The parents of Gabby Petito filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab City Police Department alleging its officers were negligent in their interactions with the 22-year-old and her fiancé two weeks before her death last summer KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt

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Thursday, November 3, 2022

The parents of Gabby Petito filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab City Police Department alleging its officers were negligent in their interactions with the 22-year-old and her fiancé two weeks before her death last summer

The parents of Gabby Petito have filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab City Police Department alleging its officers were negligent in their interactions with the 22-year-old and her fiancé two weeks before her death last summer. (Read More Here).

One of the police officers who questioned Gabby Petito in Moab weeks before she was killed by her boyfriend was “fundamentally biased” against her — and because of that, he failed to accurately assess the dangers she faced, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The attorneys representing Petito’s parents in the case are basing that claim on an allegation from a woman who says the officer, Eric Pratt, had threatened to kill her after their relationship ended, while he was the police chief in another rural Utah town. (Read More Here).

That alleged experience left Pratt more inclined to sympathize with Petito’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, when he spoke with the couple, the lawyers contend.

The woman who accuses Pratt of misconduct is not named in the lawsuit and never filed a formal complaint against him, saying she had nowhere to turn when he was the town’s chief. Two of her co-workers told The Salt Lake Tribune they concur with her recollection of events. But the mayor of Salina at the time, who knew about the relationship, defends Pratt, his character and his policing abilities.

The new allegation of bias comes as part of the anticipated lawsuit from Nichole Schmidt and Joseph Petito, which argues Moab police should have intervened to protect their daughter and taken her concerns seriously in the case that has drawn international attention.

Petito, a 22-year-old popular Instagrammer, and her boyfriend were stopped by Moab officers last year on Aug. 12 after an initial witness reported seeing Laundrie hit Petito. But instead of pursuing charges for domestic violence — as Utah law requires — an outside investigation of the department confirms that, among other mistakes, officers chose to separate the couple for the night and let them go with a warning.

The attorneys representing Petito’s parents say the officers failed to understand the basic warning signs of domestic violence that showed Petito was at risk for escalating harm.

“The purpose of this lawsuit is to honor Gabby’s legacy by demanding accountability and working toward systemic changes to protect victims of domestic abuse and violence and prevent such tragedies in the future,” attorney James W. McConkie said in a statement.

The lawsuit accuses the department and its officers of failing to follow the law and failing to protect Petito during an investigation into a domestic disturbance in August – just weeks before Laundrie killed her. The lawsuit states that officers improperly determined Petito was the primary aggressor in the interaction and misapplied Utah’s laws related to domestic abuse. It also accuses the police department of failing to properly train its officers in these issues.

In a news conference Thursday, her parents said they filed the suit to ensure that police make these changes to help other abuse victims.

“No one here, the four of us, don’t want to be here. We’d give it up in a second if she was back,” said her father, Joseph Petito.

“We feel we need to bring justice because she could have been protected that day,” said Nichole Schmidt, her mother. “There are laws put in place to protect victims, and those laws were not followed, and we don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

“The attorneys for the Petito family seem to suggest that somehow our officers could see into the future based on this single interaction. 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 said.

Petito was 22 when she and her fiancé, Laundrie, 23, embarked on a road trip through the American West last summer, documenting their #VanLife experiences online in idyllic, sun-drenched posts.

Despite their online appearance, their relationship was rocky and at turns violent. Petito was reported missing after Laundrie returned to his parents’ Florida home on September 1 and her parents were unable to contact her, sparking a nationwide hunt that became a fascination for online sleuths.

Her body was found several weeks later in Grand Teton National Forest, and a coroner ruled she died by strangulation. Laundrie subsequently went missing in a Florida nature preserve, and his body was found in mid-October alongside a notebook in which he admitted killing her.

In August, Petito’s parents filed a notice of claim against the police department, the first step in initiating a lawsuit. Her parents have also taken legal action against Laundrie’s estate and have filed suit against his parents, accusing them of causing emotional distress by failing to act during the search for Petito.

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