Gabby Petito Warned by Park Ranger That Her Relationship with Fiancé Brian Laundrie Was 'Toxic'

Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie were stopped on Aug. 12 by Utah police responding to a report of a domestic dispute involving the couple

A U.S. park ranger who had an encounter with Gabby Petito last month said that she had urged the 22-year-old to reconsider her relationship with fiancé Brian Laundrie.

Melissa Hulls, a visitor and resource protection supervisor at Arches National Park in Utah, was among the officers who had responded to a call reporting a domestic dispute that involved Petito and Laundrie on Aug. 12 — when the couple was traveling through Moab during a cross-country road trip.

Hulls told the Deseret News that she spoke with Petito that day and had warned her that her relationship with Laundrie appeared to be a "toxic" one.

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"I was probably more candid with her than I should've been," she recalled of their interaction.

"I was imploring with her to reevaluate the relationship, asking her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically saying this was an opportunity for her to find another path, to make a change in her life," Hulls said of Petito, who was living with Laundrie and his parents in Florida prior to the trip.

"She had a lot of anxiety about being away from him, I honestly thought if anything was going to change it would be after they got home to Florida," Hulls added.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie
Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito. North Port Police Department/Facebook

Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11 — 10 days after Laundrie returned to his parents' home in the white Ford Transit van he had been traveling the country in with Petito. Relatives last had contact with Petito on Aug. 25, when she was near Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming.

Last week, Utah police released body camera footage of officers interacting with Petito and Laundrie during their investigation into the domestic dispute report. The footage ended with the couple being asked to spend the night apart, with Petito keeping the van and Laundrie sent to a hotel.

On Sunday, the FBI announced that human remains had been found in Grand Teton National Park that were "consistent with the description" of Petito. Law enforcement officials confirmed on Tuesday that the remains belonged to Petito and that she had died by homicide.

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito. Gabby Petito Instagram

"I honestly haven't looked at my body camera footage for that night. It's hard to think about now because I feel like I could've said more to help her," Hulls told the Deseret News. "It's hard not to second-guess myself, and wish I said more, or wish I had found the right words to make her believe that she deserved more."

According to Hulls, she and other officers on the scene at the time believed that the situation was a mental health crisis and neither Petito or Laundrie were in danger to warrant more serious action from authorities.

"I wouldn't have called (the relationship) unsafe," Hulls explained. "If we had any reason to think any one of them was in danger, we would've separated them."

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Hulls also noted that "it's easy" to scrutinize the body camera footage "versus being in the moment where we saw minor injuries and two people that were apologetic."

"It's not that we didn't think he was manipulative, but we have to worry about the safety, and not the psychology of it," she said. "We have to go by the facts that we were faced with at the time, and not let our emotions drive the decision."

RELATED VIDEO: Utah Police Release Body Camera Video of Gabby Petito and Fiancé 2 Weeks Before Her Disappearance

Once Petito was reported missing, Laundrie was identified as a person of interest in the case and refused to sit down with investigators to discuss his fiancée's whereabouts. He has also since gone missing, with authorities in Florida currently conducting searches for him.

He has not been named a suspect at this time. Laundrie's lawyer has not responded to PEOPLE's requests for comment.

On Sept. 15, Petito's father, Joseph, spoke with PEOPLE about his daughter, calling her a "free spirit" who would've gone to the 1969 Woodstock Festival if she could.

"She's so artistic. She's an amazing artist. She loves to draw. She has a great eye with decorating," Joseph said. "She's that flower child type of personality. The old soul, you know?"

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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