Petito Family Supports Help Find the Missing Act

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Petito Family Supports Help Find the Missing Act

By Steven Jensen
January 5, 2023
Gabby Petito’s parents at a press conference in Utah on November 3, 2022.

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Stronger at the Broken Places

At the beginning of this new year, we have to express our profound gratitude for so many clients who are committed to find good and create positive change in society as a result personal tragedies and losses they have been forced to endure.  We are inspired their selflessness and desire to do difficult work in the service of social justice and the safety of our communities. 

Last week the family of Gabby Petito, who we have the honor of representing, celebrated the passage and signing by President Biden of the bi-partisan Help Find the Missing Act which they have worked tirelessly to support.  Families of missing persons often face countless obstacles and systemic challenges to getting answers and finding their loved ones. This bill is intended make important changes to remove those obstacles and help those families.

The bill, according to its sponsor, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., does the following:

  • authorizes funding for the National Missing Persons and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), which was created in 2007 by the Justice Department as a database the public can contribute to and access;
  • connects NamUs with the FBI’s National Crime Information Center;
  • requires that missing children be reported to NamUs;
  • requires the Justice Department to issue guidelines and best practices on handling missing persons and unidentified remains;
  • and create an incentives grants program to help officials report missing persons to NCIC and NamUs.

U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., championed this bill in the House of Representatives.  Hayes said the Help Find the Missing Act wouldn’t have been passed without the support of Joseph Petito, the father of 22-year-old Gabby Petito. Gabby Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11,2021 and her body was found Sept. 19 just outside Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Gabby Petito’s case made national headlines. But many families don’t get the same treatment, Hayes said. “I, on a smaller scale, have heard of people that have gone missing, (with) families that are looking for them, that never make the news,” she said. “The tragedy that happened to (Joseph Petito’s) daughter gave him this platform where he had the ability to speak — there are so many families who never even get an on-air interview. … What he did was speak for them as well.”

At Parker + McConkie we have also had the privilege of representing the families of murdered college students, Lauren McCluskey and Zhifan Dong.  Their families have also called for systemic changes to protect others’ by improving campus safety both here in Utah and nationally.  The mother of Breanna Jimenez, who died unnecessarily in a Utah jail, has also publicly demanded changes in how jail staff care for and respond to medical emergencies suffered by people in their custody.  Those efforts this new year. 

A favorite quote of ours is a line from Ernest Hemingway’s novel, A Farewell to Arms, which says, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”  Certainly, none of us is immune from becoming victims of accidents, injuries and death.  The world is indeed unfair and seems to randomly inflict tragedy and suffering on the innocent as well as the more deserving.  However, we are grateful to know and work with so many courageous people who are willing to use their suffering for the benefit of others, to make us all strong[er] at the broken places.

Personal injury law, or civil tort law, engages with two of the most fundamental questions of morality and social life: how people are permitted to treat each other, and who is responsible when things go wrong.  While a some of our clients’ stories are public, many of our cases serve more individual goals of obtaining a measure of justice for injured persons and holding the people or corporations responsible to account. We are grateful for the opportunity to fight for justice for individuals and to do our small part to make our communities safer and, hopefully, strong[er] at the broken places.

We wish you and your family a happy and safe new year. 

Brian Stewart, Parker + McConkie

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