The lawsuit against Chris and Roberta Laundrie claims they were aware their son had murdered Petito.
After a nationwide search, Petito’s body was found Sept. 19 at a campground near Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming. A coroner determined the cause of death was “blunt-force injuries to the head and neck, with manual strangulation.”
Brian Laundrie went missing during the search for Petito, and his partial remains were found on Oct. 20 in a Florida nature preserve.
The Petito family’s lawsuit now has an initial witness list, which includes Chris and Roberta Laundrie, law enforcement officers and others connected to the case. The initial witness list is routine, procedural, and far from a definitive list of names that would testify should the lawsuit reach a jury trial, but it does offer a glimpse into the strategy behind the lawsuit.
Plaintiff’s initial witness list
- Joseph Petito (Gabby Petito’s father)
- Nichole Schmidt (Gabby Petito’s mother)
- Tara Petito (Gabby Petito’s stepmother)
- James Schmidt (Gabby Petito’s stepfather)
- Christopher Laundrie (Brian Laundrie’s father)
- Roberta Laundrie (Brian Laundrie’s mother)
- Representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Names not specified)
- Representatives of the North Port Police Department (Names not specified)
“It’s a wish list,” Laundrie attorney Steven Bertolino said. “I’m sure [Petito and Schmidt attorney Pat Reilly] put every party on that list that [he] believes he needs testimony from to prove his case.”
The lawsuit filed earlier this year by Petito’s parents includes several significant allegations including claims that the Laundries sought to help their son flee the country and blocked communication with Petito’s family.
The Laundries, through their attorneys, have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming the allegations are “baseless.” The motion states “there are no more facts that could emerge that would bolster the plaintiff’s claim.”
Bertolino maintains his clients were following his legal guidance and exercising their constitutional right to remain silent while Petito was missing in September. In the motion to dismiss, they argue silence “is what most people would and should do” in a situation such as Petito’s disappearance.
Petito and Schmidt attorney Pat Reilly previously told WFLA that the argument for the lawsuit’s dismissal is “outrageous and ridiculous.”
Arguments for the motion to dismiss are scheduled to be heard in Sarasota County Circuit Court on Wednesday, June 22 at 1:30 p.m. in what will be the first court hearing in the Petito case. A ruling on the dismissal attempt is expected by mid-to-late summer.
Barring dismissal, a trial by jury has been set for the week of Aug. 14, 2023, at the South County Courthouse in Sarasota County, Florida.
Nichole Schmidt, Petito’s mother, has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Laundrie’s estate, accusing him of performing “intentional acts” that led to Petito’s death.