December 7, 2022

close Family of Gabby Petito sues Moab, Utah police for $50 million Video

Family of Gabby Petito sues Moab, Utah police for $50 million

Fox News’ Bryan Llenas on the Petito family accusing police of mishandling a traffic stop involving Gabby and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie.

EXCLUSIVE: A Utah woman claims she received death threats from a former police chief who resigned from his job and later played a prominent role as a patrol officer in the 2021 traffic stop of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie.

“He has no business being a f—ing cop,” the woman, who has asked not to have her name published out of concerns for her safety, told Fox News Digital.

She was talking about Eric Pratt, one of two Moab police officers who interacted with Petito and Laundrie in the entranceway to Arches National Park just two weeks before her strangling death in Wyoming.

She is accusing him of telling her he’d smash her with a crowbar after she threatened to go public with sultry details of their 2017 affair.

GABBY PETITO BODYCAM FOOTAGE: WHO IS OFFICER ERIC PRATT?

Moab Police officer, Eric Pratt is seen on his phone in Moab Utah, Saturday, October 29, 2022. 

Moab Police officer, Eric Pratt is seen on his phone in Moab Utah, Saturday, October 29, 2022. 
(Fox News Digital )

“If the officer responding to Gabby’s situation is an abuser himself who would threaten a girlfriend’s life, it makes sense why he believed Gabby’s abuser and ignored her injuries,” Nichole Schmidt, Petito’s mother, told Fox News Wednesday. “With him in charge, I don’t think Gabby stood a chance.”

The handling of the Petito-Laundrie call, first reported by Fox News Digital, resulted in no arrests or citations despite a Utah law requiring such actions following domestic violence incidents, prompted an independent investigation that faulted the officers for “unintentional mistakes” after they deemed Petito, not Laundrie to be the aggressor.

The Utah woman said she contacted attorneys for Petito’s parents after learning Pratt had been promoted to detective and made a school resource officer in Moab. He had resigned from his role as Salina police chief in 2017, according to a letter he wrote at the time. She says the move came after she confronted the mayor about his alleged mistreatment of her.

Screengrabs from police bodycam in Moab, Utah, on Aug. 12, 2021, show the couple following a domestic violence call.

Screengrabs from police bodycam in Moab, Utah, on Aug. 12, 2021, show the couple following a domestic violence call.
(Moab PD)

In 2017, the woman said, she was going through a divorce, and Pratt was still married to the ex-wife he mentions on bodycam video during a conversation with Laundrie.

UTAH GABBY PETITO COP HAD ROMANTIC RIVAL ARRESTED IN 2019 DOMESTIC INCIDENT THAT WAS LATER DISMISSED

The two had known each other for years, and began a sexual relationship that morphed into an “emotional friendship,” she said. At one point, she said, her conscience caught up with her and she disclosed her affair and other alleged trysts to Pratt’s then-wife.

They had a contentious falling out, she said, and she told the mayor to get him to leave her alone, or she’d go public with the affair and intimate details.

“I had already gone to mayor, [and] he was preparing to resign,” she said.

It had been about two weeks since they’d last spoke, and she was shopping at Walmart with her daughter when she ran into him.

Moab Police Officer Eric Pratt, in bodycam footage released by investigators, is seen speaking to Brian Laundrie on Aug. 12, 2021.

Moab Police Officer Eric Pratt, in bodycam footage released by investigators, is seen speaking to Brian Laundrie on Aug. 12, 2021.
(Moab City Police Department)

GABBY PETITO AND BRIAN LAUNDRIE: BOMBSHELL VIDEO EMERGES SHOWING HOURS BEFORE MURDER

He followed her out of the parking lot to a gas station in Richfield, she said, flashing the lights of his personal vehicle behind her.

“He went to back seat and started talking to my daughter, telling her how adults don’t always see eye-to-eye but in the end hopefully everybody can be friends,” she said.

Then he went in, bought the girl some candy.

“He came around to my window and told me that if anything ever got out he’d kill me with a crowbar,” the woman alleged.

About a year later, she claimed he asked her to meet him at a Denny’s restaurant. She did, they had a long talk, and she left with “peace of mind.”

“I didn’t have to be looking over my shoulder anymore, anything like that,” she said.

Attorneys for Gabby Petito's family say new photo evidence shows injuries she sustained before the Moab 911 call.

Attorneys for Gabby Petito’s family say new photo evidence shows injuries she sustained before the Moab 911 call.
(Parker + McConkie)

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But, she said, he allegedly made another alarming statement during the conversation: “Had this been the day prior, there would have been a grave dug and you would’ve been in it.”

“I asked him what changed his mind about not wanting to kill me anymore, and he said he had decided that it wasn’t me that had ruined his life, it was one of the other girls that he had an affair with,” she claimed.

Pratt did not respond to a request for comment.

Moab Police officer, Eric Pratt is seen on his phone in Moab Utah, Saturday, October 29, 2022.

Moab Police officer, Eric Pratt is seen on his phone in Moab Utah, Saturday, October 29, 2022.
(Fox News Digital)

The Utah Department of Public Safety told Fox News Digital it had no record of any ethical, criminal or other complaints filed against him during his time as chief in Salina.

He is named in a wrongful death lawsuit that Petito’s parents have announced against the city of Moab and its police department. Also named are former Moab Police Chief Bret Edge, former Assistant Chief Braydon Palmer and Officer Daniel Robbins, who initiated the stop.

The city has declined to comment on the pending litigation.

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The Petito family lawsuit alleges that Pratt and Robbins failed to handle the call properly after a witness reported seeing Laundrie hitting Petito, grab her phone and try to drive off without her outside an organic grocer in the heart of town.

In Pratt’s bodycam footage, he is heard asking fellow responding officerDaniel Robbins,”How far do you want to go with this?”

WATCH THE MOAB BODYCAM:

Brian Laundrie manhunt: Gabby Petito in new bodycam footage claims fiancé hit her Video

“You know why the domestic assault code is there. It’s there to protect people,” Pratt continued. “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.”

This remark in the bodycam footage also caught the attention of the former fling. She said it reminded her of part of the 2019 podcast interview in which he talked about finding “loopholes” to get out of charging people during stops.

The family filed a notice of claim for Petito’s wrongful death in August and is expected to make an announcement in connection with the case Thursday morning.

Moab Police officer, Eric Pratt is seen on his phone in Moab Utah, Saturday, October 29, 2022.

Moab Police officer, Eric Pratt is seen on his phone in Moab Utah, Saturday, October 29, 2022.
(Fox News Digital)

“The allegations made against Officer Pratt, that he harassed and threatened to kill a former girlfriend, are deeply troubling but may explain why he handled the investigation in such a biased manner and failed to protect Gabby,” Petito attorney Brian C. Stewart of the law firm of Parker & McConkie said. “These allegations and other misconduct by Pratt should have been disqualifying for employment Moab City Police Department.”

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As Fox News Digital reported last week, Pratt had also left the Moab Police Department for some time after an incident in 2019.

He played a role in the domestic violence-related arrest of a romantic rival while having an affair with his wife, according to court documents. The case was later dropped, and the record was expunged.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or text “START” to 88788.

Fox News’ Laura Ingle contributed to this report.