Gabby Petito’s parents have filed a $50 million lawsuit against the Utah Police after their daughter was found dead in September 2021.
According to a press conference on Thursday, Nichole Schmidt and Joe Petito allege that the 22-year-old would still be alive if the Moab Police Department would have done more during their August 2021 interaction with Gabby and her fiancé Brian Laundrie, who killed her weeks later.
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“The family would like me to emphasize that the purpose of this lawsuit is to honor Gabby’s legacy by demanding accountability and working through change in the system to protect victims of domestic abuse and violence and prevent such tragedies in the future,” attorney James W. McConkie said during the news conference.
The family claims authorities mishandled the contact they made with the couple following reports from bystanders who said they witnessed a domestic dispute between them.
“The officers egregiously misinterpreted Gabby’s extreme emotional distress, seeing it as the cause of the domestic violence rather than its result. Officer Pratt, in particular, was fundamentally biased in his approach to the investigation, choosing to believe Gabby’s abuser, ignoring evidence that Gabby was the victim and intentionally looking for loopholes to get around the requirements of Utah law and his duty to protect Gabby,” the lawsuit reads in part.
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Officials from the city of Moab released a statement in response to the wrongful death suit.
“The death of Gabrielle Petito in Wyoming is a terrible tragedy, and we feel profound sympathy for the Petito and Schmidt families and the painful loss they have endured. At the same time, it is clear that Moab City Police Department officers are not responsible for Gabrielle Petito’s eventual murder,” it said.
“Ms. Petito is believed to have died in Wyoming in late August 2021, more than two weeks after she and Brian Laundrie visited Moab and interacted with Moab City Police. At that time, our officers acted with kindness, respect, and empathy toward Ms. Petito.”
“The attorneys for the Petito family seem to suggest that somehow our officers could see into the future based on this single interaction. 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,” the statement concluded.
WATCH: Gabby Petito’s Mom Nichole Schmidt Slams Brian Laundrie’s Written Confession: ‘We Know How She Died’