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Jury trial ordered in Petito family lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's parents

The trial isn't set to take place until 2023.

NORTH PORT, Fla. — A jury trial has been ordered and put on the docket for a lawsuit Gabby Petito's family filed against Brian Laundrie's parents — but it won't be happening any time soon.

According to documents filed in the Sarasota County Clerk of Courts, a jury trial is set for 9:00 a.m. on Aug. 14, 2023. The trial, if reached, will last three days and be held at a courthouse in Venice. 

In the lawsuit, Petito's family claims that Laundrie's parents knew he murdered their daughter and were attempting to help him escape. However, the Laundrie family's lawyer, Steven Bertolino, called those accusations "baseless" and "frivolous."

Petito's parents claim that on or about Aug. 28, 2021, Laundrie told his parents he had killed his fianceé. It would be that same day that Laundrie's parents contacted Bertolino, and sent him a retainer five days later, according to court documents.

The lawsuit also alleges the Laundries went on a family vacation while Petito's family was "extremely distraught" and that Roberta blocked Gabby's mother Nichole's calls, texts, and on Facebook in an "effort to avoid any contact."

Bertolino says Brian's parents were just exercising their "constitutional rights" by refraining from speaking.

"The Laundries’ rights are inalienable and the Laundries can never be liable for exercising their legal rights in a permissible way," Bertolino said, in part. 

As a result of the Laundrie's actions, the lawsuit alleges Petito's parents suffered pain, mental anguish, inconvenience and a loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.

The family is seeking damages in excess of $30,000.

10 Tampa Bay has requested comment from both family's attorneys on the latest proceedings. This story will be updated once we hear back.

   

Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11, 2021, after setting out on a cross-country trip with Laundrie. Her disappearance captured the nation's attention when the 23-year-old returned home to North Port with the van but without her. 

FBI Denver would later confirm that her body was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest. A final autopsy determined she was killed by "manual strangulation," according to the Teton County, Wyoming coroner. It was estimated that Petito had died three to four weeks before her body was found.

Laundrie was the only named person of interest in the disappearance and homicide of his fianceé. A federal arrest warrant was also issued for the 23-year-old in connection with Petito's case. Court documents show a grand jury charged Laundrie with "knowingly with intent to defraud" using a Capital One debit card in the amount of at least $1,000.

Laundrie, himself, was reported missing on Sept. 17, 2021, after his parents said he went for a hike on Sept. 13 and never returned home. Detectives and FBI agents searched the vast Carlton Reserve area in Sarasota County for more than a month, looking in the only place they had seen a sign of Laundrie.

His parents, Roberta and Chris, helped search the reserve twice, each time with North Port police officers. On their second attempt on Oct. 20, Laundrie's father found a drybag and brought it to the officers. Authorities then say they found skeletal remains nearby, along with a notebook and other personal items.

The FBI positively identified Laundrie's remains one day later on Oct. 21. A final autopsy would determine he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Investigators say Laundrie claimed responsibility for killing Petito in a notebook recovered in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park.

"All logical investigative steps have been concluded in this case," said FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider in a statement at the time. "The investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito.

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