For three weeks, Brian Laundrie’s parents knew that his fiancée, Gabby Petito, was dead after he called them saying she was “gone,” but they instead issued false public statements of hope and lawyered up, to the agony of her family, Petito’s parents allege in an amended civil complaint filed in Florida.
In the amended legal filing Thursday, Petito’s parents accuse the Laundries and their attorney of intentionally withholding information about the 22-year-old’s death after their son frantically called them for legal help during an ill-fated cross-country trip in August 2021. Brian Laundrie confessed to killing Petito on that trip in a notebook found near his body after his death by suicide a month later.
The filing, which is part of an ongoing civil lawsuit seeking more than $30,000 in damages for emotional distress, was amended following depositions with the Laundries and their attorney, Steve Bertolino, in October, a lawyer for the Petito family told HuffPost on Tuesday.
Supporters of "Justice for Gabby" gathered at the entrance of a park in Florida where Brian Laundrie's remains were found on Oct. 20, 2021. Gabby Petito's online chronicle of her "van life" trip with Laundrie attracted wide interest in her disappearance and death.
“Prior to the deposition, we had a belief that they knew, but we didn’t know what they knew,” attorney Pat Reilly said. “In their deposition, they acknowledged that Brian called them frantically. He said Gabby was gone and he needed a lawyer.”
Christopher and Roberta Laundrie have denied claims that they concealed their son’s murder confession. Bertolino on Tuesday dismissed the details released in the amended complaint as nothing new.
“The Plaintiffs’ are now tweaking their allegations in a Third Amended Complaint,” he told HuffPost in an email while declining further comment.
According to the complaint, Laundrie placed a frantic call to his parents on Aug. 29 seeking legal help. His parents reached out to Bertolino that day, shared what their son had told them and secured his services. Bertolino then reached out to lawyers in Wyoming, where Petito’s body was found weeks later.
Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito is seen talking to a police officer after the van she was traveling in with Brian Laundrie was pulled over in Utah on Aug. 12, 2021. The 22-year-old was found dead the following month.
To buy him some time, Laundrie texted Petito’s family using her cellphone to make them believe that she was still alive. He returned to his parents’ Florida home without her on Sept. 1. On Sept. 13, two days after Petito’s family reported her missing, he went missing, too, the complaint states.
Petito’s body was found on Sept. 19 near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, and Laundrie was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound a month later in Florida. Her death was ruled a homicide, and Laundrie had confessed to killing her in a notebook that was found with his body, authorities said.
The Laundries’ conduct throughout the search for Petito “was outrageous and went beyond all bounds of decency,” the complaint states on behalf of Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt.
Gabby Petito's mother, Nichole Schmidt, at a news conference days after her daughter's body was found. She accused Brian Laundrie's mother of blocking her phone calls and Facebook messages while her daughter was missing.
The Laundries were in cahoots with their son and knew he had killed her but they didn’t speak up. Instead, the couple left on a two-day trip on Sept. 6. On Sept. 10, Laundrie’s mother, Roberta, blocked Nichole Schmidt on her phone and then Facebook so that the distraught mother couldn’t contact her, the complaint states.
From Sept. 10 until their daughter’s body was found on Sept. 19, the couple claim they were “extremely distraught” and given no relief by Laundrie’s family, who released a statement to the media that expressed “hope” that the young woman would be found.
“For the Laundries and Steven Bertolino to express their ‘hope’ that Gabrielle Petito was located and reunited with her family, at a time when they knew she had been murdered by Brian Laundrie was beyond outrageous,” they said. “They knew or should have known that Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt would likely suffer emotional distress from the statements.”
Brian Laundrie speaks with police in Utah on Aug. 12, 2021. The families of Petito and Laundrie last year reached a $3 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit.
The Petito and Laundrie families settled a separate, wrongful death lawsuit in Florida for $3 million last year.
The Petito family has an additional lawsuit outstanding against police in Moab, Utah. That lawsuit accuses police of failing to recognize signs of domestic violence and to help Petito after the couple was questioned by officers days before the young woman was found strangled to death.