A statement from the family of Gabby Petito has raised the question of whether charges could be coming in connection with the investigation into her death.
On Tuesday, it was announced that her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, who was the subject of a massive manhunt before his body was found in a Florida nature reserve on Oct. 20, had taken his own life.
The body of Petito, who had been traveling with Laundrie, was found in September in Wyoming. Her death was ruled a homicide, and Laundrie was named as a person of interest.
“Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head and the manner of death was suicide,” the family’s attorney, Steven Bertolino said Tuesday, according to WFLA-TV. “Chris and Roberta are still mourning the loss of their son and are hopeful that these findings bring closure to both families.”
Following that announcement, Petito’s family issued a statement.
“The Schmidt and Petito family has been aware of the circumstances surrounding the suicide of the sole suspect in Gabby’s murder,” attorney Richard Stafford said in the statement. Petito’s mother is Nicole Schmidt.
“Gabby’s family will not be making a statement at this time due to the request of the United States Attorney’s Office and the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office,” Stafford said. “The family was asked to not make any comments and let the FBI continue their investigation.”
“The family was also asked to wait for the United States Attorney’s Office to make a determination on whether any additional individuals will be charged,” he said, adding that the family would comment once that decision was made.
Bertolino said one gun from the family’s collection of weapons was missing at the time they surrendered their guns to police, according to Insider.
“It’s unclear whether the missing gun is the one Laundrie used to kill himself,” the report said. “It’s also unclear whether there was a gun among Laundrie’s belongings next to where he was found.”
Bertolino said the family kept quiet internally about the missing gun.
“We didn’t want the public going into a frenzy on that. I don’t think they considered him dangerous to anybody he met on the street,” he told the Daily Mail.
Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani speculated to Fox News what the Petito family statement could mean in relation to Laundrie’s parents.
“Their son returned without his fiancée, and they didn’t report Gabby missing,” Rahmani said. “If they helped Brian escape law enforcement by giving him a head start, they can be charged with being accessories after the fact to murder.”
Laundrie’s parents also could face charges if they lied to law enforcement, he said.
“Their eventually leading agents to Brian’s remains makes charges less likely, but what the Laundrie parents told law enforcement, and when, is key to any prosecution decision,” Rahmani said.
Mark O’Mara, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, has said charges against the parents would be hard to make stand up in court, according to WFLA-TV.
“All of the criminal charges are going to be extraordinarily difficult to prove for the government,” O’Mara said. “One, they don’t have Brian’s testimony. If he’s passed, obviously, and [the] Laundries themselves are not going to testify about what they knew or didn’t know.
“So we would all have to be from outside or extraneous evidence that somehow they can prove by their actions, maybe by phone messages, maybe by some forensic evidence, that there was ongoing contact.”
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