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Lawsuit: Gabby Petito's family claims Brian Laundrie's parents had 'full knowledge' he murdered her

The lawsuit alleges the Laundries kept Brian's whereabouts "secret" and "it is believed were making arrangements for him to leave the country."

NORTH PORT, Fla. — Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from when the FBI revealed Brian Laundrie took responsibility for Gabby Petito's death in a notebook.

Gabby Petito's parents claim Brian Laundrie's parents knew he murdered their daughter and were attempting to help him escape, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Sarasota County.

The family seeks damages in excess of $30,000.

According to the suit, the relationship between Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt and Christopher and Roberta Laundrie was "cordial" before their kids left on the cross-country road trip Gabby would not return from.

Petito's parents claim that on or about Aug. 28, 2021, Laundrie told his parents he had killed his fianceé. It would be that same day that Laundrie's parents contacted their attorney, Steven Bertolino, and sent him a retainer five days later, according to court documents.

The lawsuit also alleges the Laundries went on a family vacation while Petito's family was "extremely distraught" and that Roberta blocked Nichole's calls, texts, and on Facebook in an "effort to avoid any contact."

Petito's parents also took issue with a Sept. 14 statement released by the Laundrie's through their attorney, claiming it was sent out "with full knowledge that Gabrielle Petitio had been murdered by their son." 

Amid pleas from Petito's parents during the investigation, they say they were met with silence from the Laundries.

"Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie instructed that all contacts were to be made through their attorney, Steven P. Bertolino, and he issued 'no comment' when asked about Gabrielle Petito's well-being," the lawsuit reads.

Court documents show Petito's family claim that as they searched for their daughter, the Laundries kept Brian's whereabouts "secret" and "it is believed were making arrangements for him to leave the country."

In the end, Petito's parents claim the Laundrie family could have alleviated their "mental suffering and anguish" but instead acted with malice.

"Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie exhibited extreme and outrageous conduct which constitutes behavior, under the circumstances, which goes beyond all possible bounds of decency and is regarded as shocking, atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community," the lawsuit reads.

As a result, the lawsuit alleges Petito's parents suffered pain, mental anguish, inconvenience and a loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life. 

A case management Zoom hearing has been set for the lawsuit at 1:30 p.m. on June 30.

Laundrie family attorney, Steven Bertolino, sent 10 Tampa Bay the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

"As I have maintained over the last several months, the Laundrie's have not publicly commented at my direction which is their right under the law. Assuming everything the Petitios allege in their lawsuit is true, which we deny, this lawsuit does not change the fact that the Laundries had no obligation to speak to Law Enforcement or any third-party including the Petito family. This fundamental legal principle renders the Petito's claims to be baseless under the law."

10 Tampa Bay also received the following statement from the Petito family attorney, Richard Stafford: 

"Brian Laundrie murdered Gabby Petito in Wyoming on August 27, 2021 while they were on a cross country trip. Gabby and Brian were engaged to be married and would have been part of the Laundrie family. This meant nothing to Christopher and Roberta Laundrie after their son ended Gabby’s life. We believe Christopher and Roberta became aware of Gabby’s murder on August 28, 2021.

There were multiple conversations between Brian, his parents and their lawyer Steven Bertolino before Brian left Wyoming on August 30, 2021. Christopher and Roberta had multiple opportunities to disclose to Joe, Nichole or the authorities that Gabby was no longer alive and to direct them to her body. Instead, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie showed callous indifference to the suffering of Gabby’s family and compounded her family’s anguish, pain and suffering by their actions. For this, Christopher and Roberta must be held accountable."

Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11, 2021, after setting out on a cross-country trip with Laundrie. Her disappearance captured the nation's attention when the 23-year-old returned home to North Port with the van but without her. 

FBI Denver would later confirm that her body was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest. A final autopsy determined she was killed by "manual strangulation," according to the Teton County, Wyoming coroner. It was estimated that Petito had died three to four weeks before her body was found.

Laundrie was the only named person of interest in the disappearance and homicide of his fianceé. A federal arrest warrant was also issued for the 23-year-old in connection with Petito's case. Court documents show a grand jury charged Laundrie with "knowingly with intent to defraud" using a Capital One debit card in the amount of at least $1,000.

Laundrie, himself, was reported missing on Sept. 17, 2021, after his parents said he went for a hike on Sept. 13 and never returned home. Detectives and FBI agents searched the vast Carlton Reserve area in Sarasota County for more than a month, looking in the only place they had seen a sign of Laundrie.

His parents, Roberta and Chris, helped search the reserve twice, each time with North Port police officers. On their second attempt on Oct. 20, Laundrie's father found a drybag and brought it to the officers. Authorities then say they found skeletal remains nearby, along with a notebook and other personal items.

The FBI positively identified Laundrie's remains one day later on Oct. 21. A final autopsy would determine he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Investigators say Laundrie claimed responsibility for killing Petito in a notebook recovered in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park.

"All logical investigative steps have been concluded in this case," said FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider in a statement at the time. "The investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito.

 

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