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Bombshell Photo Of Gabby Petito Released By Lawyers As Part Of Family's Wrongful Death Suit
Lawyers representing the family of Gabby Petito say the damning selfie — taken just as someone called 911 to report her as the victim of intimate partner violence — proves Moab police failed to protect the young woman before her eventual murder.
Lawyers representing the family of Gabby Petito have released a damning selfie they say was taken almost immediately before police in Utah became involved with her and the fiancé who allegedly later murdered her.
Salt Lake City-based law firm Parker and McConkie on Tuesday released a photo that Petito, 22, took of herself on the afternoon of Aug. 12, 2021, in support of the family’s claims that Moab Police officers failed to protect Petito shortly before her murder, lawyers told Oxygen.com.
That day, local police pulled the couple over after a man witnessed seeing “the gentleman slapping the girl” outside the Moonflower Community Cooperative in Moab. Police body cam footage of the stop showed a distraught Petito and her fiancé, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, following the alleged altercation during their cross-country travels.
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“He, like, grabbed my face,” Petito told officers, which her lawyers pointed out in their lawsuit. “Well, he like grabbed me, like with his nail, and I guess that’s why it hurts."
“I definitely have a cut," she added. "Like, I can feel it.”
Police ultimately classified her as the “predominant aggressor" in the altercation, but her lawyers say the selfie proves that Petito had been victimized that day.
“The photo above, found on Gabby’s cell phone, was taken by Gabby in the back of her van in Moab, Utah, on Aug. 12, 2021, prior to her stop by Moab City Police,” according to Petito’s lawyers. “According to available data, the image was taken at 4:47 p.m., at or before the approximate time of the initial 911 call.”
Her family's lawyers maintain that “all the clues lead us to conclude that Gabby was most likely strangled and/or suffocated by Brian before the police arrived on Aug. 12, 2021,” according to Tuesday’s statement.
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Officers that day stayed with the pair for more than an hour but ended up simply separating the couple, leaving Petito with the van and driving Laundrie to a local hotel.
Petito was strangled to death before month’s end. Her body was discovered in Wyoming’s Teton National Park about a month later, well after Laundrie — who ultimately became the sole suspect in her disappearance — returned to Florida without Petito and took his own life.
Petito’s family filed a $50 million wrongful death suit against the police in November, arguing that, had Moab authorities done more to protect Petito on Aug. 12, 2021 instead of classifying her as the “predominant aggressor,” she might still be alive, according to Parker and McConkie.
They first mentioned the photo then, stating, “Gabby took a photograph of her injury, which shows blood across her nose and left eye.”
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The complaint specifically accuses Moab Police Officer Eric Pratt — whom lawyers previously accused of being “fundamentally biased” because of his own alleged history of domestic violence — of ignoring Gabby and doing nothing to “investigate or document the injury.”
The official stance by Moab Police following an internal investigation was that responding officers made “several unintentional mistakes.”
But the Petito family's lawyers say that, by ignoring the “critical evidence,” officers ignored state laws.
“Moab Police failed to recognize the violent grabbing of Gabby’s face and obstruction of her nose, mouth, and airways as a critical precursor to her eventual death by strangulation that occurred a short time later,” they stated in Tuesday's release.
Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, of Gabby’s native Long Island, New York, previously stated, “there are laws put in place to protect victims, and those laws were not followed.”
Schmidt and her former husband, Joe Petito, of Florida, continue to advocate for victims of domestic violence, including the recent Utah state senate bill approval to mandate “lethality assessments.”
The law would require that officers adhere to an 11-item questionnaire that could help thwart the future risk of violence and death when responding to intimate partner violence calls. As used in several other states, one of the questions could include whether the alleged aggressor has a history of restricting the victim’s air supply.
“The Petito family is heartbroken to see how Moab police officers failed to recognize the danger Gabby was in,” lawyers stated in Tuesday’s release. “They remain committed to making sure legislators and law enforcement will have the necessary training and resources to identify and prevent similar tragedies in the future.”
The bill is now on its way to Utah’s House of Representatives.
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