(NewsReady.com) – In August 2021, the nation was horrified by the brutal death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito and the manhunt for the chief suspect, her abusive fiance. Now, Florida lawmakers are trying to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. A new law will give police powers to evaluate domestic violence incidents and take action.
When Gabby Petito vanished on August 27, 2021, it wasn’t long before suspicion fell on her fiance and traveling companion, Brian Laundrie. The two had set out to cross the US in a van, but then Laundrie returned home alone and refused to discuss where Petito was. The picture got darker when it emerged that Utah cops had spoken to the pair days before Petito died — but let them go because Petito, who had bruises on her face, didn’t want to make a complaint against Laundrie. Just over two weeks later, she was dead, her body abandoned in a Wyoming national park, and Laundrie was on his way home. After he shot himself in a Florida nature reserve weeks later, police found his notebook, in which he confessed to killing Petito.
In late November, two Florida lawmakers introduced a new bill, SB 610, into the state legislature. Senate Democratic leader Lauren Book (D) and Florida State Representative Robin Bartleman (D) say the “Gabby Petito Act” would require police to carry out a lethality assessment whenever they attend a domestic violence incident.
The goal is to eliminate the problem Utah cops had when they spoke to Petito before her death — her refusal to make a complaint. Under the new law, police would have to consider all the evidence, such as Petito’s bruises and her admission that Laundrie had been violent to her, and evaluate whether there was a risk of the abuse turning deadly. Book and Bartleman say that where similar laws have been introduced, they’ve cut domestic violence deaths by up to 45%.
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