In 2021, travel blogger Gabby Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie were questioned about a possible domestic dispute in Moab, Utah, just weeks before she went missing.
The blogger's murdered remains were found soon after and now her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Utah Police Department. Gabby Petito's parents filed a $50M lawsuit against the authorities on November 3, 2022.
Petito's parents, Nichole Schmidt and Joe Petito, claimed that their daughter would still be alive if Moab PD hadn't handled the encounter with her and Laundrie. They claimed that the encounter that led to the police's intervention on August 12, 2021, was what led to Petito's murder by her fiancé Laundrie.
Petito's mother, Nichole Schmidt, said in a statement that they felt the need to bring justice as Petito could have been "protected that day."
She continued to say that although there are laws in place to protect victims, the laws weren't followed. Nichole also noted that the family didn't want anyone else to undergo what they went through.
Gabby Petito's family's attorney revealed that "domestic violence is a silent killer"
Petito and her ex-fiancé Brian Laundrie were in Moab, the lawsuit claims, when someone saw Laundrie hit Petito and dialed 911. After Petito informed her family that she had been struck, they tried to arrange for her to return home but "stepped back" as soon as the police became involved.
Weeks later, close to a campground outside Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, Petito's body was discovered. Laundrie was discovered dead in a Florida reserve after going missing following her demise. Brian Laundrie has allegedly admitted that he was responsible for Gabby Petito's death.
The lawsuit asserts that Moab officers purposefully looked for ways to avoid implementing Utah's domestic violence law. It also claimed that they failed to detect "clear signs" indicating Gabby Petito was the victim of assault. The law in Utah takes away officers' discretion when investigating domestic violence situations
The family's attorney, James McConkie, stated that the lawsuit aims to hold those responsible accountable and bring about structural changes for victims of domestic abuse. Calling domestic violence a "silent killer," he said that "its signs and symptoms often go unrecognized by those not familiar" with it. He also noted that it is something that has affected almost every person or their loved one at some point.
He continued to say that in order to "combat domestic violence," every person needs to do their part and call out the abusers. He also said that everyone should know how to identify "systemic problems that enable abuse," even when it is difficult to do so.
A civil complaint was filed against Laundrie's parents in Florida in March 2022. In the complaint, Gabby Petito's parents claimed that Brian Laundrie's parents were attempting to help him escape after learning that he had killed his fiancé.
The Laundries' legal representatives refuted the accusations and made an unsuccessful attempt to have the case dismissed. The case's jury trial is set to start in August 2023.