UTAH

Family of Gabby Petito files wrongful death lawsuit against Moab Police

Nov 3, 2022, 10:30 AM | Updated: 3:49 pm
Gabby Petito is pictured in a car, her family just filed a lawsuit against moab police...
Body camera video provided by the Moab Police Department shows Gabby Petito talking to a police officer after the van she was riding in was pulled over near Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021. (Moab Police Department)
(Moab Police Department)

MOAB, Utah — Nearly two months after announcing their intent to file, the family of Gabby Petito has filed a lawsuit against the Moab City Police Department. And in response, Moab officials claim the police department was not responsible for Petito’s death.

Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, filed a wrongful death lawsuit that criticized the Moab police‘s investigation into the reported domestic violence against Petito.

Moab police officers stopped Petito and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, in August 2021. Weeks after that interaction, authorities found Petito murdered in Wyoming. And weeks after finding Petito’s remains, authorities found Laundrie’s remains in Florida. Laundrie reportedly died by suicide.

Investigators also found a notebook from Laundrie, which according to the FBI contained writing from Laundrie taking responsibility for Petito’s murder.

A draft of the lawsuit provided by the family’s lawyers claimed Petito would still be alive if the Moab police officers who spoke to her and Laundrie had “competently and properly” investigated claims of Laundrie’s abuse.

“This case is a vehicle for systemic change and a reckoning about how the police enforce the state’s domestic abuse laws,” a draft of the lawsuit reads. 

A press release from the family’s lawyers also accused one of the officers involved in the case of domestic violence. An unnamed witness claimed Officer Eric Pratt himself is a domestic abuser who has abused his professional position. And the lawsuit claimed the officer was biased against Petito from the beginning.

“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,” said one of the family’s lawyers James W. McConkie in the press release.

The lawsuit seeks $50 million in damages.

Moab’s response to Petito lawsuit

The city of Moab issued a statement Wednesday night responding to the lawsuit before the family officially announced its filing Thursday. In its statement, the city said it would fight the lawsuit.

The city said that while Petito’s murder was a tragedy, its officers are not responsible for her death.

“In truth, on Aug. 12, no one could have predicted the tragedy that would occur weeks later and hundreds of miles away, and the City of Moab will ardently defend against this lawsuit,” the city wrote in its statement.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship there is help available here in Utah and nationwide.

  • YWCA’s Women in Jeopardy program: 801-537-8600
  • Utah statewide Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-897-LINK (5465) and udvc.org
  • 24-hour Salt Lake victim advocate hotline: 801-580-7969
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Related: Gabby Petito timeline: Her summer trip, disappearance, and murder

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Family of Gabby Petito files wrongful death lawsuit against Moab Police