New York Daily News
Gabby Petito’s murder “might have been prevented” if Moab, Utah, police had stepped in, according to a new lawsuit filed by her family.
A notice of claim for a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit, filed Monday, accuses three Moab officers and 10 others of “negligent failure” in their investigation into the alleged assault between 22-year-old Petito and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, just weeks before he murdered her in August 2021.
The Long Island couple had been on a cross-country van road trip, building Petito’s influencer status, when they stopped in Moab on Aug. 12. At a coffee shop, a witness reported the pair “talking aggressively,” according to a police report cited in the notice. Laundrie allegedly grabbed Petito’s phone and tried to stop her from getting into the van. A second witness called 911 to report seeing Laundrie “slapping” Petito and that he “hit her” while chasing her along the sidewalk.
Officer Daniel Robbins tracked the van and the couple down outside of Arches National Park and he, another officer and two park rangers interviewed each separately.
In his report, Robbins wrote that Petito was “visibly in crisis” and “crying uncontrollably.”
“At no point during his interactions with Gabby did she ‘stop crying, breathing heavily, or compose a sentence without needing to wipe ‘away tears, wipe her nose, or rub her knees with her hands,’” according to the notice.
“He later explained that she ‘didn’t seem fully coherent to the world; not like she was intoxicated or under the influence, but her “mind went into the black zone so to speak.”’ Officer Robbins also saw cuts on Gabby’s cheek and arm. Gabby demonstrated how Brian had violently grabbed her face during their altercation and explained that Brian ‘gets frustrated with me a lot.’”
The notice, however, claims that Petito’s injuries were far more serious than that, including blood smeared across her check and eye.
Laundrie told another officer that the pair had been under “increasing emotional strain” but painted Petito as the aggressor, a narrative that the officers bought.
With better training, the officers would have realized “Gabby was a victim of intimate partner violence” and needed “immediate protection,” according to the notice. Instead, they arranged for the pair to sleep separately for two nights: Laundrie at a domestic violence shelter and Petito in their van.
About two weeks later, Laundrie strangled Petito to death. Her body was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming on Sept. 19. Laundrie was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Florida in October.
Handwritten notes from Laundrie found after his death confessed to the murder.
Petito’s family has also sued Laundrie’s parents, accusing them of stalling the investigation while knowingly hiding their daughter’s murder.