them, and I know I wasn't the only one," says Matula. "It seemed like they were seeing the world with the person they loved. They were living the dream."
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