Over eight months after suspected murderer Brian Laundrie was found dead, the mystery surrounding his girlfriend’s death continues to swirl.
On Thursday, The U.S. Sun reported Judge Hunter W. Carroll ruled the family of the late Gabby Petito had the right to sue Laundrie’s parents in relation to her death.
The ruling stemmed from a statement made by the Laundrie family’s attorney, Steven Bertolino, prior to Petito’s death being confirmed.
“On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family,” Bertolino said at the time.
While Petito’s death had not been publicly confirmed when Bertolino made this statement, he allegedly knew she was dead before making the statement, the Sun reported. Carroll ruled this provided false hope to the Petito family, and he denied the Laundrie’s request to dismiss a lawsuit against them.
“Because the Laundries’ statement by their attorney in the context of the unique faces of this case is objectively outrageous, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs [Petitos] have stated causes of actions for intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Laundries,” Carroll wrote.
Patrick Reilly was the attorney who argued on behalf of the Petito family, and he argued the case was about much more than the Fifth Amendment rights of the Laundrie family.
“This is case not simply about the silence of [Roberta] and Christopher Laundrie who knew their son had brutally murdered Gabby Petito,” Reilly told the court, according to the UK’s Daily Mail.
He also said it was not about the Laundrie family’s “callous refusal despite pleas from the Petito family” to speak out about Gabby Petito’s whereabouts.
“It’s about a course of conduct that they committed from when they learned on August 28, 2021 that their son had brutally murdered Gabby Petito,” Reilly said.
In his ruling, Carroll appeared to agree with Reilly’s argument.
“If the facts of this case truly were about silence with no affirmative act by the Laundries, the Court would have resolved this case in the Laundries’ favor on the concept of legal duty,” Carroll wrote. “But they did not stay silent.”
The ruling paves the way for Joseph Petito and his ex-wife Nichole Schmidt to pursue their lawsuit against Christopher and Roberta Laundrie. The Petito family is seeking $30,000 in damages, the Daily Mail reported.
Carroll’s decision comes just days after it was revealed that a notebook recovered alongside Brian Laundrie’s body last year allegedly contained a note confessing to Gabby Petito’s murder.
According to Fox News, the FBI found the journal on Oct. 20, 2021, at Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Florida. This was the same day they found Laundrie’s body and confirmed his death.
“I ended her life,” the note said. “I thought it was merciful, that it is what she wanted, but I see now all the mistakes I made. I panicked. I was in shock.”
In the note, Laundrie claimed he killed Petito after she injured herself in Wyoming while the two were on a road trip together. He said she fell while the two were trying to cross Spread Creek, and he eventually killed her because she was in pain.
“From the moment I decided, took away her pain, I knew I couldn’t go on without her,” the note said.
Laundrie also pleaded in the note multiple times that the reader would not blame his parents for Petito’s death.
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