Gabby Petito's Family Files Lawsuit Claiming Brian Laundrie's Parents Knew About Her Murder

Christopher and Roberta Laundrie are accused of knowing about Gabby's murder and attempting to help their son flee the country, according to a civil lawsuit filed Thursday

Chris Laundrie
Chris Laundrie, pictured Thursday assisting police in their search. Photo: Backgrid

The family of slain 22-year-old Gabby Petito believes Brian Laundrie's parents knew about her murder, according to a civil lawsuit filed Thursday.

When Gabby's parents stopped hearing from their daughter in August while she was traveling the country with Brian, they feared something had gone horribly wrong. Their fears were heightened when they learned that Brian had quietly abandoned the cross-country road trip without Gabby and returned home to his parents' house in Florida.

Nobody in the Laundrie family notified Gabby's parents that she was missing, or that Brian had left their daughter behind.

In September, 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.

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.

With the investigation in the rearview, Gabby's parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, have decided to take legal action against Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, alleging in the lawsuit that they helped their son conceal Gabby's murder.

"It is believed, and therefore averred that … Brian Laundrie advised his parents, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, that he had murdered Gabrielle Petito," states the lawsuit, which was obtained by WFLA. "On that same date, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie spoke with Attorney Steve Bertolino, and sent him a retainer on Sept. 2, 2021."

Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie
Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie. Find Gabby/Facebook

The lawsuit raises issue with the camping trip the Laundrie family took immediately after Brian returned home from the road trip in September, "while Gabrielle Petito's family was suffering" trying to locate her, per WFLA.

It also claims that around the time the Petitos reported Gabby missing, Roberta blocked Schmidt's phone number and blocked her on Facebook, according to the outlet.

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Christopher and Roberta came under fire early in the investigation into Gabby's disappearance when authorities revealed that the parents had not been cooperative with their questions, claims that are echoed by Joseph and Schmidt in the lawsuit.

"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 alleges, according to WFLA.

The outlet reports that Joseph and Schmidt are seeking at least $100,000 in damages for the pain and mental anguish caused by the Laundries.

"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 reads, per the outlet.

A statement released by Richard B. Stafford, the Petito family's attorney, said: "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."

"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," the statement continues.

Steven Bertolino, an attorney for the Laundrie family, shared a statement with PEOPLE Monday claiming that it was the family's "right under the law" to stay quiet, and that he directed his clients to do so.

"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," Bertolino wrote. "This fundamental legal principle renders the Petitos' claims baseless under the law."

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