In Letters, Gabby Petito Urged Brian Laundrie to 'Stop Crying.' Expert Says Notes Reflect Toxic Relationship (Exclusive)

Dr. Ziv Cohen tells PEOPLE the letters also suggest co-dependency

<p>Photo by FBI Denver/ZUMA Press Wire Service/Shutterstock </p> Gabby Petito

Photo by FBI Denver/ZUMA Press Wire Service/Shutterstock

Gabby Petito

In two letters she wrote to her abusive boyfriend, Gabby Petito pleaded with Brian Laundrie to stop crying, and in one told him to stop calling her names. An expert says these letters are evidence of Laundrie’s manipulative behavior.

The letters were reviewed by Dr. Ziv Cohen, a forensic psychiatrist in New York, who tells PEOPLE that the documents showed signs of a "toxic relationship."

Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, had been traveling together to several national parks in a van and documenting their trip on social media. The fact that they weren't around other people while on the road could have contributed to the abuse Petito was forced to endure, according to Cohen.

"Being alone and isolated for an extended period can really exacerbate the conflict in the relationship," Cohen says.

The letters reviewed by Cohen were released along with hundreds of other documents of evidence compiled by the FBI during its investigation into Petito’s murder. They provide insight into Petito and Laundrie's relationship while they were on the road together.

Related: Gabby Petito Wrote Letter to Brian Laundrie Pleading for Him to Stop Calling Her Names

“You know how much I love you,” Petito’s undated letter opens. “...Just please stop crying and stop calling me names because we’re a team and I’m here with you.”

Petito expresses concern there isn’t more she can do when Laundrie is in distress, saying she loves him “too much.”

In another undated letter, Petito expresses similar feelings.

“So I hope you understand that I when I am upset it’s cause I love you too much,” she writes. “Now stop crying!!!.”

Cohen, who previously reviewed video of police response to a domestic disturbance involving Petito and Laundrie, says the letters provide insight into the relationship.

"I don't think that there is anything in these letters that is a smoking gun, obviously we have much stronger evidence like when the police stopped them for a bonafide domestic violence incident," Cohen says. "But this seems like a confirmatory piece of evidence."

Gabby Petito Instagram Gabby Petito, left, and Brian Laundrie
Gabby Petito Instagram Gabby Petito, left, and Brian Laundrie

Petito’s remains were found in September 2021 near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, days after she was reported missing. Laundrie, considered a person of interest, was found dead by suicide in Florida a month later, along with a backpack that the FBI claimed had a notebook in which he admitted responsibility for her death.

Related: Expert Says Gabby Petito Police Footage Raises 'Alarm Bells' About Domestic Abuse: 'Victim Self-Blaming'

Cohen did not treat either Petito or Laundrie, but after reviewing the letters, he says Petito's writing shows she was grappling with her feelings about the relationship and how best to communicate those feelings to Laundrie. 

"It's the kind of thing we encourage in therapy. Sometimes when you can't put things into words directly to the person, we encourage them to write it down."

Cohen says without having seen his response, it's difficult to determine if Laundrie was being manipulative at this point in the relationship just based on the letter. But it does provide a clear example of Petito expressing some discontent in the relationship.

Without wanting to diagnose Petito or Laundrie, having not treated either, Cohen says the letters do also show signs of co-dependency, which he explains is when people in an unhealthy relationship stay together because they find it difficult to cope without the other person.

"Sadly we'll never know exactly what was going on in this relationship," he says.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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