Brian Laundrie's Parents Skipped Hearing on Civil Lawsuit Alleging They Covered Up Gabby Petito's Murder

In a civil suit, Gabby Petito's family alleges that Brian Laundrie's parents were aware that their son killed their daughter, but helped him flee justice

The first hearing in the lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito's family against the parents of Brian Laundrie was held on Wednesday afternoon to determine if the case will proceed to a jury trial next year — but Laundrie's parents didn't attend.

Judge Hunter W. Carroll heard arguments in response to a motion filed in March by the Laundries' attorneys to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the Petito family. While Petito's family was present in court for the hearing, Laundrie's parents were notably missing. They were not legally required to attend.

The lawsuit alleges that Christopher and Roberta Laundrie knew the whereabouts of Gabby's body during the time in which authorities were pouring resources into a massive missing persons investigation.

Gabby's parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, seek more than $30,000 in damages for the mental anguish they suffered due to the alleged deceit of the Laundries. The March filing also alleges that Christopher and Roberta helped Brian conceal Gabby's murder and were making plans for him to flee the country.

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito. Gabby Petito Instagram

The suit also alleges that instead of helping Joseph and Nichole locate their daughter, the Laundrie parents went on vacation with Brian and ignored pleas for help from Gabby's family — and that Roberta blocked Nichole's phone number and Facebook profile in September to avoid contact as Nichole sought answers about what happened to Gabby.

"Christopher Laundrie 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 filing, which was obtained by PEOPLE, reads.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie
Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito. North Port Police Department/Facebook

On Sept. 14, 2021, before Gabby's body was recovered, the Laundrie family released a statement through their lawyer that said: "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."

The lawsuit responds to that statement saying, "For the Laundries 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 their son, was beyond outrageous."

But in court on Wednesday, an attorney for the Laundrie family argued that the family's lawyer may not have had information that Gabby was dead — and that the family was asserting their fifth amendment rights to not incriminate themselves.

"They did what most people would and should do," argued attorney Steven Bertolino. He called the lawsuit "baseless" several times.

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The Petito and Laundrie families entered the national spotlight last summer when Gabby's parents reported the young woman missing after she stopped responding to messages while on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé, Brian. It was soon revealed that Brian had quietly abandoned the trip early and returned to his parents' house in Florida — without Gabby.

Nobody in the Laundrie family notified Gabby's parents that she was missing, or that Brian had left their daughter behind, even though the Laundries retained an attorney the day after Brian returned. (The date the Laundries retained an attorney is a key detail in Joseph and Nichole's lawsuit, since it aligns with their theory that Brian's family knew about her murder from the beginning and withheld vital information.)

gabby petito
Gabrielle Petito with her dad, Joseph. Facebook

In September of 2021, Gabby's body was located in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. A medical examiner determined she died by homicidal strangulation. Brian, who vanished around the same time amid nationwide calls for his arrest, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the Florida wilderness in October of last year.

After a months-long criminal investigation into Gabby's disappearance and — later — murder, the FBI determined in January that Brian was responsible for her death, stating that he had written a confession in his notebook before he took his life.

The court is in recess. The judge is expected to rule on the motion in the next few days.

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