The parents of Gabby Petito will possibly face the parents of Brian Laundrie for a jury trial in 2023 in Florida.
The civil lawsuit filed by Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt last month alleges that 23-year-old Laundrie told his parents on or around Aug. 28 that he murdered 22-year-old Petito while on their summer cross-country road trip. Chris and Roberta Laundrie allegedly allowed him to return in Petito’s van to their home in North Port, Florida, hid his whereabouts and made arrangements for him to flee the country.
Petito’s body wasn’t found until Sept. 19 along the border of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. A coroner ruled she died by homicide after being strangled to death at least three weeks before. Laundrie’s partial remains were found more than a month later in Florida at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, a reserve where his family had frequently gone camping.
The FBI said Laundrie died by self-inflicted gunshot wound and left a note admitting he killed Petito.
Sarasota County court documents filed this week indicate a jury trial was ordered for the lawsuit, with the tentative date set for Aug. 14, 2023, Fox 13 Tampa Bay reported. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May. The attorney for the Laundries, Steven Bertolino, has already filed a motion seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, calling its claims "baseless" and "frivolous" and arguing that the Laundries had no legal obligation to speak with law enforcement or any third party, including the Petito family.
In response to the motion, Judge Hunter W. Carroll allowed the attorneys for both parties 20 days to file an amended complaint and will then address the merits of the request for dismissal.
The attorney for the Petito family, Pat Reilly, told WFLA he has a "high confidence level" the suit will reach jury trial. Petito’s family is seeking more than $100,000 in damages, stating that they suffered pain and mental anguish as a result of the "willfulness and maliciousness" of the Laundries. The lawsuit claims that Roberta Laundrie blocked Schmidt’s cell phone and Facebook when she repeatedly pleaded for information regarding the whereabouts of Petito, who had lived with the Laundries for a year.
WFLA reported that the jury trial, barring dismissal, is expected to be open to the public at the South County Courthouse in Venice, Florida, and will likely draw international media attention. The trial’s term window won’t begin until next year because of scheduling in Sarasota County’s court system.