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Gabby Petito's parents file $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Utah police

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Nov 06, 2022 2:17 pm

The parents of TikTok star Gabby Petito, who was slain in August 2021 following an alleged domestic abuse situation with her then-boyfriend, have now filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers in Moab, Utah.

In a report by ABC News, Petito's parents Nichole and Joseph are seeking at least $50 million (almost P3 billion) in damages against the police department that questioned the deceased travel vlogger and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie about a possible domestic dispute weeks before she was reported missing.

According to an independent report that the news outlet acquired, law enforcement officers spoke with Petito and Brian on Aug. 12, 2021 in the middle of their cross-country road trip. This was after a concerned citizen had phoned them alleging that they saw a "gentleman slapping the girl."

Petito admitted that she had made a move on Laundrie first and slapped him a couple of times before he had grabbed her face and scratched her in the process. 

After being told by Petito that she suffered from severe anxiety, and that tensions between their relationship had already been escalating for days, the officers labeled the incident as a "mental/emotional break" rather than a domestic assault.

The vlogger was reported missing about a month later before her body was eventually found at Grand Teton National Park, which is near the former couple's campsite. 

Laundrie then wrote a confession in his notebook that he had killed his girlfriend before shooting himself dead, according to an FBI investigation.

Petito's parents are now placing the blame on the officers who questioned their daughter but failed to cite her as a victim of domestic abuse.

"We feel the need to bring justice because she could have been protected that day. There are laws put in place to protect victims, and those laws were not followed. And we don't want this to happen to anybody else," Nichole told the press on Thursday, Nov. 3.

James McConkie, one of their attorneys, argued that "Gabby would still be alive today" had the Moab police followed Utah law on domestic violence.

"The purpose of this lawsuit is to honor Gabby's legacy by demanding accountability and working for change in the system to protect victims of domestic abuse and violence and to prevent such tragedies in the future," he said.

The law states that there should be an automatic protective order to separate the abuser and the victim to prevent future harm.

The complaint argues, "The officers—based on their tragic failure to identify Brian as the abuser—coached Gabby to provide answers that the officers used to justify their decision not to enforce Utah law."

Meanwhile, the city of Moab said in a statement that while they feel profound sympathy for Petito's death, they remain in defense of its police department's officers.

"It is clear that Moab City Police Department officers are not responsible for Gabrielle Petito’s eventual murder. [T]he attorneys for the Petito family seem to suggest that somehow our officers could see into the future based on this single interaction," the city said.

"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," they added.