North Port, FL – A civil suit filed against Brian Laundrie’s parents by the family of Gabby Petito will tentatively proceed to jury trial next year.
A preliminary hearing in the case is slated for May.
Gabby Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, and her father, Joseph Petito, filed a lawsuit against Chris and Roberta Laundrie on March 10 seeking at least $100,000 in damages, WFLA reported.
The lawsuit alleges that the Laundries stonewalled police and withheld information that could have assisted in the search for Gabby Petito, according to KSTU.
The Petito family further claimed the Laundries assisted their son in avoiding police, thereby inflicting emotional distress on her family.
The Laundries filed a motion to have the case tossed out, so the judge has given attorneys for both parties a 20-day window to file an amended complaint, FOX News reported.
The court will subsequently rule on the dismissal request.
Pat Reilly, an attorney representing Gabby Petito’s family, said he has a “high confidence level” that the lawsuit will be heard by a jury, FOX News reported.
Gabby Petito, 22, and Brian Laundrie, 23 were on a cross-country trip touring U.S. national parks in Gabby Petito’s converted camper van last summer when she disappeared In Wyoming.
Schmidt said she last spoke with her daughter on Aug. 25, 2021.
Brian Laundrie returned to his family’s Florida home in Gabby Petito’s van on Sept. 1, 2021, but she was not with him.
He refused to speak with police or the Petito family about where he last saw her before he supposedly vanished while hiking in a Florida nature reserve on Sept. 14, 2021.
Brian Laundrie’s parents claimed that was the last time they spoke with him.
Gabby Petito’s body was discovered in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming on Sept. 19, 2021.
Brian Laundrie’s partial remains were found on Oct. 20, 2021 in Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Sarasota County.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced in a press release on Jan. 21 that the District 12 Medical Examiner’s Office in Sarasota had concluded Brian Laundrie died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The FBI further revealed that Brian Laundrie had taken responsibility for 22-year-old Gabby Petito’s death in a handwritten statement found in a notebook located in a waterproof bag near his body.
According to the lawsuit, Gabby Petito was murdered by Brian Laundrie on Aug. 27, 2021, WFLA reported.
The coroner determined she died by manual strangulation, but the lawsuit further alleged Gabby Petito also suffered blunt force injuries to her neck and head.
Gabby Petito’s parents claimed in the lawsuit that Brian Laundrie told his parents about murdering his fiancé on Aug. 28, 2021 – one day after her murder.
“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 read, according to WFLA. “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 further alleged Brian Laundrie used Gabby Petito’s phone to send messages back and forth with his phone after her murder “in an effort to hide the fact that she was deceased,” according to the lawsuit.
Gabby Petito’s family said Brian Laundrie and his parents refused to speak with them or police after he returned to Florida without her, WFLA reported.
Schmidt said Roberta Laundrie blocked her on Facebook and blocked her phone number at approximately the same time the family reported Gabby Petito’s disappearance.
“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 alleged, according to WFLA.
Gabby Petito’s parents accused the Laundries of acting “with malice or great indifference to the rights of” the Petito family, to include taking Brian Laundrie on a family camping trip while the search for Gabby Petito was ongoing, the lawsuit contended.
“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 read.
Rick Stafford, an attorney representing Schmidt and Joseph Petito, told WFLA in a statement in March that Brian Laundrie and his parents had “multiple conversations” with Bertolino prior to Brian Laundrie leaving Wyoming on Aug 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,” Stafford said. “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,” he told WFLA.
Bertolino initially refused to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by the news outlet, but later sent a statement to a WFLA reporter via text message.
“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,” Bertolino wrote, according to WFLA.
“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,” he added. “This fundamental legal principle renders the Petitos’ claims to be baseless under the law.”