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22-Year-Old NY Woman Posted About Van Life, 'Amazing' Travels Just Before Disappearance

Gabby Petito posted updates about her travels to her Instagram.
Gabby Petito posted updates about her travels to her Instagram. Photo Credit: GabsPetito / Instagram

Scroll through Gabby Petito's Instagram page and you'll see a sea of smiling faces, sunshine, and idyllic landscapes.

The Long Island native portrayed an inspiring life of travels across the US in her cherished 2012 Ford Transit van -- just days before her mysterious disappearance.

The life that 22-year-old Petito showcases online, however, might be a stark contrast to the experiences she had leading up to her disappearance on Aug. 30.

Bodycam footage released by police in Utah might support the theory that Petito had been hiding a very different reality, including a potentially troubled relationship with her boyfriend, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, who's also from Blue Point in Suffolk County.

The police footage shows Petito crying in the back of a police car during a fight with Laundrie. Officers reported that Petito slapped Laundrie during the argument, and there were no serious injuries and no one wanted to press charges, according to ABC 7.

Police categorized the incident as a "mental/emotional health break," and the couple reportedly agreed to separate for the night.

Laundrie earlier this month returned to his house in Florida in Petito's van without her, and has refused to cooperate with police. This week, he was identified as a person of interest in Petito's case.

In the days leading up to her disappearance, Petito posted many brightly-colored photos to social media showcasing her journey, and she even posted a YouTube video following her travels with Laundrie and their life living out of the van.

In a caption under the video, titled "VAN LIFE | Beginning Our Van Life Journey," Petito wrote that she and Laundrie had realized they wanted to travel full time after a previous road trip in her Nissan Sentra.

"Turning this Ford transit essentially into a camper was such an adventure in itself, but I couldn’t love the way it turned out more! All the places it’s brought us so far have been amazing!" Petito wrote in an Instagram caption on Saturday, July 10.

Her most recent Instagram post, a smiling photo of Petito holding up a knitted pumpkin in front of a butterfly mural, was posted days before her family lost touch with her. "Happy Halloween," she captioned the post.

The comment section on Petito's page is filled with hopeful people praying for her safe return, and skeptics theorizing that maybe Petito wasn't the one penning the captions and publishing the photos.

"I think something happened here and she was no longer in control of her Instagram even though she was still alive and with him," one person writes.

"Both accounts stop posting for two weeks and then post again around Aug 13/14. I think all the posts in August on both accounts are old photos."

"Hmm, I don’t think she wrote this caption," another says.

“We are pleading with anyone, including Brian, to share information with us on her whereabouts in the past weeks," North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said. "The lack of information from Brian is hindering this investigation."

Laundrie's issued a statement maintaining that Laundrie being named a "person of interest" by authorities does not change his stance on remaining silent about Petito's disappearance. 

"This formality has not really changed the circumstances of Mr. Laundrie being the focus and attention of law enforcement and Mr. Laundrie will continue to remain silent on the advice of counsel," Laundrie's attorney, Steven Bertolino said.

Meanwhile, Petito's family has pleaded with Laundrie to cooperate.

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