Glamsqaud reports that Gabby Petito’s family has filed a lawsuit against police in Moab, Utah, accusing them of negligence that led to the 22-year-old’s death last year.
The family is suing for $50 million in compensation.
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys for Joseph and Tara Petito and Nichole and Jim Schmidt, names the Moab Police Department, three of its officers, “Palmer,” “Pratt,” and Daniel Robbins, as well as ten other unnamed defendants, and accuses them of “negligent failure” in their investigation into an alleged assault between Petito and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, several weeks before her murder.
They also charge all of the defendants with “wrongful death,” claiming that Petito died as a result of their “wrongful acts or neglect.”
Petito, a YouTuber with a large Instagram and YouTube following, was discovered dead on September 19, 2021, near a remote campground in Grand Teton National Forest, just over a week after her family reported her missing to police.
She had been on a cross-country trip with her fiance, Laundrie, who was also found dead weeks later in a Florida reserve after going on the run.
Near his remains, police discovered a notebook in which he confessed to killing his fiancée.
Petito spoke to several Moab Police Department officers prior to her death, while on a van trip with her fiance, after she and Laundrie had a verbal and physical fight in August 2021. Petito’s parents’ attorneys claim that the officers “failed in their duty to protect Gabby.”
Someone who called 911 reported seeing Laundrie slap Petito and hit her while chasing her down a Moab sidewalk, according to the lawsuit. Another witness reported seeing the two “talking aggressively” and “something seemed off.” According to witnesses, Laundrie took her phone, got in their van, and attempted to leave her before climbing over him and into the van.
According to the lawsuit, an officer named Daniel Robbins discovered the couple’s van speeding down a highway, swerving across the center yellow line, and colliding with a curb. The van then came to a halt outside Arches National Park, where Robbins separated the two and spoke with them.
Later, Robbins was joined by his superior officer, Officer Pratt, and two park rangers.
Body cam footage from the officers’ interviews with the two was previously released to the public, but the lawsuit claims that the footage does not paint a complete picture of what happened. Unreleased photos of Petito from that day allegedly show smeared blood on her cheek and left eye, as well as Laundrie grabbing her across the nose and mouth.
The lawsuit also contains photos that were made public, one of which shows a mark on her skin.
When questioned, Petito stated that Laundrie had grabbed her.
Petito asked to stay with Laundrie during questioning, displaying “the classic hallmarks of an abused partner,” according to the lawsuit.
Laundrie, for his part, told police that Petito tried to slap him and pushed her. He claimed he tried to steal Petito’s phone because he didn’t have his own, but he later showed officers his own phone. Laundrie also claimed he wanted to take separate walks with Petito while in Moab, which contradicts witness statements that he attempted to flee in the van.
The officers are accused in the lawsuit of failing to question Laundrie about his inconsistencies while reporting. Instead, they determined that Petito was the “primary aggressor” and Laundrie was the victim. Pratt then informed the two that he would have to arrest Petitio, which neither of them wanted.
Pratt contacted his superior, Assistant Chief Palmer, who instructed him to “carefully read the assault statute” before deciding what to do. According to the lawsuit, Pratt only read a portion of it and had an incorrect understanding of the law, believing that assault is only a crime if the person “intended to cause bodily harm.”
Pratt then told Robbins, his junior, to make a decision. Robbins said he didn’t believe Petito and decided not to press charges, instead referring the matter to the city attorney. Meanwhile, Pratt warned Robbins in the lawsuit that if the couple disagreed with his decision, “you might hear about it in a very negative way.”
Officer Robbins divided Laundrie and Petito for the night after consulting with Pratt. According to the lawsuit, Pratt stated that if the couple later found their way back to each other, it would not be their responsibility.
Laundrie then strangled and beaten Petito to death in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Forest.
Petito’s family also sued Laundrie’s parents, alleging that they knew what happened to their daughter and where her body was while she was still missing. They are suing for $30,000 in damages.