Melissa Hulls, Arches park ranger warned Gabby Petito her relationship seemed ‘toxic’

Melissa Hulls can still hear Gabby Petito’s voice.

Melissa Hulls, a ranger at Arches National Park who responded to the Aug. 12 altercation in Utah between Petito and Laundrie, told the Deseret News that she warned Gabby her relationship had the markings of being “toxic.”

Hulls arrived to find the couple pulled over by a Moab police officer inside the park. Knowing that in a domestic violence situation the female usually feels more comfortable talking with another female, she focused on Petito, who at that point was sitting in the back of a police cruiser.

“I can still hear her voice,” Hulls said in an exclusive interview with the Deseret News. “She wasn’t just a face on the milk carton, she was real to me.”

Hulls pictures the sobbing 22-year-old sitting in the back of the cruiser. She knows her mannerisms, just from the roughly hour-and-a half interaction.

“I was probably more candid with her than I should’ve been,” Hulls recalls, warning Petito that her and Laundrie’s relationship had the markings of a “toxic” one.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

In the end, Petito stayed with Laundrie.

“This wasn’t a good day for anybody. We thought we were making the right decision when we left them.”

And on Sunday, when she heard the news that the FBI recovered a body in Wyoming “consistent with the description of Gabby Petito,” the law enforcement ranger of 17 years tilted her head back and let out a sigh of someone all too familiar with a body recovery effort.

“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.”