The parents of murdered van life blogger Gabby Petito are suing the parents of their daughter’s late fiancé, Brian Laundrie, for allegedly knowing their son had killed her but kept quiet.
The pair filed their civil suit on Thursday in a Sarasota County, Florida, circuit court and are seeking financial damages.
Petito, 22, was found dead from strangulation at a national park in September. While Laundrie had initially fled to his parents’ Florida home ― driving Petito’s van ― his parents later revealed that he had gone to a nearby marsh, where authorities found his remains in October. He died by suicide. The FBI said Laundrie had taken responsibility for Petito’s death, citing statements he’d made in a notebook.
Petito’s parents, Nichole Schmidt and Joseph Petito, say Laundrie killed their daughter on Aug. 27, and then sent a text from her phone to her mother. The text was suspicious because it referred to Petito’s grandfather as “Stan,” and she never called him by his first name.
“It is believed, and therefore averred, that on or about Aug. 28, Brian Laundrie advised his parents, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, that he had murdered Gabrielle Petito,” the lawsuit states. “On the same date, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie spoke with Attorney Steve Bertolino, and sent him a retainer on Sept. 2, 2021.”
The Laundries drew criticism for almost immediately hiring an attorney after the strange details of Petito’s case had started attracting national attention but she was still believed to be missing.
Petito’s parents claim the Laundries were planning to help their son flee the country.
Bertolino issued a blanket denial of the lawsuit’s claims in a statement to TMZ, and said that he had told his clients not to publicly comment on the situation, “which is their right under law.”
“Assuming everything the Petitos allege in their lawsuit is true, which we deny, 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. This fundamental legal principle renders the Petito’s claims to be baseless under the law,” Bertolino’s statement read.
The young couple set off from New York state on a monthslong road trip through the American West on July 2, the same day they became engaged. Brian Laundrie returned home alone on Sept. 1.
The lawsuit alleges that Brian Laundrie had sent another text to Petito’s mom on Aug. 30 pretending to be Petito and saying there was no service where they were.
The Laundries did not reach out to Petito’s parents when their son arrived without Petito, according to the lawsuit. Roberta Laundrie allegedly blocked Nicole Schmidt’s phone number and blocked her on Facebook, the suit alleges, and then released a public statement through the couple’s lawyer expressing hope that Petito would be found safe.
Petito’s parents have said in media interviews that the Laundries never responded to their repeated cries for help in locating their daughter. On Sept. 16, they released a statement addressed to the Laundries specifically, pleading for any information they might have.
Following the FBI’s announcement that Brian Laundrie had confessed to the murder in writing, his parents released a statement lamenting both families’ losses.
“Gabby and Brian are no longer with their families and this tragedy has caused enormous emotional pain and suffering to all who loved either or both of them,” the Laundries said in a January statement. “We can only hope that with today’s closure of the case each family can begin to heal and move forward and find peace in and with the memories of their children.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.