Gabby Petito’s parents appeared in a Florida courtroom on Wednesday, June 22.
Wednesday’s hearing was held to have the legal team for the Petito-Schmidt family explain to Judge Hunter W Carroll why the case needs a jury trial, and for the Laundrie family lawyer explain why the lawsuit should be dismissed.
Joe Petito & Nichole Schmidt Appeared In Court, The Laundries Didn’t
Chris and Roberta were not present during the hearing. They were represented by their Florida attorney, Matthew Luka, and virtually by Steven Bertolino.
Bertolino is not a Florida resident, so he is not able to represent them in a court of law in the state.
Joe and Nichole did appear alongside their lawyer Pat Reilly.
Judge Carroll also appeared virtually due to COVID-19 guidelines.
After each side presented their arguments for or against a jury trial, Judge Carroll said he would provide a written decision in response to the arguments within the next two weeks.
Judge Will Determine Whether Or Not A Jury Trial Is Needed In 2 Weeks
The judge set a tentative jury trial date for August 2023, but during Wednesday’s hearing he and Reilly discussed moving the trial up to the end of 2022 or at the beginning of the new year.
Reilly is confident he can try the case in one or two days given the witness list is short.
Throughout the hearing, Schmidt repeatedly grabbed onto our touched a necklace she was wearing. Reilly revealed outside the courthouse that the necklace Schmidt was wearing contained her daughter’s ashes.
Nichole Schmidt Wore Gabby’s Ashes Around Her Neck
The Blast reported on Gabby’s parents filing a lawsuit against Chris and Roberta in March.
Their 22-year-old daughter died at the hands of her fiancé Brian Laundrie in August 2021.
Laundrie returned home to North Port, FL. without Gabby in September. That same month her remains were recovered in Grand Teton National Park. She died by “manual strangulation.”
Her former fiancé later admitted to killing her in a notebook entry.
Gabby’s Parents Amended Their Lawsuit Against The Laundries
Petito, Schmidt and Reilly amended the original lawsuit filed in March and resubmitted it to Judge Carroll in April.
The Laundrie’s have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit entirely.
The amended suit claims Chris and Roberta went on vacation with Brian while knowing he had murdered Gabby, and they refused to disclose the location of her remains.
The lawsuit continues to claim the North Port, Florida residents knew all along Brian murdered his 22-year-old girlfriend and they looked into ways to help him flee the country.
One change to the lawsuit centers around the Laundries September trip to Fort DeSoto.
The amended lawsuit now claims the family went on vacation not only aware Brian had murdered Gabby, but also with the knowledge of where Petito’s body was located.
“While Gabrielle Petito’s family was suffering, the Laundrie family went on vacation to Fort DeSoto Park on September 6-7, 2021. They went on vacation knowing that Laundrie had murdered Gabrielle Petito, it is believed that they knew where her body was located, and further knew that Gabrielle Petito’s parents were attempting to locate her,” the suit says.
Another section of the amended lawsuit focused on the Laundries’ contact with law enforcement.
“Law enforcement” has been taken out and changed to read, “Despite the fact that Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt implored Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie to tell them if their daughter was alive, and if she was not, where her remains were located, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie refused to respond to either Joseph Petito or Nichole Schmidt or law enforcement.”
Bertolino has remained steadfast in his defense that “the Laundries exercised their constitutional right to refrain from speaking and have relied on counsel to speak for them.”
Section 31 was amended to specify claims the Laundries were cognizant of the pain and suffering Petito and Schmidt endured through Gabby’s disappearance.
The suit now reads, “Christopher Laundrie and [Roberta] Laundrie knew of the mental suffering and anguish of Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt in not knowing the well-being or location of their daughter, and further knew that such mental suffering and anguish increased each day that Gabrielle Petito was missing.”
It goes on to say, Chris and Roberta could’ve prevented Petito and Schmidt’s aforementioned mental suffering and anguish by disclosing what they knew about the well-being and location of the remains of Gabby; however, the Laundrie’s refused to do so.