The parents of 22-year-old murder victim Gabby Petito on Friday morning filed a civil lawsuit against the parents of Brian Laundrie, according to court documents obtained by Law&Crime. A six-page complaint levies the explosive allegation that Brian confessed to his parents “on or before August 28, 2021” that he had killed his fiancée Gabby.
Here’s the lawsuit’s verbiage verbatim [bolding of names ours]:
It is believed, and therefore averred that on or about August 28, 2021, Brian Laundrie advised his parents, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, that he had murdered Gabrielle Petito. On that same date, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie spoke with Attorney Steve Bertolino, and sent him a retainer on September 2, 2021.
The claim, filed in Sarasota County, Fla., alleges that Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, both of North Port, Fla., shared a “cordial relationship” with Petito’s parents until Gabby disappeared after placing a final call to her mother on Aug. 27, 2021. That is the date, the lawsuit alleges, that Laundrie murdered Petito.
The relationship between the families frayed, the lawsuit says, during a nationwide search for answers.
The disappearance of Gabby and Brian led to a high-profile nationwide manhunt last summer. Authorities say Gabby was murdered in Teton County, Wyo., during a cross-country van trip; a coroner’s report there says she died by strangulation. Brian killed himself after returning home to Florida, the authorities later determined; they said he left behind a notebook in which he took “responsibility” for killing Gabby. The notebook itself has not been released.
“The cause of her death was blunt force trauma to the head and neck with manual strangulation,” the Friday civil lawsuit indicates.
The named plaintiffs in the Friday lawsuit are Gabby’s father Joseph Petito, of Vero Beach, Fla., and Gabby’s mother Nichole Schmidt, of Blue Point, N.Y.
The lawsuit further alleges that Roberta Laundrie “blocked Nichole Schmidt on her cellular phone such that neither phone calls nor texts could be delivered, and she blocked her on Facebook” to avoid being confronted about what she allegedly knew her son had done.
The lawsuit rehashes old allegations that Brian used his phone to text back and forth with Gabby’s phone to give the impression Gabby was still alive after Aug. 27. Brian also allegedly texted Schmidt while claiming to be Gabby, the lawsuit claims, on Aug. 27 and on Aug. 30.
Brian returned to his parents’ home in Florida on Sept. 1, the lawsuit notes, by driving Gabby’s white van.
That’s when the Laundries stopped talking to the Petitos, the lawsuit says: “[a]fter this point in time, there was no contact between Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt on the one hand, and Christopher Laundrie and Roberto on the other.”
“From August 27, 2021 until September 19, 2021, when Gabrielle Petito’s remains were found at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping area in Wyomong, Plaintiffs [the Petito parents] were extremely distraught and were attempting to locate Gabrielle Petito,” the lawsuit makes clear. “When Gabrielle Petito’s family was suffering, the Laundrie family went on vacation to Fort DeSoto Park on September 6-7, 2021.”
The lawsuit further alleges that statements the Laundrie family released through their lawyer contained a tacit admission that the Laundries knew where Gabby would be found. Here’s the Sept. 14, 2021 statement the Laundries penned via counsel, according to the lawsuit:
It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family.
The lawsuit alleges that the Laundries promulgated that Sept. 14 statement “with full knowledge that Gabrielle Petito had been murdered by their son.”
The lawsuit also recaps a letter the Petitos sent to the Laundries in an attempt to plead for help.
“We believe you know the location of where Brian left Gabby,” that Sept. 16 letter reads. “We beg you to tell us.”
No response was forthcoming, the lawsuit notes.
“Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie instructed that all contacts were to be made through their attorney, Stephen P. Bertolino, and he issued ‘no comment’ when asked about Gabrielle Petito’s well-being,” the lawsuit adds. It alleges that the Laundries “were keeping the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie secret, and it is believed were making arrangements for him to leave the country.”
The document goes on to allege that the Laundries “could alleviate” the Petito family’s “mental suffering and anguish by disclosing what they knew” but “repeatedly refused to do so.” The upshot, the lawsuit claims, was that the Laundries “acted with malice or great indifference to the rights” of Gabby’s parents. The lawsuit further alleges that the alleged conduct was “extreme and outrageous” and went “beyond all possible bounds of decency and is regarded as shocking, atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”
The lawsuit generally alleges “willfulness and maliciousness,” “pain and suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life experienced in the past,” and the loss of enjoyment of life “to be experienced in the future.” It does not name a strict cause of action beyond the aforementioned forms of “negligence.” It asks the judge for “just compensation,” costs, and “other relief” the court may deem appropriate.
In one section of the document, the lawsuit says “damages” would “exceed $30,000.” Another concomitant document says the claim falls “over $100,000.”
Attorney Bertolino had this to say in response to a Law&Crime text message seeking comment or reaction to the lawsuit filed against his clients:
As I have maintained over the last several months, the Laundries have not publicly commented at my direction which is their right under the law. Assuming everything the Petitos 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.
Read the full lawsuit below:
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