More than one year after Gabby Petito‘s homicide, her family has filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab Police Department, their lawyer confirmed via press conference on Thursday, November 3.
The family is suing the police over the encounter between Gabby and her former fiancé, Brian Laundrie. The lawsuit claims that since the police did not apprehend Laundrie for their August 2021 argument in Moab, Utah, it led to “further and escalating domestic violence, leaving her to eventually be strangled to death by [Laundrie],” according to documents obtained by Wavy.com.
According to the family’s lawsuit, Petito contacted her family after the alleged domestic violence incident between her and Laundrie, and she showed them photos of the scratches she had following their alleged argument. The Petito Family claim they were in the process of arranging a flight for Petito to return home, but they “stepped back” after they learned police were investigating the alleged situation.
The Petitos allege that the responding officers Chief Bret Edge, Asst. Chief Braydon Palmer and Officer Eric Pratt, in addition to Officer Daniel Robbins, the entire police department and 10 other unidentified people, “never directly questioned [Laundrie] about whether he hit Petito or how she ended up with scratches on her face.” In their lawsuit, they called the Moab PD’s investigation “deeply flawed” and claimed that officers treated Laundrie “as if he were the victim of domestic abuse rather than the perpetrator.”
The suit claims Officer Pratt “coached [Petito] to provide answers that the officers used to justify their decision not to enforce Utah law.” The lawsuit also claims that the officers were trained by Palmer to provide that coaching to people such as Petito.
“The officers egregiously misinterpreted [Petito’s] extreme emotional distress, seeing it as the cause of the domestic violence rather than its result,” the lawsuit documents claim. “Officer Pratt, in particular, was fundamentally biased in his approach to the investigation, choosing to believe [Petito’s] abuser, ignoring evidence that [Petito] was the victim and intentionally looking for loopholes to get around the requirements of Utah law and his duty to protect [Petito].”
The family is requesting a jury trial and did not list the Arches National Park Officers, who responded to the alleged incident, in the lawsuit.
Pratt and Robbins pulled over the former couple near Arches National Park, Utah, for speeding and swerving. As seen in body camera footage, Petito was crying and claimed that she had struck Laundrie first. At one point, Laundrie allegedly grabbed her face, which ultimately led to the cuts she allegedly sustained as a result.
Police concluded the incident was not a domestic assault.
Two weeks after filing the lawsuit against the Moab Police Department, a Florida judge awarded Petito’s family $3 million on Thursday, November 17, after they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Laundrie’s parents.
In the civil lawsuit, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt alleged that Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie hindered the search for Petito and knew that she “had been murdered by their son.”
“The Petito family lost their daughter, and they were also denied the opportunity to confront her killer. No amount of money is sufficient to compensate the Petito family for the loss of their daughter, Gabby, at the hands of Brian Laundrie,” Patrick Reilly, an attorney for Petito’s family, said in a statement to Today.
The attorney added that Laundrie did not have $3 million at the time of his death, explaining that the settlement amount is “an arbitrary number.” The money will go toward the Gabby Petito Foundation.
On September 21, 2021, human remains were confirmed to belong to Petito by the Teton County Coroner, Dr. Brent Blue. In the following weeks, Laundrie was missing and was later found dead on October 20, 2021. The following day, it was confirmed that the remains found belonged to Laundrie. One month later, Laundrie’s cause of death was determined to be suicide. On January 21, 2022, FBI Denver announced that the case was closed, writing via Twitter, “A review of the notebook revealed written statements by Mr. Laundrie claiming responsibility for Ms. Petito’s death.”