Gabby Petito's friend says she and fiance Brian Laundrie were ‘couple goals' and ‘always smiling'

© Instagram/GabsPetito

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie

– Instagram/GabsPetito

A friend of Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old woman who vanished after taking a cross-country road trip with her fiance, said the couple seemed happy and excited before they left.

Ms Petito’s fiance, Brian Laundrie, reportedly returned from the trip without Ms Petito. Her mother, Nichole Schmidt, became suspicious after her daughter failed to check in with her for several days, prompting her to file a missing person report on 11 September.

Mr Laundrie has been named a person of interest. But a friend of the couple said the two exemplified “couple goals” and described them as “always smiling.”

Nicole Kalanich, Ms Petito’s friend, described the pair to NBC 2.

According to her, they never argued or fought in front of people. Their social media accounts frequently show them laughing, smiling and kissing on their adventures.

That image of the pair stands in contrast to an incident on 12 August in which the couple physically fought, prompting a witness to call the police.

While the couple was visiting Moab City, Utah, an argument over the keys to their van escalated to Ms Petito climbing through the van’s window and slapping Mr Laundrie. In police body camera footage, he admits to pushing her away. Ms Petito told officers that she was afraid he was going to abandon her.

Mr Laundrie has refused to speak to police since the missing person report was filed. His lawyer, Steven Bertolino, said he has advised Mr Laundrie to stay silent over fears his cooperation with the investigation will result in him being treated as a suspect.

Police in North Port, Florida – where the couple lived with Mr Laundrie’s parents – have named him a person of interest in the case.

Ms Kalanich said when she learned that Ms Petito was missing she could not help but cry.

On Thursday, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison called on Mr Laundrie to cooperate with police. Ms Petito’s father, Joe Petito, also called on the friends and relatives of the Laundrie family to pressure them to help.

During a press conference, Mr Garrison said the case was still being treated as a missing person case, and said no criminality has been alleged on the part of Mr Laundrie at this time.

When asked why Mr Laundrie had not been taken in for questioning, he told reporters that his 5th Amendment rights allow him to refuse to cooperate with the police in order to protect himself from self-incrimination.

Ms Petito’s stepfather and a family friend have flown out to Wyoming to search for Ms Petito. Mr Schmidt, Ms Petito’s stepfather, was seen in Jackson, Wyoming on Wednesday handing out missing person flyers.

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