The parents of Gabby Petito will likely never see anybody held criminally responsible for the death of their daughter.
After Gabby went missing while on a cross-country trip in her camper van with fiancé Brian Laundrie, all eyes immediately turned to Laundrie as the prime suspect in her disappearance.
And the suspicion only grew after Petito’s body was found in the Grand Teton National Forest and it was announced that her death had been a homicide caused by strangulation.
Laundrie of course fled after going back home to Florida, setting off a month long manhunt that included Dog the Bounty Hunter, along with both federal and state law enforcement.
The search finally came to an end after Laundrie’s body was found in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port, Florida. The body was found thanks to some help from Laundrie’s parents Chris and Roberta, who called the police after the search for Laundrie in the reserve had been completed and told authorities that the parents planned to go to the park themselves to try to search for their son.
A little suspicious? Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that.
But when his body was found, authorities announced that they had found several of his possessions as well, including a backpack and a notebook, and all eyes immediately turned to the notebook and whether it contained any answers to the many questions surrounding Petito’s murder.
It was revealed back in January that, according to the FBI, the notebook contained “written statements by Mr. Laundrie claiming responsibility for Ms. Petito’s death.” This seemingly brought the case to an end without Laundrie ever being held criminally responsible for Gabby’s death.
But the Petito family wants to see some sort of justice – and they’ve filed a lawsuit seeking to hold Brian Laundrie’s parents responsible for allegedly helping their son escape.
According to WFLA, the lawsuit was filed by Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, and her father Joseph Petito against Chris and Roberta Laundrie, the parents of Brian Laundrie. In the lawsuit, Gabby’s parents claim to be seeking damages of at least $100,000 due to the “willful maliciousness” of Laundrie’s parents towards the Petitos.
The documents state that it’s believed Gabby Petito was murdered on August 27, and claims that in addition to the manual strangulation which the coroner found to be her cause of death, Gabby also suffered from blunt force injuries to the head and neck.
The lawsuit also claims that Brian told his parents what had happened on or about August 28, and that the parents reached out to their attorney Steven Bertolino that same day before eventually paying him a retainer on September 2.
It’s also alleged that Brian sent himself messages back and forth from Gabby’s phone in an effort to make it look like she was still alive, in addition to sending messages from Gabby’s phone to her parents while pretending to be their daughter.
The Petito family’s complaint alleges there was no contact between them and the Laundrie family after September 1, when Laundrie returned to his home in Florida in the couples’ van without Gabby. They also allege that the Laundrie parents blocked their numbers and blocked them on Facebook, along with refusing to cooperate with law enforcement who were still, at that point, attempting to locate Gabby before her body was found.
The most explosive allegation, though, might be that the Petitos believe Laundrie’s parents were attempting to help him flee the country:
“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.”
The lawsuit claims that the Laundries acted “with malice or great indifference” towards the Petito family, and that “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.”
While Petito’s parents don’t appear to have commented publicly about the lawsuit, the attorney for Chris and Roberta Laundrie, Steven Bertolino, issued a statement to WFLA:
“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.”
7/7 And here are pages 5-6 of the lawsuit. I'll be filling in for Ashleigh Banfield tonight at 10pmET — and we will be discussing the significance of the lawsuit. See you tonight. pic.twitter.com/HHCEwaXtbt