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Mother calls for family court reform after tragic murder-suicide in Salt Lake City

A screencap from the GoFundMe memorial fund started on behalf of Om Moses.
A screencap from the GoFundMe memorial fund started on behalf of Om Moses.

After a murder-suicide in Salt Lake City over Mother’s Day weekend, questions are being raised over how an abusive parent could still have access to their children.

According to the Salt Lake City Police Department, the bodies of 49-year-old Parth Gandhi and his 16-year-old son were found inside an office complex near Millcreek Common on May 13.

The son’s name was originally withheld by police, but the family later identified him as Om Moses Gandhi in a GoFundMe campaign.

The police investigation concluded that Gandhi killed his son before then taking his own life.

Om’s mother, Leah Moses, is heavily involved in Utah’s domestic violence and victim advocacy community. She’s on the board of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition and works as a nurse-midwife who educates patients about domestic violence.

‘My son Om’s death was preventable,” Moses said in a statement. “The family court professionals ignored my pleas for help to keep my son safe. My son’s father persuaded everyone that I was the problem, when in fact I was just trying to protect my child. I never want this to happen to another family, to another child. If the courts would listen to and believe survivors, this nightmare would stop.”

Court records show more than a decade of disputes between Moses and Gandhi since she first filed for divorce in 2009. Moses had twice filed for protective orders against Gandhi, in 2009 and again in 2011. The two were embroiled in a custody battle over their two children at the time of Om’s death. Records show Gandhi was granted sole custody of Om in February of 2022, while Moses was granted sole custody of their daughter.

A complicated system

Experts say family courts across the country are experiencing similar difficulties.

”Unfortunately, Utah is doing the same things wrong in these cases as family courts are all around the country and actually all around the globe,” said Danielle Pollack, policy manager at the National Family Violence Law Center. “Court professionals are not adequately trained on the subject matter of child abuse, child sexual abuse, coercive control, trauma on children, perpetrator and victim behavior.”

A similar case occurred in January in Enoch, where a man killed his children, wife and mother-in-law before killing himself. In that case, the wife and family had voiced concerns to law enforcement beforehand.

Experts say family court cases can get messy because parents are often fighting for child custody.

If one parent is alleging abuse and seeking custody, Pollack said the other parent often claims that the allegations are false and that they are trying to “brainwash” their child against them. The defense is known as parental alienation syndrome.

"Even though it's been rebuked by medical and psychological associations and experts all around the world, it's still used and introduced in these cases,” said Pollack. “When abuse is alleged, the cross claim is frequently alienation. We see this pattern everywhere."

Critics of the syndrome say it lacks scientific evidence.

That’s not the only complication when it comes to family court. There can often be conflicting advice when an abusive situation is combined with a custody battle.

"The victim advocate is like, ‘Call the police, report this violation,’’ said Anne Blythe, a longtime friend of Moses and the executive director of, which provides counseling for victims of domestic and emotional abuse. “Her civil attorney will likely say, ‘no, no, no, no, no. Do not call the police for a violation, because in this divorce court or in this custody [case], they're just going to use that against you to paint you as high conflict, that you're causing problems.’"

Moving forward

According to Blythe, unless the way the courts function or the law changes, the outlook isn’t good.

"If someone who is well-resourced and educated about abuse and does everything right cannot protect her kids from abuse, then is there hope? And the answer to that, I would say currently speaking, is minimal," she said.

There has been a nationwide push surrounding legislation called the Keeping Children Safe From Family Violence Act, also known as Kayden’s Law, which was part of the Violence Against Women Act passed by Congress last year.

The law sets aside financial incentives for individual states to adopt their own legislation that would help train family court judges and court professionals and put in place more strict requirements on who can give expert testimony on abuse.

Colorado was the first state to pass such legislation this year.

Moses has been part of the effort to pass similar legislation in Utah for the last year. Those efforts are ongoing and half of the proceeds from the family’s Gofundme campaign will go toward efforts to pass that legislation.

For Pollack, it’s important for people to understand that situations like Moses’ are not outliers.

"Leah's case is emblematic, it's not exceptional,” she said. “It's what's happening all around the country. She alleged abuse. She had a lot of evidence of abuse. She brought that before the court. He cross-claimed alienation. The court awarded the child to him, the abusive parent, and the child was murdered. This is happening everywhere."

If you or someone you know needs help, call the Utah domestic violence link line at 1-800-897-LINK or text START to 88788.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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