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Petito, Laundrie parents debate civil suit in court

Posted at 12:28 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 10:38:58-04

VENICE, Fla. — The parents of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie are in court Wednesday in Florida in a hearing over an upcoming civil suit.

Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt are suing for damages resulting from the death of Gabby, ostensibly at the hands of Brian last year. They accuse Chris and Roberta Laundrie of knowingly concealing facts about Brian's guilt and further lying to them about Brian's whereabouts when authorities sought to question him.

The Laundries are trying to get the case thrown out; if unsuccessful, a jury trial is set to begin in August 2023.

Petito and Schmidt believe Gabby was killed on or around Aug. 27, 2021, the last day anyone had communication from the 22-year-old woman.

Gabby and Brian had been in the middle of a cross-country trip she was sharing on social media in the hopes of becoming a "travel influencer."

Her parents believe Brian strangled her to death, then left the body to later be discovered at the Spread Creek campsite in Wyoming.

They claim Brian sent texts pretending to be Gabby in an attempt to explain her whereabouts before he returned to the Laundrie's North Port home on Sept. 1 in Gabby's van.

From this point onward, Petito and Schmidt claim that the Laundrie family went on vacation, knowing where their daughter's body was located, that Brian had caused Gabby's death, and that her distraught family was seeking information.

They point to a Sept. 14 statement in which Chris and Roberta express, through their attorney, "hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful." A reply letter in which they implore the Laundries for more information about what they know went unanswered.

Petito and Schmidt claim the Laundries kept Brian's whereabouts after Gabby's death a secret. Brian's skeletal remains were found in late Oct. in the Carlton Reserve. An autopsy showed Brian died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Chris and Roberta Laundrie have filed past motions to dismiss the case which were rejected.

Their attorneys maintain Gabby's parents' claims are theoretical at best and prove no actual intent to cause additional suffering.

"By using terms such as 'increase' and 'prevent' to describe how the Laundries caused the distress, the Amended Complaint fails to satisfy the necessary element that the severe emotional distress would not have occurred absent the Laundries' silence," their lawyers write in a reply to the complaint.

The Laundries maintain they were exercising a Constitutional right not to speak with Petito and Schmidt. "[They] acted by choice, not by right," their attorneys say.