Could Brian Laundrie's parents be in legal trouble? Experts say they can't be compelled to speak with police

·3 min read
A screenshot from Utah police bodycam footage showing Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer.
A screenshot from the Moab City Police Department footage of Petito and Laundrie on August 12 2021. MCPD
  • A federal arrest warrant has been issued for Brian Laundrie related to the case of his fiancée Gabby Petito.

  • Criminal justice experts say Laundrie's parents, who reported him missing, can't be forced to speak to police.

  • A lawyer for the Laundrie family told Insider that the parents previously spoke to the FBI.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Brian Laundrie's parents can't be compelled to speak with authorities even though a federal arrest warrant has been issued for their son related to the Gabby Petito case, criminal justice experts told Insider.

Petito, who was Laundrie's fiancée, was found dead in Grand Teton National Park on September 19, and a coroner initially determined the manner of death to be homicide.

Then on Wednesday, a grand jury in Wyoming indicted Laundrie for credit card fraud, a charge that the FBI Denver office said in a statement would give police a better shot at locating him. Laundrie was previously identified as a person of interest in Petito's disappearance.

Laundrie himself hasn't been seen since September 14. His parents reported him missing three days later, telling police he'd gone to Carlton Reserve, a sprawling, 25,000-acre nature preserve that authorities have searched for days without success.

A couple who lives on the same street as the family also said they saw Laundrie and his parents drive away with a camper attached to their truck about a week after he returned from Wyoming without Petito. The couple told Fox News they thought it was strange for the parents to go on a trip with their adult son, and said that they reported the incident to police.

Laundrie's parents would've been free to help their son before he was charged with credit card fraud, but "everything changed once they issued that warrant," according to George Kirkham, professor emeritus at Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. He said anyone who contacts or attempts to help Laundrie now that he faces a federal criminal charge could themselves be charged with aiding and abetting a fugitive.

Asked if Laundrie's parents have tried to contact their son since he went missing, the family's attorney, Steven Bertolino, told Insider that Laundrie did not take a cell phone with him and has "no known means of communication."

Bertolino also said the parents, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, previously spoke with the FBI.

"Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been interviewed by the FBI with respect to locating Brian," he said.

The Laundries are under no obligation to do so at this point, though: The Fifth Amendment is on their side, according to Daniel Maxwell, a retired police officer and professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven.

"We've been talking about this in my classes at school and the question was, 'Can't can't the cops just drag the parents into the station and make them talk?'" he said. "And the answer is, 'No.'"

The FBI's involvement in the case does raise the stakes for the family, according to Joseph Giacolone, a retired NYPD sergeant and professor at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice. Giacolone said that if Laundrie were to wind up facing murder charges, anything his parents said to the FBI that may have been misleading, even inadvertently, would carry a greater penalty than if they'd spoken to local law enforcement.

"Everything that you hear from them will be said through their lawyers because if they say anything that could be misconstrued, or anything that is not true, or even a mistake, they could get charged," Giacolone said.

It's not common to see family members charged with aiding and abetting a fugitive or with accessory after the fact of murder, according to Giacolone, but he said it could be possible.

"It doesn't happen very often that they get somebody for aiding and abetting when it's the mother and father," he said.

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