Gabby Petito‘s friends are sharing their thought after Tuesday’s announcement that the 22-year-old died of strangulation.
“It makes me sick to my stomach,” friend Alyssa Chen tells PEOPLE. “I wonder what was going through her mind, knowing she was probably about to die. She must have been so scared.”
Petito and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, were on a cross-country trip when she vanished in August.
And while during this time Petito recorded her inspiring stories and clips of her “van life,” police reports and witness statements allege that the trip was filled with arguments and possible domestic abuse.
On August 12, which was two weeks before Petito vanished, police outside Moab, Utah, were called after a witness said that Laundrie had hit Petito during an argument.
Another eyewitness, who gave a written statement, told police he saw the couple in the middle of “some sort of dispute” and that “something definitely didn’t seem right.” That witness also said it appeared Laundrie was trying to lock Petito out of the van and take her phone.
Moab Police responded to the scene. They classified the incident as “disorderly conduct” as opposed to domestic violence, and determined that it was Petito was the aggressor. She had admitted to striking Laundrie. Police had the couple spend the night apart so they could cool down.
And then, three weeks later, Petito was gone but she wasn’t reported missing until Sept. 11 — 10 days after Laundrie allegedly arrived back in Florida. On Sept. 15, he was officially named a person of interest in his fiancée’s disappearance. Just days later, her body was found in Grand Teton National Park.
Laundrie, who continues to be missing, has not been located despite extensive searches in a Florida wildlife preserve. He is believed to have gone hiking in the preserve before disappearing. But now, the friends of the couple are expressing their true feelings towards Laundrie.
“If Brian strangled her, I hope he burns in hell,” says friend Ben Matula, who was friends with the couple. “That’s all I have to say.”
Adds Chen: “Whoever did this, whether it’s Brian or someone else, needs to pay for what they did. She didn’t deserve to die that way.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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