The parents of Gabby Petito, whose disappearance on a cross-country road trip last year gained international attention, are suing the parents of her fiancé Brian Laundrie, accusing them of knowing he had murdered their daughter.
Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, filed a complaint Thursday in Sarasota County, Florida, against Christopher and Roberta Laundrie for more than $100,000 in damages, according to court filings.
The young couple was traveling together last summer before Laundrie returned alone to his parents’ home in Florida driving a van owned by Petito.
Her remains were found in Wyoming a few weeks later on Sept. 19 and her death was later ruled a homicide by strangulation. Laundrie, who was named a person of interest during the search for Petito, also disappeared before being found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a nature reserve in Florida.
According to the FBI, Laundrie confessed to killing her in a notebook found with his belongings.
Petito’s parents accuse the Laundries of knowing their 22-year-old daughter had been killed and the whereabouts of her remains but concealing the information from them and authorities. They also accuse the Laundries of helping their son hide from law enforcement.
The lawsuit claims Laundrie, 23, told his parents on Aug. 28 that he had murdered Petito.
“Despite the fact that Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt implored Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie to tell them if their daughter was alive, and if she was not, where her remains were located, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie refused to respond to either Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, or law enforcement,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit alleges Roberta Laundrie blocked Schmidt’s phone number and social media. In refusing to respond to Petito’s parents, the lawsuit claims Christopher and Roberta Laundrie “acted with malice or great indifference to the rights of Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt,” causing them pain and suffering.
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In a statement to Fox 13the Laundries’ attorney Steven Bertolino denied the claims in the lawsuit.
“As I have maintained over the last several months, the Laundries’ have not publicly commented at my direction which is their right under the law,” he said. “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. This fundamental legal principle renders the Petito’s claims to be baseless under the law,” he said.
USA TODAY has reached out to Bertolino.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism