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Brian Laundrie Allegedly Posed as Gabby Petito in Texts to Her Parents After He Killed Her
Brian Laundrie placed a “frantic telephone call” to his own parents after he murdered Gabby Petito, informing them his fiancée was “gone,” new court documents say.
Brian Laundrie allegedly posed as Gabby Petito and texted her parents from her phone in the hours after he'd killed her, according to newly filed court documents.
The civil complaint, filed on November 30 by Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, also accuses Laundrie of texting Petito’s phone from his device and then responding to his own messages on her phone to obscure her 2021 murder. The "back and forth” text exchange, per the lawsuit, was initiated by Laundrie to “hide the fact she was deceased," filings allege.
Petito’s lifeless body was discovered in Wyoming's Bridger–Teton National Forest in September of 2021, following her cross-country journey alongside Laundrie, her then-fiancé. An autopsy revealed she’d been strangled to death. Laundrie, who later returned to his home in Florida without Petito, ultimately fatally shot himself. His partial skeletal remains were found in the Florida wilderness.
Laundrie’s notebook, found near his remains, contained a confession to Petito’s murder, the FBI said.
Laundrie described Petito’s death as a mercy killing, claiming he ended the 22-year-old’s life because she was in immense pain after suffering a serious fall, according to The Messenger.
What have Gabby Petito's parents alleged about text messages sent from her phone?
In the new court filings, however, Petito's parents have accused Laundrie of purposefully obscuring the timeline around Petito's death by posing as his dead fiancée after carrying out her murder. On August 27, 2021 — the day Petito’s family believes she was murdered — they received a suspicious text from Petito, which they now suspect was surreptitiously written by Laundrie.
The message’s red flag, which Petito’s family says gave away Laundrie as the author, was a reference to “Stan,” the slain blogger’s grandfather, People reported. Petito never addressed or spoke of her grandfather using his first name, they said.
Three days later, Laundrie allegedly texted Schmidt again from Petito’s phone, “stating that there was no service in Yosemite Park in an effort to deceive Nichole Schmidt into believing that Gabrielle Petito was still alive.”
Petito’s family contends that, on one of the days in between, August 29, 2021, Laundrie placed a “frantic telephone call” to his parents telling them that Petito was “gone,” CNN reported. The same day, Laundrie’s parents allegedly contacted their attorney, Steven Bertolino, and advised him their son needed a lawyer. The lawsuit alleges the Laundries relayed their son’s dispatch, telling Bertolino that Petito was “gone.” They sent him a retainer on September 2, 2021, court filings stated.
Petito's parents are suing the Laundries for unspecified damages that reportedly exceed $30,000, related to emotional distress they say they incurred in the aftermath of their daughter's death. Namely, they allege Christopher and Roberta Laundrie willfully resisted efforts to assist them in locating Petito. The Petito family has accused the Laundries and their lawyer of withholding information related to the investigation and of ignoring phone calls, texts, and social media messages.
“Christopher Laundrie, Roberta Laundrie and Steven Bertolino exhibited conduct which was outrageous and went beyond all bounds of decency and is regarded as odious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community, in that they remained silent concerning Gabrielle Petito’s death and the location of her body, but then made statements giving hope to Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt that Gabrielle Petito was still live (sic), and expressed it was a difficult time for the Laundrie family, knowing their son had murdered Gabrielle Petito,” the lawsuit stated, according to Court TV.
The Laundries, in response, have unsuccessfully tried to have the suit dismissed. Members of the two families appeared together in a courtroom in October for the first time since Petito’s slaying. A jury trial for the matter is set for May 13, 2024.
The Petito family is also suing the Moab Police Department for $50 million for their alleged mishandling of a roadside domestic violence call between Laundrie and Petito during a stop in Utah days before Petito’s death.
Oxygen.com has reached out to lawyers for the Laundrie family for further comment.