‘Gabby Petito Act’ filed in Florida Senate to protect domestic violence victims

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After the heartbreaking story of Gabby Petito’s death gripped the nation in 2021, two Florida state legislators filed a bill to strengthen domestic violence prevention efforts in the Sunshine State.

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and Rep. Robin Bartleman filed the “Gabby Petito Act” after the initiative was brought forward by Gabby’s father, Joseph Petito.

The bill proposes a new statewide mandate that would require all law enforcement officers to complete a lethality assessment when investigating domestic violence incidents.

“We know in different places throughout the country where lethality assessments are used. Even here in our great state, where they’re used in pockets, we know that it reduces the incidence of a lethal situation,” Book said to FOX 13. “In Maryland, where we’ve kind of seen a lot of this work being done, it reduces the lethality by 35 to 45 percent.”

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Gabby Petito

22-year-old Gabby Petito from New York’s Long Island was reported missing by her family after her fiancé returned home alone from a cross-road trip the two had embarked on in early July.  (Steve Petito )

The Spring of Tampa Bay, a non-profit organization that assists domestic violence survivors, worked with the legislators as well at Petito’s dad.

The president and CEO of The Spring of Tampa Bay, Mindy Murphy, said that if passed, the legislation could establish a history of abuse beyond the initial call.

“Law enforcement ask the survivor to separate from the abuser, a series of questions that are designed to pinpoint the risk that that that victim might eventually be murdered by their partner,” Murphy said to FOX 13.

Gabby Petito poses in front of painted wings

Gabby Petito set off on a cross-country road trip with Brian Laundrie in June 2021, with the goal of becoming a travel blogger and social media influencer.  (Gabby Petito/Instagram)

Gabby, a 22-year-old, went on a cross-country trip with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie– but never returned.

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The young girl’s disappearance and eventual death after her body was found dead in Wyoming’s Bridger–Teton National Forest made headlines in 2021.

Gabby Petito with blood on her face

Gabby Petito with blood on her face in an Aug. 12, 2021 traffic stop in Moab, Utah. (Parker & McConkie)

During the couple’s trip, they were pulled over in Moab, Utah and a domestic violence investigation began, but they were allowed to continue on with their trip. 

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Murphy said Moab, Utah, police missed those clues when they talked with Gabby in body camera video from August 2021 before she was killed.

“Within the first three minutes, Gabby talks about how Brian put, and she actually puts her hands up like this, how he put his hands around her face,” Murphy said. “That would have been a perfect opportunity for law enforcement to stop and say, ‘Hey, has he ever done that before?’”

Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt emotional in court

Gabby Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt in a Florida courtroom on Wednesday, May 24, during a hearing in their civil lawsuit against the parents of their daughter’s suspected killer, Brian Laundrie. (Pool)

Joseph said that domestic violence is a people issue, not a political issue, and he hopes to see something similar on the national level.

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“She’d probably get mad at me for, you know, letting it be named after her. But to be honest with you, I hope when I leave this place and I get to see her again, I can ask her, did I make you proud? And I’ve said it before and hopefully, she’ll say yes,” said Petito.





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