Friends of Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito have come forward in the days following their disappearance to say the couple had a “toxic” relationship. The revelations come as new details emerge of Petito’s last hours, which included a sighting of the couple fighting at a Wyoming restaurant.
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are conducting a massive search for Brian Laundrie after the body of his 22-year-old fiancée, Petito, was found near Grand Teton national park in Wyoming Sunday, September 19, 2021. Officials ruled her death a homicide. Her official cause of death is pending final autopsy results, The Guardian reported. Petito was reported missing on September 11, 2021, 10 days after Laundrie returned home alone from a cross-country trip.
The case has gained widespread attention. Petito was a van life blogger with a large following on Instagram and YouTube, where she documented her travels with Laundrie.
Here’s what you need to know:
A Friend of the Couple, Ben Matula, Said They ‘Always Had Some Drama’
While Petito’s Instagram profile painted a picture of a perfect life full of love and adventure, friends of the couple told PEOPLE there was tension bubbling below the surface. The couple had been in a relationship since high school, Ben Matula told PEOPLE.
“One minute, they’d be all over each other, the next minute, he’d be like, ‘We’re fighting,'” Matula said of relationship when they were teenagers in Long Island, New York. “They always had some drama.”
“There was always something below the surface where things weren’t 100% wonderful,” he added.
Alyssa Chen, 23, told PEOPLE the couple had an on-again, off-again relationship.
“They had times they were toxic and times where everything seemed a lot more healthy,” Chen told PEOPLE. “They had very low lows and very high highs. But they really seemed to love each other. When things were good, you’d be like, ‘Why can’t I have a relationship like that?’ When they were bad, you’d be like ‘Oh my God, just break up and spare yourself from the drama and everyone else from having to hear about it.’ ”
Despite the tension he observed in the relationship, Matula told PEOPLE he was shocked that it ended in Petito’s death. Laundrie has not been named as a suspect in the case, but he is considered a person of interest.
“The guy who he’s being made out to be isn’t the guy I knew,” Matula told PEOPLE. “But then I have to look at what’s going on and realize that he did some stuff that seems like it was shady — seems like maybe he wasn’t on the up and up. And because he did that stuff, a girl might be dead and he might be in trouble.”
He told PEOPLE that the couple seemed to be living in a dream, and said he was often jealous of their lives.
“It seemed like they were seeing the world with the person they loved,” he told PEOPLE. “They were living the dream that all of us want to do. But they were doing it. All their friends were either still in college or searching for entry level jobs, and they’re out there killing it. I was jealous, and I know I’m not the only one. I was happy for them.”
Petito described her relationship as a dream in an Instagram post July 2, 2020, when she announced their engagement.
“Here’s a picture from our first date because I have so much love for you,” she wrote. “Brian asked me to marry him and I said yes! @bizarre_design_ you make life feel unreal, and everyday is such a dream with you.”
New Details Emerged in the Case, Including a Reported Sighting of Petito & Laundrie Arguing at a Restaurant
A witness, Nina Angelo, told CNN that she and her boyfriend, Matt England, saw a “commotion” at The Merry Piglets between Petito and Laundrie as the couple was leaving the Tex-Mex restaurant August 27. Angelo told CNN Petito was crying and Laundrie was “visibly angry,” walking in and out of the restaurant and “continuing to show anger toward the staff around the hostess stand.”
While Angelo said she did not observe any physical violence, the incident was enough to cause the couples’ waitress to appear “visibly shaken.”
The Merry Piglets posted on their Facebook page, saying Petito and Laundrie were spotted there. The post said they relayed information to the FBI.
“Yes, we can confirm Gabby and Brian were in Merry Piglets. We have not deleted any comments or messages on social media. The screen shots you see were direct messages to our account and not public. We have already notified the FBI and they are aware. We are letting them do their jobs and we are respecting Gabby’s family and have nothing further to comment,” the post said.