New photo allegedly shows Gabby Petito’s injuries before interview with Moab PD
Feb 7, 2023, 11:43 AM | Updated: Feb 12, 2023, 5:57 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — A newly released photograph appears to show injuries on Gabby Petito’s face shortly before she met with officers from the Moab Police Department in Grand County, Utah.
The image was filed as part of a lawsuit against the Moab City Police Department on Nov. 3, seeking $50 million and claiming police negligence “led to Gabby’s death.”
The selfie, released by the Petito family’s lawyers, was taken by Petito in the back of her van in Moab on Aug. 12, 2021.
Lawyers claim the image’s metadata shows it was taken at 4:37 p.m., at or before the approximate time of a 911 call that reported a domestic violence incident between Petitio and her killer, Brian Laundrie.
“Gabby took a photograph of her injury, which shows blood across her nose and left eye. Gabby pointed out the injury to Officer Pratt, but he ignored her and did nothing more to investigate or document the injury,” the lawsuit alleges.
Since that encounter with Moab police, there has been evidence suggesting one of the responding officers, Eric Pratt, “was a domestic abuser, who has used authority and threats of physical violence to control and intimidate sexual partners,” according to Petito family attorney Brian Stewart.
Petito family attorneys also claimed the photo shows Petito “was likely strangled and/or suffocated by Laundrie before the police arrived” on Aug. 12, and she was not the “predominant aggressor” as officers claimed.
In their September 2021 report, Moab police said one officer reported the incident would be more accurately described as a “mental/emotional health ‘break’ than domestic assault.”
Police obtained lodging for Laundrie and Petito remained in possession of the van. The couple originally insisted on remaining together, but the report said one officer required the break “in lieu of making a case against (Petito) for domestic assault.”
Petito’s family alleges Moab officers could have saved their daughter’s life. Moab city officials said Petito’s death is a tragedy, but they said their officers are not responsible for her eventual murder.
“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 city said its police officers acted “with findings, respect and empathy toward Ms. Petito.”
In August 2022, Petito’s family announced that they intended to file the $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Moab police and initiated the process by giving notice of their intent to Moab, a requirement of Utah law. After the notice, the city had 60 days to respond before the lawsuit could be filed.
Petito was reported missing in September 2021 after she was seen traveling through Utah and Wyoming. Laundrie and Petito had been traveling across the country in a van since early July 2021.
According to a separate lawsuit filed by Petito’s family in July 2022, Petito was in constant contact with her parents and sibling during the trip, and their last communication with them was on Aug. 27.
The lawsuit alleges that Laundrie killed Petito later that day. Petito’s body was found on Sept. 19 near Grand Teton National Park, and her disappearance and the subsequent search for Laundrie attracted national attention.
The FBI said Laundrie wrote he was responsible for Petito’s death in his notebook, and a Florida medical examiner confirmed Laundrie died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
READ MORE of KSL TV’s extensive coverage of the investigation here.
FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said the bureau’s investigation did not identify any other individuals involved in Petito’s death.
Another lawsuit filed by Petito’s parents, which claims Laundrie told his parents he had killed Petito when he returned home alone from their trip, will head to trial this year.
Lifetime announced plans to film a movie in Utah based on the case, saying “The Gabby Petito Story” will be made as part of their Stop Violence Against Women public affairs initiative.
Domestic violence legislation
Gabby Petito’s parents joined Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson at the state Capitol last month to advocate for stronger domestic violence responses from police officers.
Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt thanked lawmakers for passing SB117 — a bill that would require lethality assessments in domestic violence cases — but said more needs to be done to protect victims.
“It is a proud moment to be here, and I thank everyone for the hard work that you did and the way that you voted today,” Petito said. “That was awesome. … But it’s not just about the bill, alright. These questions are only the first step in the way of helping these individuals that find themselves in a situation.”
SB117 would require officers to use the lethality assessment program, sometimes called a LAP, in domestic and intimate partner violence cases. It consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to see if a person is in danger.
“Having an officer there with a two-minute test and be able to tell them ‘hey you are in danger, don’t go home tonight, and here are some resources,’ those are things are that we can do,” SB117 sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler said.
Support for the legislation has also grown following the deaths of seven members of an Enoch, Utah, family, who were shot and killed on Jan. 4. The killer later died by suicide.
As police continue to piece together how the tragic murders unfolded, newly released information continues to suggest that the killings were premeditated.
Domestic violence resources
If you or someone you know is going through abuse, help is available.
- In an emergency, call 911
- The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465).
- Resources are also available online at the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition website.