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Gabby Petito’s Family Plans to Sue Police in Utah for ‘Negligent’ Handling of Domestic Violence Call


Gabby Petito’s family voiced plans to file another lawsuit in the aftermath of their loved one’s death. Attorneys in Utah announced on Monday that they’ve filed a notice of intent to sue police in the city of Moab.

Though the 22-year-old’s boyfriend Brian Laundrie, 23, killed Petito in Wyoming days after encountering police in Utah, the plaintiff team maintains that Moab cops failed to appropriately handle a domestic violence call involving the couple on Aug. 12, 2021.

“Gabby Petito’s parents asked the law firms of Parker & McConkie, and Zimmerman Booher to represent them in a lawsuit against the Moab police for their negligent failure to first understand the law and enforce it, and second, for the wrongful death of their daughter,” attorney Jim McConkie said in a press conference Monday.

Citing Utah law, they filed the notice of a claim ahead of a one-year deadline. Such a notice of intent is required to sue the state and is the first step in initiating future litigation, the lawyer said.

The planned lawsuit will seek $50 million in damages.

“The City does not comment on pending litigation,” Lisa J. Church, the Moab City Communications and Engagement Manager, told Law&Crime in an email.

As seen on previously released bodycam footage, Moab police responded last Aug. 12 to a domestic violence call. A witness claimed to see Petito hitting Laundrie in the arm. Cops ultimately determined based on the couple’s statements that she hit her boyfriend and that he grabbed her face. They ultimately had the couple split up for the night, with Petito taking her van and Laundrie going to a hotel.

Officers did not do enough, according to critics and Petito’s family. She was the victim in all of this, not Brian Laundrie, they said. The couple, who were on a cross-country trip enjoying the wilds of the western United States, wound up in Wyoming. Authorities have determined Laundrie strangled Petito to death and abandoned her corpse in the wilderness while he drove back to his parents’ home in Florida. After briefly holing up at the residence, Laundrie escaped to a local park where he shot himself in the head. In his suicide note, he maintained that he only killed Petito after she became badly injured while the two were attempting to return to the van on a freezing cold night.

“I ended her life,” he wrote. “I thought it was merciful, that it is what she wanted, but I see now all the mistakes I made.”

Petito’s family has also sued Laundrie’s parents in Florida, claiming the Laundrie parents shielded their son from responsibility.

Now, in the Utah case, Petito family attorney Brian Stewart tells reporters that the goal of this legal action is to hold government institutions to account, to make sure they are given the training and resources to do their jobs, and to protect the most vulnerable members of society.

“This is just bringing back a lot of pain,” Gabby’s mother Nichole Schmidt said tearfully. “We just want to help people. We’re going to do whatever we can. That’s why we’re here.”

Stewart acknowledged the governmental immunity statute in Utah, but he maintained that officers were negligent and contributed to the cause of Gabby’s death. Though he declined to get into the specifics about what took place, he said there was much information in the case not yet publicly available.

“The FBI has extensive information that was collected throughout the search for Gabby that has not yet been released, although their investigation has been deemed to be completed,” the attorney said.

Read the notice of intent here:

[Screenshot via Moab Police Department]

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