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Legal analyst: Leave time for Moab police chief should help, not hinder probe

This police camera video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van she was traveling in with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021. (The Moab Police Department via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — Word that the police chief of Moab, Utah is on family medical leave should help, not hinder, an investigation into the department’s handling of an interaction with Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie at Arches National Park. 

That’s according to a defense attorney and former prosecutor who spoke with KSL NewsRadio. 

Attorney Greg Skordas, who is not connected with the Gabby Petito case, told Dave & Dujanovic Tuesday that the chief’s leave should compel Moab police to act sooner rather than later. 

“He will be compelled and his department will be compelled and the officers that were involved will all be compelled to give a statement . . . they’ll be under the gun and they’ll be investigated by some outside agency,” Skordas said.

Moab police chief on leave amid major investigations

Police Chief Bret Edge took family medical leave amid two high-profile cases: the murder of Gabby Petito and the disappearance of her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, and the double murder of Kylen Schulte, 24, and Crystal Turner, 38, in August near Moab.

The City Council announced an investigation into how Moab police handled their interaction in the Petito-Laundrie case in August during a domestic dispute between the couple inside their vehicle on a city street.

A caller told dispatchers he saw Laundrie strike Petito; Moab police ultimately pulled over their white van just inside the entrance to Arches National Park, where an officer on scene determined Petito, not Laundrie, instigated the exchange. However, a park ranger told the Deseret News she warned Petito the relationship was potentially toxic. 

The city of Moab is unaware of any breach in police department protocol, but if the investigations finds one, the appropriate steps will be taken, according to reporting from KSL NewsRadio.

Policing the police

After looking at the police body camera footage and officers’ interaction with Petito and Laundrie, Skordas told KSL he believes the officers acted appropriately.

Host Dave Noriega pointed out that both the city of Moab and its police force are small, but they have to deal with millions of tourists every year.

Skordas agreed and said the police don’t want to have to take tourists into custody on their vacation, but in hindsight, that was the wrong decision for Petito.

Host Debbie Dujanovic asked Skordas if he thought the city’s internal investigation into its police department will go beyond the Petito-Laundrie case.

“Yeah, I think it will, Debbie,” he said. ” . . . The way that they’ve handled domestic violence situations I think is going to be reevaluated for good or bad; maybe they’ve done some good things, too. But, certainly, they’re going to have a wake-up call on how they respond to situations like this so that we can hope that something like this never happens again.”

Related:

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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