Laundrie Parents: We Did Nothing Wrong in Not Speaking

They file motion to dismiss lawsuit brought by Gabby Petito's parents
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 11, 2022 4:30 PM CST
Updated Mar 31, 2022 12:31 AM CDT
Gabby Petito's Parents Sue Laundries
Joseph Petito, father of Gabby Petito, speaks during a news conference in September in Bohemia, NY.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

(Newser) Update: Gabby Petito's death is "unfortunate," but Brian Laundrie's parents did nothing wrong and were simply exercising their constitutional rights when they refused to speak to her parents or police about the case: That's the gist of a Wednesday court filing from Laundrie's parents, who are seeking to dismiss the lawsuit filed against them by Petito's parents. "At its core, the Complaint is critical of the Laundries for ‘refus[ing] to respond to either Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, or law enforcement.’ However, compelling individuals to respond to inquiries by private citizens or law enforcement through a civil action like this would turn our entire constitutional system and the freedom afforded individuals in this country on its head," reads the motion to dismiss, as cited by the New York Post. Our original story from March 11 follows:

The parents of Gabby Petito claim in a new Florida lawsuit that Brian Laundrie told his parents he had killed her when he returned home alone from their ill-fated western trip in a converted van. The lawsuit filed Thursday in Sarasota County Circuit Court contends that Laundrie told his parents on Aug. 28 that he had killed Petito, 22, his fiancee of about a year at the time, the AP reports. Petito's disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her body Sept. 19 in a Wyoming national park became a national obsession, augmented by the later search for Laundrie in a Florida nature preserve.

The FBI concluded that Laundrie strangled Petito and that Laundrie, who returned home Sept. 1, fatally shot himself. The lawsuit contends that Christopher and Roberta Laundrie concealed that their son had confessed to the killing from investigators and Petito's parents while the search for Gabby Petito was ongoing. "In doing so, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie acted with malice or great indifference to the rights" of Joseph Petito and Nicole Schmidt, Petito's parents, the lawsuit claims. The filing calls that conduct "shocking, atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community."

The lawsuit, which seeks damages of at least $30,000, adds that the Laundries were "making arrangements" for their son to leave the country. No evidence was included to back up this claim. An attorney for the Laundries, Steven Bertolino, said in a text message Friday that his clients were fully within their rights not to talk. He also denied the lawsuit's claims in general. "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 said. "This fundamental legal principle renders the Petitos' claims to be baseless under the law."

(Read more Gabby Petito stories.)

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