Brian Laundrie's parents knew he killed his fiancé Gabby Petito, whose disappearance last year sparked national headlines and a social media uproar, but hid that information from her parents — and authorities — for weeks as they searched for answers, according to a new lawsuit.
In a complaint filed in Sarasota County, Florida, court on Thursday, Petito's parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, revealed new details about their daughter's death as they accused Laundrie's mother and father, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, of withholding information about what had happened to their daughter.
According to the complaint, Laundrie, who killed himself last fall after claiming responsibility for Petito's death, told his parents what he had done the day after she died on Aug. 27. His parents then tried to make arrangements for Laundrie to leave the country as Petito's family was "desperately searching for information concerning their daughter," the complaint states.
"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 complaint adds.
Steve Bertolino, an attorney for the Laundrie family, denied the claims made in the lawsuit and added that he had directed his clients not to comment publicly over the last few months.
"Assuming everything the Petitos allege in their lawsuit is true, which we deny, this lawsuit does not change the fact that the Laundrie’s had no obligation to speak to Law Enforcement or any third-party including the Petito family," he said in a statement on Monday.
A spokesperson for the FBI's Denver field office, which led the investigation into Petito's death, declined to comment.
The young couple had chronicled their cross-country road trips on social media and amassed hundreds of thousands of followers, but questions arose when Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida, on Sept. 1 without 22-year-old Petito. Laundrie was driving the white van the couple had used in their "Van Life" YouTube channel, but Petito's whereabouts were unknown. Her family reported her missing 10 days later.
Police would later name Laundrie as a person of interest in the case, noting that he'd made no contact with authorities about Petito's disappearance and that he and his attorney had repeatedly refused to answer questions about her. Laundrie's remains were found Oct. 20 in the Carlton Reserve just north of the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Florida along with a notebook containing statements that he was responsible for Petito's death.
According to the complaint, after Petito was already dead, Laundrie continued to send text messages between his and Petito's phones "in an effort to hide the fact that she was deceased." He also allegedly texted Nichole Schmidt from Petito's phone on Aug. 30 to make her think that her daughter was still alive.
The complaint also states that Roberta Laundrie blocked Schmidt's phone number and blocked her on Facebook on Sept. 10 "in an effort to avoid any contact." Four days later, despite allegedly knowing that Petito was already dead, Laundrie's parents released a statement saying that they hoped the search was "successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family."
Petito's parents are seeking unspecified damages that exceed $30,000, according to the complaint.
"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 states.
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