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Gabby Petito’s Parents Sue Brian Laundrie’s Parents, Alleging They Knew He’d Killed Their Daughter

Gabby Petito's parents are seeking at least $30,000 in damages from Christopher and Roberta Laundrie for what they describe as "extreme and outrageous conduct."

By Jill Sederstrom
Gabby Petito Had a "Magical Presence"

Gabby Petito’s parents filed a civil lawsuit against Brian Laundrie’s parents, alleging they had known for weeks that their son killed Petito and stayed silent.

“Christopher Laundrie 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, obtained by Oxygen.com, alleges.

Gabby’s father, Joseph Petito, and mother Nichole Schmidt, contend in the lawsuit that Brian killed Gabby on Aug. 27—the last day Schmidt had communication with her daughter—while the couple was on a cross-country adventure through the nation’s national parks.  

“The cause of her death was blunt force injuries to the head and neck with manual strangulation,” the suit states.

The following day, Gabby’s parents believe Brian “advised his parents” that he had killed Gabby. According to the suit, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie spoke with attorney Steve Bertolino that same day, sending him a retainer to secure his services on Sept. 2.

For several days after the murder, Gabby’s parents say Brian tried to “deceive” Schmidt by texting her messages from Gabby’s phone, meanwhile, he returned in the couple’s converted camper van to his parent's Florida home on Sept. 1.

As Gabby’s family was “suffering” and growing increasingly concerned about her whereabouts, the Laundrie family “went on vacation to Fort DeSoto Park” from Sept. 6-7, according to the lawsuit.

While the two sets of parents initially had a “cordial relationship” throughout Brian and Gabby’s romance, Roberta “blocked Nichole Schmidt on her cellular phone such that neither phone calls nor texts could be delivered” around Sept. 10 and also blocked her on Facebook, the lawsuit states.

Gabby’s family publicly pleaded with Brian’s parents to tell them what they knew about their missing daughter, but say they were met with silence.

“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 lawsuit states.

Gabby’s parents have also alleged that while the search for Gabby got underway, Christopher and Roberta were “making arrangements for (Brian) to leave the country.” They didn't provide any evidence to support that allegation.

Petito’s remains were discovered at the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping area in Wyoming on Sept. 19.

Gabby’s parents say the Laundrie’s lack of communication and actions caused them to suffer “mental anguish” “pain” and “a loss of capacity for enjoyment of life” in the past and days ahead.

“Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie knew of the mental suffering and anguish of Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, and knew that they could alleviate, at least in part, such mental suffering and anguish by disclosing what they knew about the well-being and the location of the remains of Gabrielle Petito, yet they repeatedly refused to do so,” the lawsuit alleges. “In doing so, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie acted with malice or great indifference to the rights of Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt.”

In a statement to People, Richard B. Stafford, the Petito family’s attorney, said the Laundries had “multiple opportunities” to tell Gabby’s family where her remains could be found.

“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,” the statement said. “For this, Christopher and Roberta must be held accountable.”

However, in response to the lawsuit, Bertolino, the Laundries' attorney, told The Associated Press they were well within their rights not to talk to the Petito's family.

“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,” he said. “This fundamental legal principle renders the Petitos’ claims to be baseless under the law.”

The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $30,000, according to the AP.

Brian Laundrie was found dead in the Florida wilderness in October after a month-long manhunt to find him. Authorities have said Brian, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, left behind a notebook in which he claimed “responsibility” for killing his girlfriend.