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The disappearance and ultimate discovery of Gabby Petito’s dead body riveted the nation. As strange as the circumstances were surrounding the story, there were many unanswered questions. One key part of the case involved a 911 domestic violence call on August 12.

Moab, Utah police responded to an alleged domestic incident. Bodycam footage of both Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie may be the last visual evidence of both being alive. However, it’s how that incident was handled that has Price police investigators asking serious questions.

The outside investigation of Moab police’s handling of the event was triggered by a formal complaint filed by attorney Tanya Reeves. What the investigation revealed was a series of potential mistakes by the two responding officers.

One officer indicated he felt that there was reasonable cause to detain Laundrie, but he didn’t. Logically, Petito might still be alive today, Laundrie as well. However, despite the questions, Price Police Captain Brandon Ratcliffe insisted any mistakes were unintentional.

A FOX News report quotes Ratcliffe as saying, “I am confident and comfortable in stating the mistakes that were made were not made intentionally.” Nevertheless, Moab police officers responding to the domestic violence call have been questioned over a critical detail.

If ruled domestic violence, a Utah statute says that at least one of the pair should have been detained. Officers interviewed both Petito and Laundrie. Ultimately, they ruled out domestic violence and henceforth determined the incident to be a “mental health breakdown”.

What has troubled many legal experts is a detailed account contained in the August 12, 911 call. One witness clearly said that the male slapped the female. The witness said the man chased the woman, Petito, slapped her again.

This witness said they got in their vehicle and drove off. Attorney Steve Bertolino represents Laundrie’s parents. Bertolino says that officers did the best they could under the circumstances. He thinks they “did the right thing”. Evidence may say otherwise.

In support of the officer’s not filing domestic violence charges, Bertolino says, “To label every disagreement between couples a citable domestic violence incident is to criminalize human emotions and reactions.”

Unfortunately, intentional or not, this decision continued a spiraling of events that ended in the death of both Petito and Laundrie. Petito’s remains were eventually found at a Wyoming campsite. Laundrie was discovered dead in a Sarasota County, Florida nature preserve.

Captain Ratcliffe believes the 911 witness should be re-interviewed for clarity. At best, Ratcliffe thinks one or both of the responding officers’ actions should be reviewed. Both responding officers, Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins, are saddened that two people died.

However, their mistaken judgment led to the death of two people. While they split the couple apart after responding to the call, there are no guarantees Laundrie stayed away. There is no proof indicating he stayed at the motel police drove him to. At best, this was sloppy procedure.

The investigation is going to trigger changes in domestic violence responses. These will be welcome changes for the future. However, two people are dead because of a mishandled domestic violence call. All the changes in the world won’t bring back Gabby Petito.


Daniel is a conservative syndicated opinion writer and amateur theologian. He writes about topics of politics, culture, freedom, and faith.

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