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A former prosecutor says a lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito‘s family against Brian Laundrie‘s parents is ‘meritless’, but believes they should be ‘crucified in the court of public opinion’ if it’s proven that they helped him flee.
Gabby’s parents, Nichole Schmidt and Joseph Petito filed the civil lawsuit against Chris and Roberta Laundrie last week in Sarasota County, Florida – seven months after their daughter was killed. The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $30,000.
They argue that Brian’s parents were aware that their son had killed Gabby – assisting him in several attempts to evade authorities that ultimately culminated in his suicide in a Florida swamp. No evidence was included to back up this claim.
Mark Eiglarsh, a criminal defense attorney and former Miami-Dade County prosecutor, told Dailymail.com that the filing of the lawsuit is not a surprise as a family in mourning continues to seek justice. But added that without evidence, the lawsuit is meritless.
‘In a court of public opinion, this lawsuit may have significant value,’ he said. ‘But in a court of law, it’s meritless.’
Eiglarsh said if he were representing Gabby’s family, he would request they hand over their phones, which could possibly show evidence like texts or location history that prove one way or another if Brian’s parents were aware of the murder.
‘The big question is, did they know?’ he said. ‘I don’t know what that answer is, and I don’t think the Petitos do either.’
He said he believes the lawsuit is only causing further emotional trauma, adding that the Laundries are not at legal fault for the lack of communication with the Petitos, as alleged in the lawsuit.
He said: ‘Even if what’s alleged happened, it doesn’t mean they are at legal fault. It’s not against the law for them to not be in communication with the Petito’s, like what’s alleged.
‘It’s morally offensive, but it’s not unlawful.’
The attorney added: ‘But if they aided and abetted their son in this crime, then yes they should be crucified in the court of public opinion.’
Chris and Roberta Laundrie (pictured) were aware that their son had killed Gabby Petito – and still tried to help him flee the country before he committed suicide, a suit filed by Gabby’s parents claims
Laundrie vanished on September 13, six days before the body of his fiancee Gabby Petito was found in Wyoming. He was found on October 20 with a gunshot wound to the head
Mark Eiglarsh (pictured here on Megyn Kelly Today in 2017) said a lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito’s family against Brian Laundrie’s parents is ‘meritless’, but believes they should be ‘crucified in the court of public opinion’ if it’s proven that they helped him flee
An attorney for the Laundries, Steven Bertolino, said in a text message to WFLA 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.’
Eiglarsh echoed Bertolino’s sentiment that the Laundries have the right to remain silent.
‘Our right to remain silent is a cherished privilege,’ he said, adding that silence does not warrant a lawsuit.
‘It’s morally offensive,’ he said. ‘But it’s not unlawful.’
Eiglarsh said if the alleged evidence does exist, and if it can be proven, the details would be released during the discovery process.
The suit, filed in Sarasota County, Florida, also claims that Gabby suffered blunt force injuries to the face and neck
The Laundries are accused of acting with malice by ‘hiding the whereabouts of their son, knowing Gabby’s parents were suffering’
Nichole Schmidt and Joseph Petito are suing Brian Laundrie’s parents, claiming they acted with malice and withheld information about his whereabout after Gabby’s disappearance
The suit also claims that Gabby suffered blunt force injuries to the face and neck. A previous report by the coroner’s office had determined she died by strangulation, but made no mention of other injuries.
The Laundries’ response to their son’s actions was ‘shocking, atrocious, and utterly intolerable,’ the lawsuit, which was filed in Sarasota County, Florida, states.
The entire saga began when Petito embarked with Laundrie on a cross-country road trip in July, with the pair hoping to become ‘van life’ influencers documenting their daily lives on social media.
But their dreams seemed to vanish during a brush with police in August, when authorities in Utah responded to a domestic violence incident between the two.
Just a few days later on September 1, Laundrie, 23, returned to Florida without her. He was named a person of interest in her disappearance on September 15, but himself vanished two days after that.
Petito was found strangled to death near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on September 19. Authorities later said that she had been dead for three to four weeks before the discovery.
Laundrie’s remains weren’t discovered until October, well after his several weeks on the run garnered coast-to-coast headlines.
Petito’s parents are now seeking damages of at least $100,000 from the Laundrie family.
Gabby had embarked with Laundrie on a ‘van life’ cross-country road trip in July and had a brush with the law in August, when police in Utah responded to a domestic violence incident between the two
The lawsuit claims that while Petito’s parents struggled to locate her in early September, Roberta and Chris went on a vacation to Fork DeSoto Park.
Roberta then went on to block Nichole’s number to avoid her calls and messages pleading for information to help her find Gabby. She also blocked Nichole on Facebook soon after.
The Laundries then issued a statement through their lawyer on September 14 saying it was their hope that Gabby ‘was found safe and could return to her family’ – though the suit claims that they were fully aware their son had already killed her.
‘Despite the fact that Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt implored Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundire to tell them if their daughter was alive, and if she was not, where her remains were located, [they] refused to responds to [Gabby’s parents] and law enforcement,’ the filing said.
The Laundries are accused of acting with malice by ‘hiding the whereabouts of their son, knowing Gabby’s parents were suffering.’
‘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.
The Laundrie’s attorney, Steve Bertolino, told local news station WFLA that his clients were under no obligation to speak to law enforcement.
‘As I have maintained over the last several months, the Laundries have not publicly commented at my direction, which is their right under the law,’ Bertolino told the outlet.
‘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 Petitos’ claims to be baseless under the law.’
Last month, an FBI agent raised questions about Laundrie’s suicide after an autopsy revealed that he shot himself on the left side of the head – even though he was right-handed.
Retired agent Jennifer Coffindaffer called the finding ‘bothersome.’
‘Because it does not fit with a right-handed person committing suicide with their off hand,’ she told RadarOnline.
In an autopsy report released by the Sarasota Medical Examiner’s office on February 14, investigators observed that Laundrie’s ‘personal belongings’ – including a notebook in which Laundrie confessed to killing his fiancé as they traveling the country in a van – ‘were surrounded by apparent skeletal human remains that were scattered on top of the dirt ground in plain sight.’
Coffindaffer posits that Laundrie, 23, may have been ambidextrous – or that someone may have helped him kill himself.
‘I’m not a conspiracy theorist at all but I cannot ignore facts, nor can I ignore statistics,’ she said. ‘And statistics would say a predominantly right-handed person does not commit suicide with their left hand.’
Laundrie’s remains were found north of the entrance to Myakkahatchee Creek, in the Big Slough Preserve, off an unpaved trail near a bridge where Brian’s parents said he liked to visit. It is four miles north of their home in North Port, Florida
‘On October 20, 2021 at approximately 0820 hours, search groups found a backpack and shoes that were identified as belonging to Brian Laundrie,’ his autopsy report reads. Above, the scene where his body was located
The clearing in the Carlton Reserve where DailyMail.com believes the skeletal remains of Brian Laundrie were recovered
Aside from the notebook, several other items were recovered from a ‘drybag’ near Laundrie’s remains, which were found near his parents North Port home, including a wooden box containing the journal as well as several photos.
Both ‘the skeletal remains and personal effects were in plain sight and scattered upon the dirt ground,’ it said.
According to the report, one of the snaps was a shot of Laundrie. It is not clear what the other photos showed.
The report confirmed that Laundrie died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, as police frantically searched for the man as the primary ‘person of interest’ in the disappearance of Gabby.
Brian Laundrie took responsibility for killing Gabby Petito in a notebook that was found near his remains, a report revealed
A forty-seven page document, released in February by The Sarasota Medical Examiner’s office, noted that Laundrie had been subjected to ‘moderately extensive carnivore activity evidenced by multiple gouging and gnawing marks’ on his corpse
Near Laundrie’s corpse, at an adjacent ‘secondary’ scene, authorities recovered animal skeletal remains that suggested the self-professed killer had been hunting before his death.
Lawmen also found a incomplete, handwritten note at the ‘secondary’ site, but did not detail its contents, as well as a ‘MOAB Coffee Roasters’ hat belonging to Laundrie, that advertised the same Utah coffee shop where they were pulled over by police for a domestic incident on 12 August – approximately two weeks before Petito was killed.
The search for Petito began after Laundrie had returned to his parent’s Florida home from their trip without her on September 1.
On September 11, Gabby’s family reported her missing and two days later, her boyfriend Brian Laundrie vanished from his parents’ home.
The young couple had been on a cross-country van trip but it turned sour and in August, just a few weeks before she died.
Chris and Roberta Laundrie, Laundrie’s parents, have been widely condemned for not talking with Petito’s family or turning their son in to police when he returned home from his trip, especially after she was reported missing.
He left their home on September 13, two days after her family on Long Island reported her disappearance.
Petito’s family criticized the Laundries for not helping them. Her remains were soon uncovered in a Wyoming campground on September 19.
Before Gabby’s disappearance, she and Laundrie were pulled over by Utah police officer in Moab after visiting the ‘MOAB Coffee Roasters’ on August 12, 2021.
They had been responding to a call from a witness who saw the couple involved in a domestic fight.
Last week, an independent investigator has that the officers who pulled them over should have been suspended for not citing Gabby following the violent encounter where she admitted to being the aggressor.
Officers Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins had pulled the couple over after they responded to a call from a witness who saw the couple involved in a domestic fight.
Bodycam footage showed a visibly shaken Gabby admitting to being the aggressor in the public argument. During the conversation, Pratt had noted that Gabby should have been arrested for her actions as stated in the Utah state law.
An independent investigator revealed that Gabby Petito should have been cited for being the aggressor in a domestic dispute with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie (pictured left). Moab City PD Eric Pratt (right) is seen speaking with Laundrie
The couple, however, managed to dispute the allegations and the officers let them go following a 75-minute conversation on the promise that they spend the night away from one another.
After the bodycam footage emerged, the Price City Police Department launched its own independent investigation and said that the officers should have pressed charges in the incident.
‘I believe the officers responded to a domestic violence call and had probable cause an act of domestic violence had been committed,’ Price Police Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe.
‘This should have meant an arrest was made, either by citation or custody.’
Despite evidence pointing towards Petito as the aggressor, Ratcliffe noted that she had probably been the victim of violence in the relationship.
As a result of the investigation, Ratcliffe recommended that Pratt and Robbins be put on probation for how they handled the incident.
He also concluded that he couldn’t be certain that the officers could have changed the outcome of Petito’s fate if they acted accordingly.
‘Would Gabby be alive today if this case was handled differently?’ the report said, according to CNN. That is an impossible question to answer despite it being the answer many people want to know.
‘Nobody knows and nobody will ever know the answer to that question.’
TIMELINE OF GABBY PETITO DISAPPEARANCE AND DEATH
July 1: Gabby Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie left Blue Point, New York for a cross-country road trip
August 12: Police in Moab, Utah respond to a domestic incident involving the couple
Aug. 17: Laundrie allegedly flies back to Florida to ‘clear out a storage unit’
Aug. 21: Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, has his last FaceTime video call with his daughter who was in Salt Lake City, Utah
Aug. 23: Laundrie flies back to Utah to ‘rejoin Gabby’ on their trip
Aug. 24: Petito is last seen at a hotel in Salt Lake City with Laundrie
Aug. 25: Petito makes final call to her mother, Nichole Schmidt, saying she was in Grand Teton National Park
Aug. 25 or 26: The couple chats with the owner of a shop called ‘Rustic Row’ in Victor, Utah for about 20 minutes
Aug. 27: Video of Petito’s van was taken by blogger Jenn Bethune around 6.30 pm at the Spread Creek Campground; Witnesses say they saw a ‘commotion’ with the couple at Merry Piglets Tex-mex restaurant in Jackson, Wyoming
Aug. 29: The day that Wisconsin TikToker Miranda Baker claimed that she and her boyfriend were approached by Laundrie at Grand Teton National Park and asked them for a ride at 5.30pm
Aug. 30: Schmidt receives the last text from Petito’s phone: ‘No service in Yosemite’
Sept. 1: Laundrie returns to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida in a van without Petito
Sept. 6-7: Laundrie and his parents visit Fort De Soto campsite in Florida
Sept. 11: Schmidt reports Petito missing to authorities in New York; Petito and Laundrie’s van was impounded by police in Florida that same day
Sept. 12: Grand Teton National Park rangers search for Petito
Sept. 13: Laundrie’s lawyer says on October 5 that his parents now ‘believe’ this was the day they last saw him heading for a hike
Sept. 14: Laundrie issues a statement about Petito’s disappearance through his lawyer; Laundrie’s parents claim on September 17 that Laundrie left his parents’ home for a hike this day and they hadn’t seen from him since
Sept. 15: Laundrie is officially named a person of interest in Petito’s case
Sept. 17: Laundrie family attorney confirms his whereabouts are unknown
Sept. 18: North Port police and the FBI start searching the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County for missing Brian Laundrie
Sept. 19: Bethune realizes she has video of Petito’s van around 12am and submits the FBI with the footage 10 minutes later; Officials announce a body was found near Grand Teton National Park that matched Petito’s description in the afternoon
Sept. 21: Coroner confirms remains found in Grand Tetons belong to Petito. Her death is ruled a homicide but her cause of death is still under investigation
Sept. 20 – 22: FBI and North Port police continue search for Laundrie in Carton Reserve
Sept. 22: Neighbors say they saw the Laudrie family pack up their detached camper on the day Gabby was reported missing. DailyMail.com photos show the camper was back in the driveway two days later, on September 13
Sept. 23: FBI issues an arrest warrant for Laundrie for ‘use of unauthorized access device’ for fraudulently using a Capitol One Bank debit card that was not his between August 30 and September 1 to spend $1,000; A probe is launched into the police handling of the Utah police incident on Aug. 12; Laundrie’s parents visit their attorney in Orlando
Sept. 25: Dog the Bounty Hunter joins the search for Laundrie
Sept. 26: A funeral is held for Petito in Holbrook, New York, and her family launch a charity to help parents find missing children
Sept. 27: Manhunt for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve is scaled back after 10 day search doesn’t find him. Dog the Bounty Hunter says Laundrie and his parents stayed at Fort De Soto Park from September 1-3 and September 6-8 – and that on the latter visit only the parents left
Sept. 28: Laundrie’s mom is accused of using a burner phone to contact her son Sept. 29: Documents reveal Laundrie’s mom canceled a reservation for the Fort De Soto Park campsite for two from September 1 to 3 and booked for three from September 6 to 8; FBI seizes surveillance footage from site; FBI investigates lead Laundrie bought a burner phone on September 14;
Sept. 30: Bodycam footage from a second officer at the August 12 incident is released showing a distressed Petito admitting Laundrie hit her; FBI agents collect more evidence from the Laundrie home
Oct. 1: It emerges Laundrie’s sister had contact with him after she said she did
Oct. 2: A hiker along the Appalachian Trail claims to have seen Laundrie near the border of Tennessee and North Carolina
Oct. 3: Investigators searched the area on the Appalachian trail for any signs that Laundrie had been there
Oct. 4: Laundrie’s sister told protestors outside her home that her family has been ignoring her after they rebuked her story and that she does not know where her brother is
Oct 5: Laundrie’s sister appeared on Good Morning America to say she would turn her brother in if she knew where he is;
Oct. 7: Laundrie’s father Christopher joins FBI agents on the search for his son at the Carlton Reserve but the search brings up no clues
Oct. 12: Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue announces autopsy findings which show Petito died by strangulation; No specific date of death was given – only that she was dead 3-4 weeks before her body was found
Oct. 16: Petito’s parents are seen collecting her ashes from the Valley Mortuary in Jackson, Wyoming
October 20: Human remains found in Carlton Reserve
February 14 – In an autopsy report released by the Sarasota Medical Examiner’s office, investigators observed that Laundrie’s ‘personal belongings’ – including a notebook in which Laundrie confessed to killing his fiancé as they traveling the country in a van – ‘were surrounded by apparent skeletal human remains that were scattered on top of the dirt ground in plain sight.’
March 10 – Nichole Schmidt and Joseph Petito sue Chris and Roberta Laundrie, arguing they were aware that their son had killed Gabby – assisting him in several attempts to evade authorities that ultimately culminated in his suicide.