Gabby Petito case: Family files lawsuit against Laundries

Gabby Petito Case

NORTH PORT, Fla. (NewsNation) — Gabby Petito’s family filed a lawsuit against the parents of Brian Laundrie this week, accusing the Laundrie family of knowing their son killed Petito and working to help him flee the country.

Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, and mother, Nichole Schmidt, filed a civil lawsuit against Chris and Roberta Laundrie, according to the lawsuit obtained by NewsNation. You can view the full lawsuit below.

NewsNation’s Brian Entin, who covered this story every day for weeks in 2021, will be anchoring NewsNation’s “Banfield” tonight at 10 p.m. EST with a segment detailing the lawsuit.

In the new lawsuit, Petito’s parents allege that Laundrie told his parents that he killed Petito “on or about” the days following Petito’s alleged Aug. 2021 death.

“It is believed, and therefore averred that … Brian Laundrie advised his parents, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, that he had murdered Gabrielle Petito,” the lawsuit states. “On that same date, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie spoke with attorney Steve Bertolino, and sent him a retainer on Sept. 2, 2021.”

The lawsuit comes two months after the FBI confirmed Laundrie claimed responsibility for Petito’s death through written statements discovered in a notebook that investigators found near his remains.

Reporter Brian Entin reached out to Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino for comment.

“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 Petitos’ claims to be baseless under the law,” Bertolino said.

Petito, 22, vanished while on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie in a converted camper van. The trip was well documented on social media until it abruptly ceased, allegedly somewhere in Wyoming. Petito was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days. 

The lawsuit also alleges Laundrie sent messages back and forth between his phone and Petito’s after her death “in an effort to hide the fact that she was deceased.”

The lawsuit claims the Laundrie family refused to respond to questions from law enforcement and Petito’s family once the official search for Petito was underway. The suit claims Roberta Laundrie blocked Schmidt’s phone number and blocked her on Facebook around the time Petito was reported missing.

Petito’s body was found Sept. 19 just outside Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. A Teton County coroner said she died by strangulation three to four weeks before her body was found.

According to the documents, Petito’s parents also believe Laundrie’s parents were planning to help their son leave the United States while a manhunt was underway: “While Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt were desperately searching for information concerning their daughter, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie were keeping the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie secret, and it is believed were making arrangements for him to leave the country.”

Brian Laundrie’s remains were found in October, after more than a month of searching a 24,000-acre Florida nature reserve. In November, authorities confirmed Brian Laundrie died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Brian Laundrie’s items and remains were found in a swampy area — home to alligators, snakes, coyotes and other wildlife — that had previously been underwater, according to Michael McPherson, chief of the Tampa FBI office.

Joseph Petito and Schmidt are seeking damages of at least $100,000, according to the documents filed this week, stating that they suffered pain and mental anguish as a result of the “willfulness and maliciousness” of the Laundries.

“Christopher 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 says.

When asked by NewsNation affiliate WFLA about the lawsuit, the Laundries’ attorney said, “no comment.”

Petito’s mother also had no comment, saying that “the claim speaks for itself.”

You can read the full lawsuit below.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates. NewsNation affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.

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