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Gabby Petito's parents sue Moab, Utah, police for "failures and negligence" they say led to her death

Posted at 12:42 PM, Nov 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-03 14:42:53-04

The parents of Gabby Petito have officially filed a lawsuit against Utah's Moab City Police Department over their daughter's death. A press release says that the lawsuit was filed on Thursday for the department's "failures and negligence" that ultimately led to the 22-year-old being killed last year.

The lawsuit was filed against the Moab Police Department, Police Chief Bret Edge, Assistant Chief Braydon Palmer and officers Daniel Robbins and Eric Pratt, as well as 10 unidentified individuals. The lawsuit claims that the department's "negligent hiring and failure to properly train" led to Petito's death.

Petito's family is seeking $50 million in damages.

According to the lawsuit, Petito and her then-fiance Brian Laundrie were in Moab when someone saw Laundrie hit Petito and called 911. Petito told her family he had hit her and the family attempted to make plans for her to return home, but "stepped back" once police got involved in the situation.

Petito's body was found weeks later near a campground outside Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Laundrie, who was also missing after her death, was found dead in a reserve in Florida. A notebook was found next to his body in which he claimed responsibility for her death.

"Despite the witness's report, the officers treated Brian as if he were the victim of domestic abuse rather than the perpetrator," the lawsuit alleges. "...The officers egregiously misinterpreted Gabby's extreme emotional distress, seeing it as the cause of the domestic violence rather than its result. Officer Pratt, in particular, was fundamentally biased in his approach to the investigation, choosing to believe Gabby's abuser, ignoring evidence that Gabby was the victim and intentionally looking for loopholes to get around the requirements of Utah law and his duty to protect Gabby."

James McConkie, who is representing the family, said in a statement that the lawsuit is meant to demand accountability and lead to systemic changes for victims of domestic abuse.

"The epidemic of domestic violence is a silent killer, the sign and symptoms of which often go unrecognized by those not familiar with interpersonal violence," he said. "This affliction could very well affect each one of us or a loved one at some point in our lives, often with tragic consequences. To combat domestic violence, each of us has to do our part to call out abusers and know how to identify systemic problems that enable abuse, even when that is difficult to do."

The press release says that the police department and its officers "failed Gabby by failing to follow the law and failing to protect Gabby when they had the opportunity to do so."

Moab Police conducted an investigation into officers' response to the domestic violence incident and said that the officers who responded "made several unintentional mistakes that stemmed from the fact that officers failed to cite Ms. Petito for domestic violence."

The report recommended improvements to police policies and training, but the city said that it "believes our officers showed kindness, respect and empathy in their handling of this incident."

"The City of Moab sends our sincere condolences to the Petito family. Our hearts go out to them as they continue to deal with the tragic loss of their daughter," the city said in an announcement about the investigation.