The family of Gabby Petito plans to file a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Utah police, saying that officers in the small desert town of Moab, who stopped Petito and boyfriend Brian Laundrie last year, failed to recognize their daughter was in a domestic violence situation. Family members say that officers should have seen on Aug. 12, 2021, that Petito, 22, was in danger, The Guardian reports. Body-cam film showed a visibly upset Petito speaking to officers on the side of the road. Instead of intervening, the officers allowed the couple to proceed on a cross-country van trip after requiring them to spend a night apart.
The fight between the couple happened weeks before authorities say Laundrie strangled her. Petito’s body was found in September near Grand Teton national park in Wyoming. Laundrie, 23, later killed himself in a Florida swamp after being named the sole person of interest in her disappearance. A notebook contained a confession to her murder. “If the officers had been properly trained and followed the law, Gabby would still be alive today,” said attorney James McConkie, citing “clear signs that were evident that morning that Gabby was a victim and that she was in serious need of immediate help.” An independent investigation found that Moab police made “several unintentional mistakes” when they intercepted Petito and Laundrie. Police said it was very likely that Petito “was a long-term victim of domestic violence, whether that be physically, mentally, and/or emotionally." Petito’s family has sued Laundrie’s parents claiming they knew since late August las year that Petito was dead because their son had told them.