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VENICE, Fla. The family of Gabby Petito, the young woman suspected of being murdered last year by her friend Brian Laundrie, appeared before a Florida judge on Wednesday morning over whether her lawsuit against Laundrie’s family should go to trial.
Petito’s family claims that Laundrie’s parents, Chris and Roberta, were aware that their son had killed their daughter and tried to help him escape justice.
Nichole Schmidt and Jim Schmidt, Petito’s mother and stepmother, and Joseph and Tara Petito, their father and stepmother, appeared before Judge Hunter W. Carroll in Sarasota County Circuit Court before the 1:30 pm hearing. One of the couple’s lawyers, Steven Bertolino, appeared virtually, while co-lawyer Matthew Luka appeared in person. Chris and Roberta Laundrie did not attend.
The purpose of Wednesday’s hearing was for both sides to discuss whether the case should go to jury trial. Before the hearing, Bertolino and Patrick Reilly, the civil lawyer representing the Petito-Schmidt families, said they were unsure whether the judge would announce a decision during Wednesday’s hearing.
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Petito’s parents filed a civil lawsuit earlier this year accusing Chris and Roberta Laundrie of knowing their son Gabby was murdered and trying to help him escape.
“Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie displayed extreme and scandalous behavior that under the circumstances constitutes behavior that transcends all possible boundaries of decency and is considered shocking, horrific and completely intolerable in a civilized community,” the lawsuit states. “As a direct and immediate result of the will and malice of Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt were caused to suffer pain and suffering, mental anxiety, discomfort, loss of capacity to enjoy life in to experience the past and the future. “
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The complaint further describes how Brian Laundrie was “believed” to have “Gabrielle Petito murdered” on Aug. 27, 2021.
Laundrie then sent false text messages between his cell and Petito’s “in an attempt to conceal the fact” that she was dead, according to court documents and the FBI.
The complaint alleges that Laundrie’s parents on Aug. 28 and that Laundry’s attorney Steve Bertolino, a longtime friend, on Sept. 2.
Bertolino told Fox News Digital at the time that he had represented the Laundrie family “for many years” and called the civil lawsuit “baseless.”
Laundrie and 22-year-old Petito set off in mid-June 2021 for a trip with the plan to visit national parks in a white converted Ford Transit. The couple had met years earlier on Long Island, New York, where they grew up and later moved to Brian’s parents North Port, Florida, home.
Laundrie returned to North Port in September. 1 with the delivery bus, but without Petito.
After his disappearance, state, local, county and federal law enforcement agencies extensively searched the reservation and the Myakkahatchee, where Laundrie would have parked his car at the time.
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His family did not announce until September. 17 – four days after he was to leave – that he was not back.
Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, reported her missing to Suffolk County Police in New York on Sept. 11. Search teams discovered Petito’s body near Wyoming Grant Teton National Park on Sept. 19 and announced shortly thereafter that she had been the victim of a murder.
The remains of Laundrie were found in October. 20, 2021, in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, located in the residence of the 23-year-old North Port. His parents found Brian’s bag and other items while walking with law enforcement in the area, where they had told authorities their son was known too often. Fox News Digital took photos and exclusive videos of the parents searching the swamp, where law enforcement officers eventually made the grim discovery.
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Laundrie was considered a refugee and was a person of importance in Gabby Petito’s disappearance and death. The FBI had issued a warrant for his arrest on prosecutors in connection with his unauthorized use of a bank card.