Brian Laundrie shared with his parents that Gabby Petito was 'gone' and he needed a lawyer: lawsuit

ByShawn Nottingham, CNN, CNNWire
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Lawsuit from Petito's parents claims Laundries knew Gabby was 'gone'
Kristin Thorne has more on the civil lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito's parents.

Brian Laundrie told his parents Gabby Petito was "gone" in what is described as a frantic phone call that took place three weeks before her remains were discovered, according to an amended civil complaint filed by Petito's parents on November 30.

Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt are suing Laundrie's parents and their attorney, claiming they intentionally withheld information about 22-year-old Gabby Petito's death, causing them pain and emotional distress.

Petito was reported missing by her family in September 2021 after she embarked on a trip with Laundrie, her fiancé. Authorities found her remains in Wyoming days later, on September 19, and a coroner ruled her cause of death strangulation. Laundrie returned to his Florida home and then vanished into a reserve for weeks, before investigators found his remains and a medical examiner ruled he died by suicide. Authorities said they found writings near his remains in which he claimed responsibility for Petito's death.

Petito's family has been involved in a legal battle against Laundrie's parents for more than a year, alleging they knew that their son killed Petito.

According to the recent complaint filed by Petito's parents, Laundrie called his parents on August 29, 2021, and told them Gabby was "gone" and he needed a lawyer.

The complaint does not explain how Petito's parents know about the alleged phone call.

Christopher and Roberta Laundrie are believed to have spoken to attorney Steven Bertolino that same day, sharing with him the message their son told them, the complaint alleges.

On September 2, 2021, Laundrie's parents sent Bertolino a retainer - usually a fee clients pay to secure an attorney's services - and Bertolino entered into a fee agreement with a criminal defense law firm in Wyoming, according to the complaint.

The legal services were retained to represent Brian Laundrie, the complaint alleges.

CNN has reached out to attorneys for the Laundries and Bertolino for comment.

Petito's parents first alleged Christopher and Roberta Laundrie knew their son had killed Gabby Petito in the spring of 2022. In an amendment to that lawsuit that came shortly after, her parents alleged that while authorities continued to search for the young woman, Laundrie's parents knew he had killed her and knew "the whereabouts of her body."

At the time of that amended complaint, Bertolino had told CNN the Laundrie family was confident the case would be dismissed.

In November 2022, a Florida judge ruled in favor of Petito's family in a wrongful death suit against Brian Laundrie's estate, awarding $3 million to Petito's mother as the administrator of her daughter's estate.