Gabby Petito case: Brian Laundrie’s parents could go on trial in weeks as judge cites Depp Heard case

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Lawyers for Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie will come face-to-face in court for the first time on Wednesday as a judge will decide whether a civil lawsuit against the killer’s family can go ahead.

Ms Petito’s parents filed a lawsuit in Florida’s Sarasota County Circuit Court in March alleging that Chris and Roberta Laundrie were aware that their son had killed the vlogger before she was reported missing.

Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt also accuse the Laundries of planning to help Brian leave the country, and are seeking damages for the “intentional infliction of emotional distress”.

Laundrie family attorney Steve Bertolino has described the allegations as “baseless” and is seeking to have the case thrown out, while the judge presiding over the case cited the defamation ruling against Johnny Depp, which was due to a statement made by his lawyer that Amber Heard’s abuse allegations were a “hoax”.

“Johnny Depp just got found civilly liable for defamation for what his attorney said, right?” the judge asked Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges Brian Laundrie informed his parents of the Ms Petito’s murder “on or about” 28 August.

Judge Hunter W. Carroll will hear arguments from both sides to determine whether the case can proceed to a jury trial next year.

Petito parents allege Laundrie family knew she was dead

  • Chris and Robert Laundrie seek to have case dismissed

  • Petitos seeking jury trial and damages

  • Gabby Petito was killed by manual strangulation by Laundrie

  • Judge cites Depp Heard case during Laundrie hearing

Pat Reilly starts arguments for Petito family

Wednesday 22 June 2022 19:14 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: “This case is not just about the silence of Christopher and Roberta Laundrie who knew that their son had brutally murdered Gabby Petito, it’s not simply about their callous refusal despite pleas from the Petito family to speak up about whether Gabby was live and if she was where her body was located, it is about a course of conduct that they committed from the moment they learned that their son had brutally murdered gabby Petitio until her body was found,” said Mr Reilly.

Petito family arrive in court

Wednesday 22 June 2022 18:31 , Bevan Hurley

Members of Gabby Petito’s family have arrived at the Sarasota County Circuit Court in Venice ahead of a hearing in their civil case agains Brian Laundrie’s family.

Joe and Tara Petito and Jim and Nichole Schmidt will be in court for the hearing.

Court case gets underway in Florida

Wednesday 22 June 2022 18:33 , Graeme Massie

Petito family are present while Laundrie family are not.

Laundrie lawyer up first to argue against case

Wednesday 22 June 2022 18:35 , Graeme Massie

“The law imposes no such obligation to speak,” said Laundrie lawyer Matt Luka. “In our country and under our laws, people are free not to speak.”

Laundrie parents “not required” to share any information

Wednesday 22 June 2022 18:44 , Graeme Massie

“My argument is not that there was a privilege between Brian Laundrie and his parents, my argument is that even if Brian Laundrie conveyed information to his parents they do not have a requirement to speak, they do not have to share it,” said Mr Luka.

Remaining silent is a ‘foundational right’ says Laundrie lawyer

Wednesday 22 June 2022 18:50 , Graeme Massie

“People who are faced with difficult challenges have to make difficult choices and in our society it recognises at its core that remaining silent or speaking through an attorney are foundational rights,” said Mr Luka.

Judge brings up Johnny Depp case

Wednesday 22 June 2022 18:57 , Graeme Massie

Judge Hunter W Carroll brought up the fact that Johnny Depp had just been guilty of defamation because of a statement made by his lawyer about Amber Heard.

Laundry lawyer finishes argument

Wednesday 22 June 2022 19:10 , Graeme Massie

“I don’t believe that the Laundries had an obligation to provde some information, they can withhold all information until it is compelled of them or offered immunity by the government,” said Mr Luka as he completed his arguments.

Petito layer says Laundrie family could have made ‘anonymous phone call’

Wednesday 22 June 2022 19:18 , Graeme Massie

“They could have made an anonymous phone call and said where the body was located, that would have helped this situation tremendously,” said Mr Reilly.

“They knew starting on August 28 2021 that Gabby was dead, they knew where gabby’s body was, they knew that the Petito family was desperately searching for information, but they did things affirmatively, they did not just remain silent.”

Arguments finished by lawyers

Wednesday 22 June 2022 19:46 , Graeme Massie

Judge says he will try and make a written decision in the case within two weeks, as the Petito’s lawyer says that if trial goes ahead it will only take a day.

Petito family leave Florida courthouse

Wednesday 22 June 2022 19:52 , Graeme Massie

Gabby Petito’s family has left a Florida courthouse after the first hearing in their civil case against Brian Laundrie’s parents, who did not appear for the hearing. A judge will make a written decision within two weeks on whether the case will go to a jury trial.

Brian Laundrie’s parents will not be charged in connection with Gabby Petito murder

Wednesday 22 June 2022 20:31 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: While the civil lawsuit case continues, Chris and Roberta Laundrie are not facing criminal prosecution over Gabby Petito’s homicide.

The Laundries had been criticised by Ms Petito’s family for remaining steadfastly silent amid intense public scrutiny as their son Brian became the subject of a nationwide FBI manhunt.

An FBI investigation concluded in January that Laundrie was the sole person responsible for the “tragic death of Gabby Petito” as it announced it was wrapping up its four and a half month long investigation.

Brian Laundrie’s parents will not be charged in connection with Gabby Petito murder

Who are Christopher and Roberta Laundrie?

Wednesday 22 June 2022 21:04 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: Chris and Roberta Laundrie led authorities to personal items belonging to their son Brian in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on 20 October, marking the most significant update in the hunt for their fugitive son since he disappeared in mid-August.

Later the same day, human remains were found in the area later, and have been confirmed to be Brian Laundrie.

Prior to the discovery, the parents had remained steadfastly silent amid intense public scrutiny as their son Brian became the subject of a nationwide FBI manhunt.

They had initially refused to speak to police, but later sat down for interviews with the FBI and released carefully-worded statements through their lawyer Steve Bertolino.

Read more about Chris and Roberta Laundrie here.

Who are Brian Laundrie’s parents?

Gabby Petito trial: Brian Laundrie’s parents skip hearing

Wednesday 22 June 2022 21:33 , Graeme Massie

Brian Laundrie’s parents failed to turn up to court on Wednesday to hear allegations they knew crucial details about Gabby Petito’s murder before she had been found.

Chris and Roberta Laundrie were notable absences as the Petito’s attorney Pat Reilly argued they had deliberately withheld information that could have saved the vlogger’s family immense suffering.

Bevan Hurley has the story.

Gabby Petito trial: Brian Laundrie’s parents skip hearing

List of potential witnesses at next year’s jury trial

Wednesday 22 June 2022 21:45 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: In May, the Petito family’s attorneys issued a list of names they would seek to call at trial.

The names included Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, Gabby’s mother and father, Tara Petito and James Schmidt, her stepmother and stepfather.

Also on the witness list were Brian Laundrie’s parents Chris and Roberta, and representatives of the FBI and North Post Police Department.

Laundrie attorney Steve Bertolino told WFLA at the time it was a “wish list”.

A trial would likely take place in August 2023.

Joe and Tara Petito at a press conference in 2021 (Associated Press)
Joe and Tara Petito at a press conference in 2021 (Associated Press)

Brian Laundrie admits killing Gabby Petito in ‘suicide note’ found near his remains

Wednesday 22 June 2022 22:04 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: The FBI revealed in January that Brian Laundrie claimed responsibility for the murder of Gabby Petito’s death in a “suicide note” found near his remains.

It found Laundrie was solely responsible for the “tragic death of Gabby Petito” as it announced it was wrapping up its four and a half month long investigation.

A notebook recovered near Laundrie’s remains in Florida’s Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park contained a written confession, the FBI said.

“A review of the notebook revealed written statements by Mr Laundrie claiming responsibility for Ms Petito’s death,” the FBI said in a statement.

Brian Laundrie admits killing Gabby Petito in ‘suicide note’ found near his remains

The sad, twisting saga of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie

Wednesday 22 June 2022 22:35 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: It began with the most modest of announcements.

“Blue Point Woman Reported Missing,” the Suffolk County Police Department tweeted on 13 September.

Not everyone who spotted the announcement would necessarily have feared the worst. It was certainly odd that the vehicle she had been travelling in had returned without her. Yet people are reported missing all the time. And it is not unheard of for young people to get off the grid for all sorts of reasons.

What we know now is that by the time her parents reported her missing, and the Suffolk County Police Department posted its one-line statement, the 22-year-old woman was already dead, having been strangled to death around two weeks earlier in the Spread Creek campsite, 20 miles north of Jackson Hole.

Read Andrew Buncombe’s recap of what the Gabby Petito tells us about America.

The sad saga of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie – and what it tells us about America 

Judge raises Johnny Depp’s defamation of Amber Heard

Wednesday 22 June 2022 23:01 , Graeme Massie

Johnny Depp’s defamation of Amber Heard was raised during a civil court hearing to determine whether Gabby Petito’s family can sue the parents of Brian Laundrie.

Ms Petito’s parents Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt allege that Chris and Roberta Laundrie released a misleading statement through their lawyer that their daughter was still alive when they knew their son Brian had already killed her.

Bevan Hurley has all the details.

Gabby Petito trial: Judge raises Johnny Depp’s defamation of Amber Heard

Why Gabby Petito’s parents are suing Chris and Roberta Laundrie

Wednesday 22 June 2022 23:37 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: Petito family alleges that Brian Laundrie’s family knew he had killed her and were planning to help him escape.

Bevan Hurley has the story.

Why Gabby Petito’s parents are suing Chris and Roberta Laundrie

The man who became the most trusted source in the Gabby Petito case

Thursday 23 June 2022 00:04 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: Brian Entin, NewsNation’s senior correspondent, covered the Gabby Petito case 16 hours a day for several months, and became renowned for his commitment to getting out accurate, timely information.

He spoke to The Independent in November about how he pursued the case, and how it might be resolved.

The little-known reporter who broke the biggest story in America

Brian Laundrie’s parents ‘knew where her body was'

01:06 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: Brian Laundrie’s parents knew where Gabby Petito’s body had when they put out a statement hoping she would be found, a civil court hearing has been told.

Ms Petito’s parents Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt are suing the Laundries in Florida’s Sarasota County Circuit Court alleging that Chris and Roberta Laundrie deliberately withheld that their son had killed the vlogger before she was reported missing.

Bevan Hurley has the story.

Gabby Petito trial: Brian Laundrie’s parents ‘knew where her body was’

Gabby’s mother rubs heart-shaped locket during hearing

02:03 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: Gabby Petito’s mother Nichole Schmidt could be seen rubbing a heart-shaped locket as the hearing continued.

 (YouTube/WFLA)
(YouTube/WFLA)

Gabby Petito’s mother files wrongful death lawsuit against Brian Laundrie estate

03:02 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: In a separate civil lawsuit, Gabby Petito’s mother has filed a wrongful death claim against Brian Laundrie’s estate seeking $30,000 in damages.

Nichole Schmidt states in the suit that Laundrie intentionally killed her 22-year-old daughter, causing her and her ex-husband Joseph Petito to incur funeral and burial expenses, and suffer “a loss of probable future companionship, society and comfort”.

Ms Schmidt is seeking a trial by jury and a judgment for compensatory damages in the suit.

Read more:

Gabby Petito’s mother files wrongful death lawsuit against Brian Laundrie estate

Everything we know about Gabby Petito’s murder on ‘dream’ road trip

04:05 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: Gabby Petito, 22, an aspiring social media star who went missing in late August during a “dream” cross-country road trip from New York to Oregon with her fiancé, was strangled to death, and her body found in a Wyoming national park.

More than a month later, skeletal human remains found inside the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Florida were confirmed to be those of her fiancé Brian Laundrie.

Autopsy results showed Laundrie died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and a notebook found alongside the remains contained a note claiming responsibility for the murder.

Read about the background to the case here.

Everything we know about Gabby Petito’s murder on ‘dream’ road trip

Laundrie sent text messages to try and make police think Gabby Petito was still alive

06:01 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: The FBI revealed in January that Brian Laundrie sent text messages to Gabby Petito’s phone to try and make the authorities think the murdered young woman was still alive.

As the FBI concluded its investigation into her murder and made clear there was no plan to charge Laundries’ parents in connection with her disappearance, the FBI said it had examined text messages sent by Laundrie to his fiancée’s phone after he had murdered her.

“After Ms Petito’s death, there were several text messages identified between Mr Laundrie’s telephone and Ms Petito’s telephone,” said the final report.

“The timing and content of these messages are indicative of Mr Laundrie attempting to deceive law enforcement by giving the impression that Ms Petito was still alive.”

The authorities said they had also examined Laundrie’s belongings and found among them a notebook in which the 24-year-old confessed to killing her.

Who’s who in Petito v Laundrie court hearing

08:01 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: The hearing to determine whether a civil lawsuit brought by Gabby Petito’s parents can proceed to trial is scheduled to begin at 1.30pm ET in the Sarasota County Circuit Court in Venice, Florida.

Fox News reports that the Petito-Schmidt families will attend the hearing in person. However, the Laundries are not planning to attend or appear via video link.

Florida attorney Pat Reilly will represent the Petito family.

Matthew Luka will appear as a defense attorney for the Laundries. Their family attorney Steve Bertolino is also expected to appear via video link.

The hearing is open to cameras.

Judge Hunter W. Carroll will hear arguments from both sides to determine whether the case can proceed to a jury trial next year.

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito (Instagram)
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito (Instagram)

Judge asks what legal duty Laundrie family had to Gabby’s parents

10:10 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: “These people were not strangers, their son was engaged to marry Gabby Petito, she had lived with them for about a year, they had visited their home, they had a cordial, warm and friendly relationship, they knew how much Gabby meant to Joe and Nichole,” said Mr Reilly, who called a statement released by the Laundrie family’s lawyer as “callous” and “terrible.”

The statement released by the Laundrie’s lawyer during the hunt for Petito that he is referring to was as follows.

“It is our understanding that a search has been organised for Ms Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family it is our hope that the search for Ms Petito is successful and that Ms Petito is reunited with her family.”

Mr Reilly went on to say that the statement “was a lie that gave false hope to gabby's parents that she might be found alive."

Judge cites Johnny Depp’s defamation of Amber Heard during hearing

11:55 , Johanna Chisholm

Johnny Depp’s defamation of Amber Heard was raised during a civil court hearing to determine whether Gabby Petito’s family can sue the parents of Brian Laundrie.

Ms Petito’s parents Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt allege that Chris and Roberta Laundrie released a misleading statement through their lawyer that their daughter was still alive when they knew their son Brian had already killed her.

Judge Hunter W Carroll brought up the defamation ruling against Mr Depp, which was due to a statement made by his lawyer that Ms Heard’s abuse allegations were a “hoax”.

“Aren’t we responsible for the words that we say, when we say them,” the judge asked during the Wednesday hearing, adding: “Johnny Depp just got found civilly liable for defamation for what his attorney said, right?”

Continue reading the full story from The Independent’s Bevan Hurley below:

Gabby Petito case: Judge raises Johnny Depp’s defamation of Amber Heard

The sad, twisting saga of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie – and what it tells us about America

12:05 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: Many questions remain unanswered, but the case is a tragedy for all concerned, writes Andrew Buncombe.

The sad saga of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie – and what it tells us about America 

Laundrie lawyer says parents of Brian did ‘everything the right way’

13:32 , Johanna Chisholm

The lawyer representing the parents of Brian Laundrie says he has “no regrets” with how Chris Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie handled Gabby Petito’s case.

“What I knew, or what Chris and Roberta knew, we did not have to disclose, to any third party, and specifically to law enforcement, or the Petito family,” Steven Bertolino said during an interview with NewsNation on Wednesday night.

The remarks came hours after an initial hearing in the lawsuit brought forward by Ms Petito’s parents, who allege that Chris and Roberta Laundrie released a misleading statement through their lawyer that their daughter was still alive when they knew their son Brian had already killed her.

“I did everything the right way. We have no regrets. The parents did everything the right way, and they have no regrets,” Mr Bertolino said, before highlighting that it was not in his purview to comment on what the pair knew or didn’t know at the time of Ms Petitio’s disappearance.

“I can tell you what I knew … perhaps, one day what Brian knew, but none of that’s gonna happen tonight on this show,” Mr Bertolino closed.

Is justice coming to Yellowstone’s ‘Zone of Death’? Gabby Petito ignites call for action on lawless land

14:01 , Graeme Massie

ICYMI: After decades of inaction, Idaho is pushing to address the infamous “Zone of Death” in its portion of Yellowstone National Park.

Last week, State Rep Colin Nash, a Democrat from Boise, introduced a measure asking the Congress to change the federal district court jurisdiction for the roughly 50-mile portion of the park in Idaho where presently a theory holds that people can commit crimes with impunity.

That’s right — there is a small portion of Yellowstone where legal experts believe it could be impossible to prosecute crimes.

What’s next for Yellowstone’s ‘Zone of Death’? Lawless land linked to Gabby Petito

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