Hulls — who serves as the visitor and resource protection supervisor at Arches National Park — responded to a call on August 12, where Petito and Laundrie were pulled over by Moab police over an alleged domestic violence dispute.
“I can still hear her voice,” Hulls told the Deseret News. “She wasn’t just a face on the milk carton, she was real to me.”
Hulls thought it would be best for the woman in the dispute to speak to another female, so she arrived on the scene to find Petito in tears in the back of a police cruiser.
“I was probably more candid with her than I should’ve been,” the ranger said, admitting that she warned Petito that her relationship seemed “toxic.”
“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 to find another path, to make a change in her life,” she said.
Hulls also told the outlet that Petito “had a lot of anxiety about being away from [Laundrie]. I honestly thought if anything was going to change it would be after they got home to Florida.”
“This wasn’t a good day for anybody,” she added. "We thought we were making the right decision when we left them."
After hearing that the FBI recovered a body “consistent with the description of Gabby Petito” in Wyoming on Sunday, September 19, the ranger recalled tilting her head back and letting out a sigh.
“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 I wish I said more, or wish I had found the right words to make her believe that she deserved more.”
As OK! previously reported, law enforcement officers were responding to a 911 caller who claimed to have seen Laundrie allegedly “slapping” his fiancé.
“We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller said in the audio clip that was released on Monday, September 20. “Then we stopped, and they ran up and down the sidewalk, he proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off.”
The pair were separated for the night, with Petito in the van and Laundrie in a nearby hotel.
“Sometimes you get evidence and they don’t own up to it, and they’re just lying to your face and it’s unsafe, and you know that something more is going to happen if you let them go home together. That’s a much easier decision to arrest,” Hulls said in the interview. “With this one, I just don’t think she understood how big a deal this was.”
Petito was reported missing on Saturday, September 11, just one week before she was believed to be found deceased in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, September 21.