Warning: This story contains a graphic image that may trigger some readers. Discretion is advised.
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gabby Petito took a photo of herself that showed her with blood on her face shortly before she and Brian Laundrie were stopped by police officers in Moab, Utah, in August 2021, attorneys for her family say.
On Tuesday, the law firm of Parker & McConkie released a previously unseen photo that was mentioned in the Petito’s lawsuit against the Moab Police Department.
The Petitos filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the department on Nov. 3, alleging that its officers failed to recognize their daughter was in a life-threatening situation before her death. The lawsuit seeks $50 million in damages.
Police had stopped the couple on Aug. 12, 2021, after a witness reported seeing Laundrie slap Petito near the Moonflower Community Cooperative in Moab.
“We drove by him, a gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller told the dispatcher.
Police released body camera video showing officers responding to the incident. According to reports, Petito told officers she slapped Laundrie and had hit him first. She said he grabbed her face, and she felt a cut on her left cheek. Petito was deemed the aggressor, but neither she nor Laundrie was cited for domestic violence, and the couple was told to spend the night apart.
Authorities say Petito died about three to four weeks before her body was found on Sept. 18. Her cause of death was strangulation, and the manner of death was homicide. After a weeks-long manhunt, Laundrie, a “person of interest” in the case, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot at North Port’s Carlton Reserve.
The wrongful death suit claims Moab police were negligent in their interactions with the couple, and their negligence ultimately contributed to Petito’s death.
An independent review found the officers who responded to the call made several mistakes, but they were not intentional, and it was unclear if their failure to issue a domestic violence citation led to her death.
But attorneys for the family say Petito would still be alive today had the officers followed up on her injuries.
“The officers ignored this critical evidence and did nothing to follow up on, or to further investigate, Gabby’s report that Brian had violently grabbed her face and cut her cheek,” the statement said.
The attorneys said they recovered a photo taken on Petito’s phone shortly before the stop.
“According to available data, the image was taken at 4:37 PM, at or before the approximate time of the initial 911 call,” the statement said.
“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,” it continued. “The photo demonstrates the cut previously noted on her left cheek as well as blood smeared from her forehead, across her left eye and cheek and over her nose, indicating that she was grabbed over her face in such a way that her airways were likely obstructed.”
“Domestic violence experts who have reviewed the evidence have stated that “all the clues lead us to conclude that Gabby was most likely strangled and/or suffocated by Brian before the police arrived on August 12, 2021,” the statement said.
WFLA is reaching out to the Moab Police Department for comment. This story is developing and will be updated.