Petito Case Serves as Warning for Local Community



Gabby Petito’s mysterious death has some people in the Nonnewaug community considering safety when it comes to relationships.

Izzy DiNunzio, Junior Editor

Gabby Petito — a name nearly everyone is talking about. Maybe you aren’t one of her now over 1.2 million Instagram followers, and maybe you don’t know her by her YouTube adventure videos, but you have almost certainly heard her name.

The 22-year-old left on a cross country trip, in her van, with her fiance, Brian Laundrie. Yet he was the only one who would return. 

Constantly, you hear in murder cases, “It was the husband” or, “It was the wife.” A spouse or significant other are certainly examples of people you would trust. How does this affect people’s views on trust? If Brian Laudrie killed his fiancé, Gabby Petito, it begs the question: How could someone so close to you murder you in cold blood? 

On Sept. 19, human remains consistent with Petito’s description were found in Teton, Wyoming. Two days later, the remains were confirmed to be those of Petito. Petito’s case has been widely broadcast — even a small community like Nonnewaug is talking about it. 

“I know they went on a trip and they got into some type of argument in Wyoming. She went missing and he came back home and it was obviously strange he left with her and didn’t come back with her. Just recently, they found her remains and I know they are looking for him,” says Nonnewaug’s school resource officer, Chris O’Toole. 

“It’s a very unfortunate case and I feel sad for her family that doesn’t know what happened to her,” said Nonnewaug sophomore Kaylin Stafferi.

The manhunt for Laundrie is on, as the police have yet to locate him. In the weeks since the case broke, much of the discussion has focused on domestic violence — something O’Toole has seen plenty of times in his career.

“Before coming to Nonnewaug in 2018, I was a police officer in Southbury for 25 years,” O’Toole said. “I have dealt with many many domestic violence issues, and part of it is the person is scared to leave. They are in a relationship. They love that person and most of the time they believe that person will change. But many times they escalate up. I have seen where there are verbal arguments to physical arguments up until death. I have dealt with all domestic violence type issues.” 

Petito and Laundrie had been engaged since July of 2020. After hearing about Petito’s case, Nonnewaug students’ views on trust may have also shifted. 

“It makes me realize that you really have to be careful with who you trust. Even if you have known the person for a long time, you still might not be able to trust them,” says Stafferi. 

O’Toole’s message for students is that you have to be careful with who you get involved with. 

“Students at Nonnewaug should learn from Gabby Petito’s case or any type of domestic violence case. They should be careful with who they get involved with. The person on the first date isn’t going to start yelling and screaming. They build the trust and when the trust is built, that is when the control starts. First, is the love and the flowers. Then it changes.

“What people should learn is that if that does happen there are people to go to,” he continued. “If it happens in this school there are counselors, administrators, me, friends, teachers — everyone is looking out for you. There is not a teacher or administrator that is not 100% devoted to the well-being of the kids here.” 

Stafferi agrees with O’Toole. 

“Petito’s case makes me think that you have to be careful with relationships. Even if you have known the person for a long time you should watch for red flags. If there are any you should reconsider the relationship,” Stafferi adds. 

O’Toole wants students to be safe. 

“If you see someone in a controlling abusive relationship you should talk to them, or talk to their parents,” O’Toole said. “You may lose a friend, but you might also save their life.”