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Park ranger opens up about conversation with Gabby Petito, says she warned of 'toxic' relationship signs

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Image source: YouTube screenshot

The National Parks Service park ranger who talked with Gabby Petito on the side of a highway in Moab, Utah, last month spoke out about her interaction with the 22-year-old who police now believe to be dead.

The FBI announced Sunday they found human remains in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming "consistent with the description of" Petito.

What did the ranger say?

Melissa Hulls, the visitor and resource protection supervisor at Arches National Park, was dispatched to join other law enforcement officers who were called to investigate a potential domestic violence incident between Petito and Laundrie.

While speaking with Petito, who was sitting in the back of a police cruiser, on Aug. 12, Hulls warned Petito that her relationship had "toxic" signals.

"I was probably more candid with her than I should've been," Hulls told Deseret News.

"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 explained. "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."

Gabby Petito case: Full Utah bodycam video www.youtube.com

At the end of an investigation that took place on the side of a highway in Moab, police separated Petito and Laundrie; she was released with the couple's van, while Laundrie was taken to a nearby hotel. Police recommended they spend the night apart.

Hulls told Deseret News that officers "thought we were making the right decision when we left them." Now, Hulls is left second-guessing her actions that day.

"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," she said. "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."

What about the 911 call?

The 911 call that alerted law enforcement to a potential domestic violence incident between Petito and Laundrie was released Monday, leading to more questions about the police response.

Audio from the call revealed that Laundrie was reported as the aggressor, contrary to what police understood on Aug. 12. The unidentified caller told a dispatcher that a "gentleman was slapping the girl" and "proceeded to hit her."

"We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl," the caller said.

The dispatcher then asked to confirm what the caller had just said, "He was slapping her?" The caller responded, "Yes."

As Deseret News reported, why that information was not relayed to responding officers remains unclear.

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