‘I would have never let him out of custody’: Sheriff Grady Judd's reaction to search for Brian Laundrie
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - While Sheriff Grady Judd concedes neither he nor his department is involved in the Gabby Petito case, the Polk County sheriff speculated on how he would’ve handled Brian Laundrie within his jurisdiction. For one, he said, Brian would have been taken into custody.
"I’m not involved in that investigation. My team is not involved in that investigation. I could speculate based upon news reports," Sheriff Grady Judd replied when asked by a reporter about the case Thursday. "As you know, those are incomplete at best and sometimes they can fictionalized at worst."
On Sept. 1, Brian arrived back home in North Port with the camper van used for the cross-country travel with Gabby. There was no sign of Gabby.
It wasn't until Sept 11 when Gabby's family reported her missing.
"I can tell you, at this sheriff’s office, when he showed up with her car and she was no place to be found, we would have never let him out of our custody that day," Judd said during a press conference on an undercover child porn operation. "Other than that, I’m not sure where their investigation is."
The Aug.12 domestic dispute between Gabby and Brian became public after the Petito family filed the missing person report. The information released since then included a police report, body camera footage from a Utah police officer, the 911 recording from a witness, and a witness statement. The encounter ended with officers deciding against charging Gabby and separating the two for the night.
"I can tell you that according to Florida law, when she was a victim of domestic violence originally, he would’ve been arrested," Judd said.
The police report and bodycam video previously obtained by FOX News each concluded that Gabby appeared to have been the aggressor in that event.
The bodycam video showed police responding to the reported domestic incident. The officers were heard debating how to proceed before ultimately deciding that Gabby, who they were told was the aggressor by herself, Brian and a witness, was having a mental health "break" and was not a domestic violence suspect.
In a separate witness statement, written by someone only identified as "Christopher," it stated:
"They were talking aggressively [at] each other [and] something definitely seemed off. At one point, they were sort of fighting over a phone – I think the male took the female’s phone. It appeared that he didn’t want her in the white van."
Christopher also said that at one point, he saw Gabby allegedly "punching him in the arm" and trying to get inside the vehicle.
However, in the 911 call that was later released, a witness reported the "domestic dispute" between Brian and Gabby on Aug. 12 before they were later pulled over by Moah police. The caller was heard telling a dispatcher that "the gentleman was slapping the girl."
The city of Moah in Utah recently announced they will investigate how the police handled that call. Experts said they may have acted appropriately based on incomplete information.
MORE: Gabby Petito case: Utah officers may not have had all information responding to Moab incident, experts say
It now appears that information of Brian "slapping" and hitting Gabby was not relayed to the officers at the scene. With that information, Susanne Gustin, a Salt Lake City-based defense attorney, told Fox News police may have considered Brian the aggressor, not Gabby, and made an arrest.
FULL COVERAGE: UTAH INCIDENT BETWEEN BRIAN AND GABBY
- Report: Utah police called to 'incident' involving Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie 2 weeks before missing report
- Gabby Petito body camera video reveals emotional encounter with boyfriend Brian Laundrie
- Gabby Petito case: Dispatch recordings show Utah police were told male struck female
- Details of Gabby Petito's Utah fight with fiancé Brian Laundrie revealed in witness statement to police
- Gabby Petito case: Utah officers may not have had all information responding to Moab incident, experts say
- Moab to investigate police handling of Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito altercation
- Gabby Petito case: Moab, Utah police chief takes leave of absence amid investigation into handling of 911 call