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Gabby Petito's Parents File Amended Lawsuit Alleging Brian Laundrie's Parents Knew 'Whereabouts' Of Her Body
“If you don’t affirmatively tell the police what you know, should you be held accountable and should you be sued if you have critical information?” CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson rhetorically asked a CrimeCon 2022 audience.
In an amendment to a civil lawsuit filed earlier this year, Gabby Petito’s parents allege that Brian Laundrie's parents knew the whereabouts of their daughter's remains yet refused to disclose the information.
In the original March lawsuit, Gabby’s father Joseph Petito and mother Nichole Schmidt contended that Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie had known for weeks that their son killed Petito yet chose to withhold information from Gabby’s worried loved ones.
In the amendment, filed on Friday, Petito’s parents claim that the Laundries knew "the whereabouts of her body” when they took Brian on vacation with them to Fort De Soto Park in Florida, CNN reports. The trip was taken after Brian, 23, returned to his parents' home in North Port, Florida without Gabby, 22 in early September of last year. The couple were on a cross-country trip when Gabby vanished. A few days after returning to his parents, Brian — who had subsequently been classified by police as a person of interest in Gabby's disappearance — also vanished.
Petito's remains were found in Wyoming on Sept. 19; she had been strangled to death, likely weeks before she was found. When investigators later found Laundrie's body in a Florida nature preserve in October following a weeks-long manhunt, they determined he died from a self-inflicted gunshot. The FBI determined in January that he was responsible for Gabby’s murder.
The lawsuit amendment alleges the Laundrie family went on vacation "knowing that Brian Laundrie had murdered Gabrielle Petito, it is believed that they knew where her body was located, and further knew that Gabrielle Petito's parents were attempting to locate her," CNN reports.
During a CrimeCon 2022 panel held on Saturday, which focused on the case and signs of domestic violence, CNN correspondent Jean Casarez said that the lawusit alleges that the Laundrie family blocked Petito’s family on their cell phones and Facebook.
“In this complaint, they allege, ‘you knew that Gabby had been murdered by your son [...] but you never let us know anything and that is outrageously cruel,” she said.
Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino told Oxygen.com last month that he filed "a motion to dismiss the baseless and frivolous lawsuit."
He claims there are no facts to back up their claims of "intentional infliction of emotional distress" and that the Laundries were merely exercising their constitutional right to remain silent.
"The gravamen of the claimed wrongdoing is that the Laundries exercised their constitutional rights and essentially made no statements to Plaintiffs or law enforcement," the motion states. ("Gravamen" is a legal term meaning the core of something.)
Joey Jackson, CNN Legal Analyst, stated at CrimeCon 2022 on Saturday that the amendment is the result of Bertolino’s motion and that it is an attempt to show details and facts to back up the claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“In this new complaint, the issue is going to be, is it enough if someone has knowledge —for example, that there’s a death and you have knowledge of the location of the body, you have knowledge of really what your son did — and you say nothing about it, is that enough to really lead to a cause of action in court?” he told the audience.
He said that while withholding such information from a victim’s family could be considered “inhumane” and “unethical,” a judge will determine if this case goes forward. Jackson said that whatever happens in this case will determine the precedent in the next: if a person has right not to come forward if they have information about a past crime; he clarified that what Laundrie’s parents are accused of doesn’t constitute as aiding and abetting. He said there is currently no “tattletale law" but that this case could change that.
“If you don’t affirmatively tell the police what you know, should you be held accountable and should you be sued if you have critical information?” he asked.
The civil jury trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 14, 2023.
CrimeCon 2022 is produced by Red Seat Ventures and presented by Oxygen.