NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Gabby Petito's family alleges in a new civil lawsuit that Brian Laundrie's parents were aware their son had murdered the 22-year-old Long Island native a day after she was killed and were trying to help him leave the U.S.
The lawsuit against Chris and Roberta Laundrie was filed Thursday by Petito's parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt.
Gabby Petito was found dead in Grand Teton Park on Sept. 19, weeks after Laundrie returned to his parent's Florida home from a “van life” trip without his fiancée.
The coroner deemed her death a homicide and determined her death was specifically caused by "manual strangulation."
The lawsuit revealed that Petito had also sustained blunt force injuries to the head and neck. It's believed she was killed on Aug. 27.
The 23-year-old Laundrie was found dead on Oct. 20 of an apparent suicide in North Port's Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park after an extensive manhunt.
The FBI later determined Laundrie had killed Petito and revealed that a notebook found near his remains included written statements claiming responsibility for Petito's death.
The lawsuit claims that on Aug. 27, Laundrie allegedly sent text messages between his and Petito's phones "in an effort to hide the fact that she was deceased."
Laundrie also sent a text message to Schmidt from Petito's phone on Aug. 27. Schmidt grew suspicious of the message because it referred to Petito's grandfather by his first name, "Stan", which she never did, according to court documents.
The suit further alleges that Laundrie sent another text message from Petito's phone on Aug. 30 to Schmidt stating there was no service in Yosemite Park "in an effort to deceive Nicole Schmidt into believing that Gabrielle Petito was still alive."
"It is believed, and therefore averred that on or about August 28, 2021. Brian Laundrie advised his parents, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, that he had murdered Gabrielle Petito," the lawsuit reads. "On that same date, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie spoke with Attorney Steve Bertolino, and sent him a retainer on September 2, 2021."
According to the lawsuit, there was no contact between the two families after Laundrie returned to his Florida home.
Before Petito's remains were found, her parents claim Chris and Roberta Laundrie refused to answer questions from them and law enforcement, and instructed all contact be made through their attorney.
The lawsuit alleges Roberta Laundrie went so far as to block Schmidt on her phone and Facebook to "avoid any contact" with her.
"While Joseph Petito and Nichole Schimdt were desperately searching for information concerning their daughter, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie were keeping the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie secret, and it is believed were making arrangements for him to leave the country," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims Laundrie's parents were aware of the "mental suffering and anguish" Petito's parents were enduring.
It alleges the Laundries "acted with malice or great indifference to the rights of" Petito's parents by repeatedly refusing to disclose what they knew about their daughter.
"Christopher 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 reads.
Petito's parents are seeking damages of at least $100,000 for the pain and suffering caused by the "willfulness and maliciousness" of Laundrie's parents, NBC-affiliate WFLA-TV reported.
Bertolino, the Laundrie's attorney, issued a statement to WCBS 880 saying, "As I have maintained over the last several months, the Laundrie's have not publicly commented at my direction which is their right under the 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," Bertolino added. "This fundamental legal principle renders the Petito's claims to be baseless under the law."
The Petito family attorney, Richard Stafford, in a statement reiterated the claims laid out in the lawsuit alleging, "There were multiple conversations between Brian, his parents and their lawyer Steven Bertolino before Brian left Wyoming on August 30,2021. Christopher and Roberta had multiple opportunities to disclose to Joe, Nichole or the authorities that Gabby was no longer alive and to direct them to her body."
"Instead, Christoper 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," Stafford added. "For this, Christopher and Roberta must be held accountable."