SARASOTA, Florida (WABC) -- Gabby Petito's parents filed a civil lawsuit in a Florida court Thursday against the parents of Brian Laundrie, alleging they knew of Gabby's murder.
In the filing, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt claim that Laundrie "advised his parents...that he had murdered Gabrielle Petito" on or about August 28, 2021, a day after Petito's death.
According to the lawsuit, they are seeking damages in excess of $30,000 from Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, exclusive of prejudgment interest, costs, and attorney fees.
"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," Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino said. "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."
The suit was filed in Sarasota County and accuses Roberta Laundrie of blocking Schmidt on her cell phone and Facebook during the investigation.
It also alleges that Laundrie's parents knew their son had murdered Gabby when they issued a statement claiming that they hoped the search was successful and that she returned home safely.
The lawsuit cites the Laundries refusal to respond to or cooperate with authorities and goes on to allege that they were keeping Brian's whereabouts secret while making arrangements for him to leave the country.
Petito and Schmidt accused the Laundries of acting with malice or great indifference and extreme and outrageous conduct, which "goes beyond all possible bounds of decency and is regarded as shocking, atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community," according to the filing.
"As a direct and proximate result of the willfulness and maliciousness of Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt had been caused to suffer pain and suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life experienced in the past and to be experienced in the future," the lawsuit claims.
Brian Laundrie's skeletal remains were found in a thickly wooded area in the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County in October, and his death was ruled a suicide.
He had been the subject of a weekslong manhunt when his body was found, and the FBI has said he claimed responsibility for killing Petito in a notebook found near his body.
Petito family attorney Rick Stafford released the following statement:
Brian Laundrie murdered Gabby Petito in Wyoming on August 27, 2021 while they were on a cross country trip. Gabby and Brian were engaged to be married and would have been part of the Laundrie family. This meant nothing to Christopher and Roberta Laundrie after their son ended Gabby's life. We believe Christopher and Roberta became aware of Gabby's murder on August 28, 2021. There were multiple conversations between Brian, his parents and their lawyer Steven Bertolino before Brian left Wyoming on August 30, 2021. Christopher and Roberta had multiple opportunities to disclose to Joe, Nichole or the authorities that Gabby was no longer alive and to direct them to her body. Instead, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie showed callous indifference to the suffering of Gabby's family and compounded her family's anguish, pain and suffering by their actions. For this, Christopher and Roberta must be held accountable.
Petito's remains were found in Wyoming on September 19, one month after she disappeared while on a road trip with Laundrie.
A coroner determined she'd died about three weeks earlier of "blunt-force injuries to the head and neck, with manual strangulation."
The couple had been documenting their trip on Instagram and on August 12 were stopped by police in Moab, Utah, after the two got into a scuffle.
Police video showed Petito describing a fight that escalated, and they concluded Petito was the aggressor but decided to separate them for the night rather than file charges.
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