The parents of Blue Point native Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito have alleged in an amendment to their ongoing lawsuit that Brian Laundrie told his parents that Petito was “gone” and he needed a lawyer during a frantic phone call weeks before her body was found in September 2021 in a national forest in Wyoming.
The new allegations are contained in an amended complaint to the lawsuit filed in 2022 against Roberta and Christopher Laundrie, alleging they knew Petito was dead but acted with "malice and great indifference" to the rights of Petito's parents because of the Laundries’ “willfulness and maliciousness” in withholding information about Petito from the time she was last heard from until her body was found.
Pat Reilly, the attorney for Petito’s parents — Nichole Schmidt and Joe Petito — said in an email Wednesday that the new allegations were “obtained from the deposition of the Laundries and Attorney Bertolino in mid-October … They have acknowledged that they knew Gabby was deceased at the time that Attorney [Steven[ Bertolino issued a statement on their behalf on 9/14/21 that they hoped the search for Gabby was successful and the family was reunited. This establishes the outrageousness of their statement.”
A civil trial in the case is scheduled for May.
The attorney for Petito’s parents — Nichole Schmidt and Joe Petito — did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsday. But their Florida-based attorney Pat Reilly said in other interviews that the new information came from depositions taken from both Laundrie parents in the lead-up to the civil trial scheduled for May 2024.
Florida-based attorneys for the Laundries did not respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.
East Islip-based attorney Steven Bertolino, who has represented the Laundries and was added as a defendant to the lawsuit earlier this year, said Tuesday: “That information is not the full version of what was testified to during the depositions but somewhat accurate. We will be filing our answers in the next few days.”
Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, who were engaged, had departed Long Island on a cross country, cross-country skiing trip in Petito’s white van in July 2021. She last communicated with her family by phone on Aug. 27, 2021 — the day Petito's family believes Laundrie killed their daughter, according to the lawsuit.
Petito’s body was found Sept. 19, 2021, in a national forest in Wyoming "near where she and Brian Laundrie had been seen together," the FBI has said. Petito died as a result of "blunt-force injuries to the head and neck and manual strangulation,” the Teton County coroner’s office has said. Laundrie, who later died by suicide, confessed to killing Petito in a note found near his body, the FBI has said.
The Nov. 30 amended complaint also claims that Laundrie's parents called Bertolino that same day — Aug. 29, 2021 — and told him that Petito was “gone” and they entered into a retainer agreement with Bertolino, who days later hired a Laramie, Wyoming-based criminal defense firm to represent Laundrie. The complaint also claims that before that, Bertolino sought to hire other lawyers in Wyoming to represent Laundrie, including a public defender’s office in Wyoming in the same county where Petito’s body was later found.
Reilly has previously called a statement issued by Bertolino on behalf of the Laundries to be “insensitive, coldhearted and outrageous” because, Reilly alleged, Bertolino and the Laundries already knew Petito was dead. The statement issued to the media on Sept. 14, 2021, said: “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.”
Petito’s mother was awarded $3 million in a wrongful-death lawsuit against Laundrie’s estate last year.