A Sarasota County judge denied the motion to dismiss a civil lawsuit against the parents of Brian Laundrie, who were sued by Gabby Petito’s parents earlier this year.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, court documents filed earlier this year against Chris and Roberta Laundrie state that allegations were made in the missing Gabby Petito case that were never disclosed by the FBI.
The lawsuit claims that Brian Laundrie, who was the last person to see Gabby alive, told his parents that he murdered her, but his parents remained silent. The couple then took measures to protect their son, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit also claims that Gabby was found with blunt force trauma to her head and neck, although her cause of death was listed as strangulation. Further, the Laundries are accused of making plans to get their son out of the country while ignoring desperate calls and messages from Gabby’s family.
The Laundries subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and declined to attend the hearing.
According to ABC News, Judge Hunter Carroll said that the Laundrie family attorney, Steve Bertolino, had already spoken out about the case on the Laundrie’s behalf. In turn, Carroll allowed the lawsuit to proceed and denied the Laundrie couple’s motion to dismiss the case.
In September 2021, Bertolino issued the following statement to the public while both Gabby and Brian were still missing.
“This is understandably an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family. 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. On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”
Gabby’s parents, Nichole Schmidt and Joseph Petito, are seeking $30,000 in damages against Christopher and Roberta Laundrie.
“If the facts of this case truly were about silence,” Carroll wrote, “the Court would have resolved this case in the Laundries’ favor.”
“Because the Laundries’ statement by their attorney in the context of the unique faces of this case is objectively outrageous, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs [Petitos] have stated causes of actions for intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Laundries.”
During the motion to dismiss hearing, Petito lawyer Pat Reilly said the biggest issue with the defendants is their conduct after they found out Gabby was murdered and left behind thousands of miles from home.
“This case is not simply about the silence of Christopher and Roberta Laundrie who knew their son had murdered Gabby Petito… It’s about a course of conduct they committed from the moment they learned on August 28 of 2021 that their son had brutally murdered Gabby Petito up until her body was found.”
Brian and Gabby embarked on a cross-country trip together in July 2021 but by September 1, Laundrie returned to his parents’ North Port, Florida, home with Gabby’s van, but without Gabby.
On September 19, 2021, authorities found Gabby’s deceased body in a remote area at the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. According to Teton County coroner, Dr. Blue, Gabby died from strangulation; her death has been listed as a homicide.
“They could have made an anonymous phone call and said where the body was located, that would have helped this situation tremendously,” Reilly said in court Wednesday.
“They knew starting on August 28, 2021, that Gabby was dead, they knew where gabby’s body was, they knew that the Petito family was desperately searching for information, but they did things affirmatively, they did not just remain silent.”
In November, the FBI announced that Laundrie’s remains were found in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Florida. He had a gunshot wound to his head.
Laundrie’s parents told authorities that Laundrie fled to the Carlton Reserve while highly upset on September 13, even though his father begged him to stay at home. Chris Laundrie told his attorney that Brian Laundrie claimed he wanted to get some fresh air and take a hike at the reserve.
The case is expected to go to jury trial in August 2023.
Check back for updates.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Listen to a related episode.
[Featured Photo: Instagram]