The first hearing has been held in a lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito’s family against the parents of her alleged killer and former fiancé Brian Laundrie.
The hearing happened on Wednesday, June 20 in Venice, Florida, will determine if the lawsuit filed by Petito's parents will continue to a jury trial.
The suit, filed in March by Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt, on the grounds of "intentional infliction of emotional distress," claims Laundrie's parents knew their late son Brian, age 23, of North Port, Florida, had murdered their daughter and chose not to act.
Gabby, age 22, of Blue Point, on Long Island, was reported missing by her mother on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2021, after she learned Brian returned to Florida from a cross-country trip in Gabby's van without her.
Her body was found on Sunday, Sept. 19, in a remote area within the Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Utah after an intensive search by the FBI and local enforcement agencies.
She was found approximately three weeks after her last known communication with family members.
“While Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt were desperately searching for information concerning their daughter, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie were keeping the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie secret, and it is believed were making arrangements for him to leave the country,” the suit says.
Steven Bertolino, the attorney representing the Laundries has called the allegations in the lawsuit “baseless," News Channel 8 WFLA-TV said.
The couple is asking for $30,000 in damages to pay for attorney's fees and suffering.
Earlier this year, the FBI said Laundrie strangled Petito during a cross-country trip. He then drove Gabby's van home to Florida.
After returning to Florida, Laundrie disappeared while "hiking" in a nature preserve near his home.
His remains were found after an intensive search by numerous law enforcement, including the FBI.
Shortly after his body was found, the FBI said Laundrie took responsibility for Gabby's death.
"Investigators found human remains later confirmed to be Mr. Laundrie, along with a backpack, notebook, and a revolver," the FBI said in a statement. "A review of the notebook revealed written statements by Mr. Laundrie claiming responsibility for Ms. Petito’s death."
The Laundries did not attend Wednesday’s pre-trial hearing, and their attorney, Steven Bertolino, appeared virtually, according to Fox News.
A decision on whether to grant a dismissal, as requested by the Laundries, or proceed to trial is expected to be released by the judge early this summer, News 8 said.
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