Brian Laundrie allegedly called his parents nearly two weeks before Gabby Petito was reported missing, saying his fiancée was “gone” and he needed a lawyer, according to new court filings. Petito, 22, and Laundrie were on a cross-country road trip in the summer of 2021 when she vanished, in a case that made headlines across the globe.
Laundrie disappeared while he was named person of interest in the case and was found dead in Florida one month after Petito's body was found in a national forest in Wyoming. Officials said he left a note saying he was responsible for her death.
Petito's parents — Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt — allege that Laundrie's parents and their attorney knew Petito was dead but lied to them and the public by issuing messages of hope that she'd be found.
In an amended complaint filed Nov. 30 in the Petito lawsuit against Christopher and Roberta Laundrie and lawyer Steven Bertolino, Petito's parents allege that Brian Laundrie told his parents “in a frantic telephone call” that Gabby was “gone” and he “needed a lawyer” on Aug. 29, 2021.
That's 13 days before Petito's mother reported her missing on Sept. 11, 2021.
“On August 29, 2021, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie spoke with Steven Bertolino, advising him that Gabrielle Petito was ‘gone,’ that Brian Laundrie needed a lawyer, and sent him a retainer on September 2, 2021,” the complaint said.
On Sept. 2, 2021, Bertolino allegedly entered into a fee agreement with criminal defense law firm Fleener Peterson LLC in Laramie, Wyoming, to represent Laundrie. He allegedly also contacted other attorneys in Wyoming to represent Brian Laundrie, including a public defender’s office in the same county where Petito’s body was ultimately discovered.
Those allegations were revealed during depositions of the Laundries in October, Pat Reilly, an attorney for the Petito family, said Monday.
In a statement, Bertolino said: "We have no comment to the filed allegations. We will be filing our answers in the next few days."
The complaint further says that on Aug. 30, 2021, Laundrie allegedly sent a text message from Gabby Petito’s phone to her mother stating there was no service in Yosemite Park in an “effort deceive Nichole Schmidt into believing that Gabrielle Petito was still alive,” the filing said.
Laundrie returned to his parents’ Florida home in Petito’s van on Sept. 1, 2021.
The complaint highlights a statement Bertolino released on Sept. 14 on behalf of the Laundrie family supporting a search for Petito near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and expressing hope that she would be reunited with her family.
“For the Laundries and Steven Bertolino to express their ‘hope’ that Gabrielle Petito was located and reunited with her family, at a time when they knew she had been murdered by Brian Laundrie was beyond outrageous,” the complaint said.
The suit said statements from the attorney and the Laundries were “intentional or reckless” and caused emotional distress to the Petito family, adding their conduct was “odious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community."
The amended complaint comes after Reilly deposed the Laundries and Bertolino in October, ahead of May’s civil trial.
“It was an emotional, gut wrenching and eye opening day for Joe and Nichole. They learned exactly what the Laundries and Bertolino knew while Joe and Nichole and the rest of the family were searching for any information on Gabby, but failed to disclose. The level of insensitivity of Mr. Bertolino is shocking but not unexpected,” Reilly said in a statement on the depositions.