The Long Island attorney who received nationwide attention as he represented the parents of Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito's admitted killer during the 2021 search for the Blue Point native has been added as a defendant in a pending civil lawsuit in connection with the young woman's death.
A Florida judge granted the request of the attorney for Petito's parents to add East Islip attorney Steven Bertolino to the suit filed against the parents of Petito's killer and ex-fiance Brian Laundrie, in a ruling from the bench.
"The decision was not unexpected," Bertolino said Wednesday. "This incident, like all others, will work out in the end. One way or the other."
Petito’s parents — Nichole Schmidt and Joe Petito — filed suit in March, claiming they were subjected to intentional infliction of emotional distress at the hands of Laundrie’s parents, Roberta and Christopher Laundrie, when they allegedly ignored the family’s pleas to help them locate their daughter after she went missing in the late summer of 2021.
Petito's body was found Sept. 19 in a national forest in Wyoming where she and Laundrie had stopped while on a cross-country road trip. Laundrie killed himself. The FBI has said Laundrie took “responsibility” for Petito’s death in a notebook found near his body, in which he allegedly wrote: "I ended her life."
The attorney for Petito's parents, Florida-based attorney Patrick J. Reilly, filed a motion last month seeking to add Bertolino to the suit, alleging he was aware that Laundrie had killed Petito but issued public statements that gave the impression Petito could still be alive.
Reilly cited a Sept. 14, 2021, statement issued to the news media that 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.”
Reilly has alleged previously that when the statement was issued, Bertolino and the Laundries knew that Petito was already dead, therefore the statement was "insensitive, coldhearted and outrageous."
Reilly did not respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.
In early November, Petito's family also filed a $50 million lawsuit against a Utah police department, alleging that Petito would still be alive if officers had followed the law during a traffic stop two weeks before her death. That suit is also pending.