The die for tragedy was cast in a Wyoming restaurant when Brian Laundrie erupted at the staff on one of the final days of Gabby Petito’s life, according to a behavioral expert.
Ann Wolbert Burgess is a nurse who built a career specializing in the treatment of victims of trauma and abuse. A pioneer in the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and now a professor of forensic science at Boston College, Burgess said that the Aug. 27 argument could have been a catalyst in a relationship that was already spiraling downward, according to Fox News.
Witnesses have said that Laundrie, who remains the subject of a manhunt, became involved in a heated argument with the staff at the Merry Piglets, a Jackson, Wyoming, restaurant.
“The restaurant incident … is the second and most important,” Burgess, author of the book “A Killer by Design: Murders, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal,” told Fox News Digital.
A woman who witnessed the incident told ABC News that Petito came inside and apologized for Laundrie’s behavior.
That was a tipoff about the relationship between the two, Burgess said.
“How she has to apologize for his behavior is something that’s kind of characteristic, and this probably enrages him even more because he wants to appear in a certain way,” Burgess said.
The restaurant incident, Burgess said, was “on the day or very close to the day that she is murdered,” Burgess said.
Teton County Coroner Brent Blue last week said Petito died of strangulation three to four weeks before her body was found on Sept. 19, making a widow of between Aug. 27 and Aug. 30 possible as the time she died.
The Wyoming incident has been virtually overlooked, compared to a much more publicized Aug. 12 incident in Moab, Utah, when a dispute between Laundrie and Petito had escalated to the point where police intervened, though Burgess said that incident was also a key.
“He really was very much in control the whole time,” Burgess told Fox News.
She said Laundrie exerted control by driving Petito’s van, using her credit card and because he “kept her isolated” by camping in remote areas.
Burgess noted as significant that Laundrie told police in Moab that Petito was his fiancée even though a wedding had been put off.
“To Laundrie this is very, very important, and I think what sets into motion the final days for her,” Burgess said.
The woman who said she witnessed the Merry Piglets restaurant confrontation, identified as Nina Celie Angelo, told ABC News that Petito was crying during the incident.
“It looked as though they were like almost getting kicked out,” Angelo said. “It wasn’t necessarily between them, it was more so Gabby abruptly leaving the restaurant crying, and Brian was just evidently really upset, pissed off, I would say. I would say Gabby was upset, he was angry, and he was just being very temperamental towards the restaurant staff.”
Laundrie “exited and entered the restaurant on four different occasions within five minutes,” she said.
“He would walk out, walk again, walk out, walk back in. At one moment, we thought … he had walked out for good and he actually left for like 10 minutes and then came back just to start the fight all over again.”
Angelo said Petito seemed upset by the scene.
“She seemed really upset. She was emotional. She was crying. She seemed kind of embarrassed. At one point, she walks back into the restaurant on one of his attempts to walk back. And I think she followed him and was trying to, I think, get him to leave and, like, drop the situation.
“I think she was being apologetic towards the restaurant staff for his behavior. Like, she just kind of wanted to defuse the situation. She was like, ‘I’m sorry, come on, let’s just go.’ But she was visibly upset,” Angelo said.
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