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EXCLUSIVE: City of Moab documents reveal that it has followed just three of the 10 recommendations made by an outside investigator into the handling of a domestic violence call involving Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie two weeks before her murder.
Monday marks one year since an FBI-led search effort discovered Petito’s remains at a remote Wyoming campsite, north of Jackson, where the couple had been spotted camping weeks earlier.
It is also just over nine months since an independent agency launched an investigation into a Utah domestic violence call that Petito’s parents say if it had been handled properly, it could have saved her life.
The outside investigation into Moab’s handling of the Aug. 12, 2021, domestic violence call involving the couple, conducted by Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price Police Department, found “unintentional mistakes” and concluded with 10 recommendations. For months, the city refused to provide any evidence that any of the recommendations had been followed.
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Fox News Digital has now received records that confirm only three of the recommendations have been followed, and the documents indicate that two of those were followed to a lesser degree than proposed.
“Based on what they have provided, it appears pretty underwhelming in terms of what their commitment may be to getting their officers up to speed on the training that they should have had long before the incident with Gabby,” Brian Stewart, an attorney at Parker & McConkie, which is representing Petito’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against Moab, told Fox News Digital after reviewing the documents.
The city said it had no responsive records for three more of Ratcliffe’s recommendations, and it asked for more time to respond regarding another three. Officials said documentation of the remaining recommendation, that detectives re-interview the witness who initially reported seeing Laundrie hitting Petito, would be exempt from disclosure and declined to comment on whether they even existed.
Ratcliffe had recommended “a follow-up with [redacted] to obtain his statement, regardless of how long it has been and whether or not his statement may be tainted due to the coverage of this case.”
Witnesses called police last year and told them a man was hitting a girl in broad daylight outside the Moonflower Co-op, an organic grocer in the heart of Moab, before the couple left in a white van with Petito scrambling to get inside before it took off. When Officer Daniel Robbins pulled Laundrie over, the suspect was speeding and crashed into the curb.
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Eric Pratt arrived to assist at the scene. Recordings from both bodycams show they treated Petito, who was hysterically crying and had scratches on her face and arm, as the aggressor.
During the encounter, Pratt warned Robbins that Utah state law requires officers to arrest or cite someone in all domestic violence responses – because failing to do so can be deadly.
“You know why the domestic assault code is there. It’s there to protect people,” Pratt says in bodycam video. “The reason why they don’t give us discretion on these things is because too many times women at risk want to go back to their abuser, they just wanted him to stop, they don’t want to have to be separated, they don’t want him to be charged, they don’t want him to go to jail — and then they end up getting worse and worse treatment and end up getting killed.”
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Pratt was the senior officer on scene, and Robbins was only months removed from police academy, records show.
“It’s interesting how [Pratt] talks through his thought process out loud on the video — and says that they don’t have discretion to decide whether or not they arrest on of them, that that’s mandatory, and then thinks that he finds a way to not do it by coaching Gabby into saying that she didn’t intend to hurt Brian,” Stewart said. “And then Officer Pratt magically disappears when it’s decision time and leaves the trainee officer to make the ultimate decision.”
The official police report describes the alleged domestic violence call as a “mental health break.”
The first recommendation in Ratcliffe’s independent review of the stop was that the officers involved both be placed on probation. According to the city, it has no disciplinary logs for either officer Robbins or Pratt, the latter of whom has subsequently been promoted to “detective for community engagement” and made a school resource officer.
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Training logs state that Pratt and Robbins spent eight hours in a training called “Domestic Violence/Special Victims Report Writing” over two days, Jan. 19 and Jan. 20, 2022, about a week after Ratcliffe’s report went public.
The report, however, recommended that the officers receive “at least eight hours” of training on each of the topics separately.
In October 2021, Robbins separately received two hours of training each in courses titled “Bias: The Sinkhole of SA/DV Cases,” “Predominant Aggressor: Who Done It?” and “Understanding Trauma.” Those trainings were not listed on Pratt’s log.
The records provided by Moab City do not list any domestic violence-related training for either officer prior to the Aug. 12 stop.
Ratcliffe also recommended legal training for both officers, and the logs show they each attended a two-hour “2022 Legal Update” course on May 19.
Another recommendation in Ratcliffe’s report was that Robbins’ field training be reviewed to see whether he needed more of it. No record of this was provided.
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The city said it was still looking into whether it had and could provide records for some other recommendations, including review of its domestic violence and report approval policies, “any official changes to the department’s domestic violence response” and whether the city had implemented the recommended “lethality assessment protocol,” or LAP, which in many jurisdictions is a routine part of domestic violence investigations.
The city already has a preexisting LAP Memorandum of Understanding with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, according to the organization’s website. However, the UDVC said it does not have oversight of such agreements. Fox News Digital reached out to the local group that works with police on a regular basis, Seekhaven, but did not receive a response.
“It serves a twofold purpose to help the officers understand the severity of the situation and assess it, and then the questions are also intended to help the victim understand the seriousness of their situation, so they can take steps to report the abuse and to get out of the situation,” Stewart said.
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Moab had ostensibly adopted a LAP known as the Maryland Model, designed to “reduce risks and save lives.” It involves asking the victim a series of questions and, if there are red flags, calling in a domestic violence advocate to have a separate conversation with the potential victim, Stewart said. Shelter can also be provided.
After the incident, Laundrie flew home to Florida between Aug. 17 and 23 and then rejoined Petito in Salt Lake City before they traveled north to Wyoming. They were last seen in public on Aug. 27 at the Merry Piglets restaurant in Jackson, where witnesses and restaurant staff said Laundrie got into an argument with workers.
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Petito’s family believes she was killed later that night, and in a handwritten confession discovered near Laundrie’s skeletal remains on Oct. 20, 2021, he admitted to killing her.
“I ended her life,” he wrote, in an eight-page note that sought to characterize the misdeed as an act of mercy.
In addition to a pair of lawsuits filed against Laundrie’s parents, Petito’s family has also filed a $50 million notice of claim against the Moab Police Department, Officers Pratt and Robbins, as well as former Assistant Chief Braydon Palmer and former Chief Bret Edge. They are alleging negligence and poor training on behalf of the city are to blame for their daughter’s death.
Moab’s spokesperson Lisa Church said she could not comment on anything related to Petito’s case due to the pending litigation.
READ BRIAN LAUNDRIE’S NOTEBOOK CONFESSION:
Moab residents, however, have since elected a new mayor, Joette Langianese, and the city hired new police Chief Jared Garcia to move the department forward.
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Garcia, who is similarly restrained from commenting on the Petito case, did not respond to a request for comment.
“You’d think that they would want to demonstrate an overwhelming change in commitment to training and enforcement of their own policies and procedures, with the amount of scrutiny that they have on them,” Stewart said. “You would think that they would want to go overboard in the other direction rather than just maintaining the status quo and doing the same thing that has got them in trouble in the first place. So it’s unfortunate that the change hasn’t been more evident.”