The family of slain cross-country traveler Gabby Petito claims the parents of her fiancé Brian Laundrie knew she had been murdered, according to a lawsuit filed this week.
Father Joseph Petito and mother Nichole Schmidt filed the civil lawsuit Thursday against Chris and Roberta Laundrie, according to court documents obtained by NBC affiliate WFLA.
According to the suit, Petito's parents allege Laundire told his parents what happened to Petito on Aug. 28, a day after the suit alleges Laundrie killed her.
“It is believed, and therefore averred that…Brian Laundrie advised his parents, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, that he had murdered Gabrielle Petito,” the lawsuit states. “On that same date, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie spoke with Attorney Steve Bertolino, and sent him a retainer on Sept. 2, 2021."
Petito's body was found Sept. 19 at a campground near Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming. A coroner determined the 22-year-old died about three weeks earlier of "blunt-force injuries to the head and neck, with manual strangulation."
Laundrie, 23, returned home to Florida alone in early September but went missing soon after. In October, his parents found an item belonging to him in the nature preserve near their house, and soon after his remains were found in the preserve.
A medical examiner later determined Laudrie fatally shot himself.
FBI officials said Laundrie had admitted to killing Petito in a notebook that was found near his body. Laundrie had also sent text messages to intentionally deceive people that Petito was still alive after he beat and strangled her in late August, according to a statement released by the FBI in Denver.
The Petito family claims there was no contact between the two families after Brian Laundrie returned to Florida. It also mentions the vacation Laundrie's parents took to Fort DeSoto Park "while Gabrielle Petito’s family was suffering."
The suit claims that once the official search for Petito was underway and before her remains were found, the Laundrie family refused to respond to questions from law enforcement and Petito’s family. The suit claims Roberta Laundrie blocked Schmidt’s phone number and blocked her on Facebook around the time Petito was reported missing.
Bertolino, the Laundries' attorney, 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.”
Petito's parents also believe Laundrie’s parents were planning to help their son leave the United States, the suit claims.
“While Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt 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 suit states.
Petito and Schmidt accuse the Laundrie family of acting "with malice or great indifference to the rights of" Petito’s family.
Petito's parents are seeking damages of at least $100,000, the suit states.