Gabby Petito's childhood friend said the missing 22-year-old wouldn't have run off on her own and worries something 'devilish' happened to her
- A longtime friend of Petito told Insider the missing 22-year-old wouldn't have run off on her own.
- "I don't think anything that's going on is due to her own doing," Nikki Passannante said.
- Petito disappeared in late August while on a road trip with her boyfriend, who returned without her.
"She would never ever disappear like this without her parents knowing where she is. This is so out of character, and I don't think anything that's going on is due to her own doing," said Nikki Passannante, a 23-year-old server living in Long Island who grew up 15 minutes away from Petito.
"I think that something more devilish is going on," she added.
Passannante said Petito had been speaking with her mom at least once a day since she left home in July. When service was spotty, she would text instead. And when Petito wasn't answering for days, Passannante said, her parents tried contacting her boyfriend,
"She's just always been very up and out," Passannante said. "She moved to Florida with her current boyfriend. They're always doing these road trips."
That's why Petito and Laundrie worked so well, Passannante said: "She thrived in the relationship because they both had similar goals of traveling and living a nomadic life."
But Passannante remained steadfast that going off on her own was something Petito would not have done.
"Petito is sweet, free-spirited, and selfless," Passannante said. "There's always been a warmth about her. When people meet her, they instantly love her."
Referring to the incident seen on Moab City Police Department bodycam footage from August 12, Passannante said she thought Petito's mental health was "getting blown out of proportion," specifically that it is being called a "mental-health" breakdown.
"It was a fight," Passannante said. "She mentioned OCD ... just because she was getting stressed out and little things were bothering her, which was getting her worked up. I don't think that's a normal, everyday thing.
"I think that was her explanation for why she was upset at the time and for why the fight started, but I think she was so upset in that video because she was in a fight with her boyfriend."
She added: "I don't think her mental health was much different from anyone else our age. I mean, we all have a fair amount of anxiety."
Passannante never met Laundrie but says he and Petito were still engaged when they embarked on their trip
Passannante said Petito and Laundrie met in high school and were in the same friend group, but she's never met him over the course of his two-year relationship with Petito.
She knows people who know Laundrie, though, who have described him as quiet and nice.
Passannante said Petito seemed happy in her relationship with Laundrie, though she added that thought it was "strange" the pair got engaged so quickly.
She added that the proposal was a surprise for Petito but that she was "excited and happy" about it.
The couple had begun to think about wedding plans and asked Passannante's cousin Steven Evans to photograph the event. Passannante said she was their backup photographer if Evans didn't want to travel to Florida.
She said the couple was still engaged when they embarked on their road trip out West and, unless they called off the wedding within the first week of their travels, she didn't know why Petito's mom, Nichole Schmidt, said the pair were no longer engaged. Passannante said the wedding date was pushed back to accommodate their travel schedule, though.
According to Passannante, the couple had two more planned stops left on their trip at the time of Petito's disappearance. She speculated they would have been back home in Florida by now.
Laundrie was named a person of interest in the case after he returned home from their road trip without Petito on September 1. Petito's parents filed a missing-person report on September 11. Laundrie's attorney has said Laundrie won't be making public statements as Petito's family has publicly pleaded for his help to find her. Police have said Laundrie hasn't talked to investigators, either.
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