Parents of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie come face to face in court

The parents of Gabby Petito and her killer Brian Laundrie came face to face for the first time since her 2021 murder in a courtroom this week.

The two sets of parents both appeared in a courtroom in Venice, Florida, on Tuesday where Laundrie’s father Christopher Laundrie was being deposed as part of the civil lawsuit filed against the Laundries and their longtime attorney Steven Bertolino.

Gabby Petito was murdered by her boyfriend Brian Laundrie during a cross-country road trip in August 2021.

The 22-year-old disappeared while Laundrie returned home to Florida without her and refused to give her family answers about her whereabouts.

The next month, Petito’s body was found on the edge of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. It was determined she had been strangled a few weeks earlier.

Laundrie also later disappeared, before his remains were found in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on 20 October. His death was ruled a suicide.

Petito’s parents are now suing the parents of Laundrie for intentional infliction of emotional distress, claiming they were aware of the woman’s murder but failed to tell authorities or the parents what they knew.

Instead, the Petitos claim, the Laundries issued a statement through their lawyer expressing false hope that Petito would be found safe.

The 22-year-old’s parents, Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt, described Christopher Laundrie’s testimony as “gut-wrenching.”

“It was extremely hurtful to listen to someone that has no remorse and no compassion for the girl they would call their daughter-in-law,” Ms Schmidt told WFLA.

“It was difficult to be in the room with Joe and Nichole on Zoom asking these questions knowing how difficult it would be for them to relive it all,” said Pat Reily, the attorney for the Petito family.

Gabby Petito (Joseph Petito/Instagram)
Gabby Petito (Joseph Petito/Instagram)

Brian Laundrie’s mother Roberta Laundrie attended the deposition and is set to be questioned this week less than five months after it was revealed she offered her son a shovel and garbage bags if he needed to dispose of a body, in a letter titled “burn after reading”.

The letter reads in part: “We will always love each other. If you’re in jail, I will bake a cake with a file in it. If you need to dispose of a body, I will show up with a shovel and garbage bags.”

In May, a judge ruled the letter could be used as evidence in the lawsuit.

Whether the letter was written before or after Laundrie strangled Petito is disputed by the parents.

Roberta Laundrie claims in a sworn statement in the Florida case that she gave it to her son just before he and Ms Petito left on a cross-country van trip in early June 2021, and it had nothing to do with the 22-year-old.

Roberta Laundrie and her son were having difficulties in their relationship at the time, three months before Brian Laundrie, 23, killed Ms Petito, the court-filed statement said.

“I was trying to connect with Brian and repair our relationship as he was planning to leave home,” the statement said. “I had hoped this letter would remind him how much I loved him.”

The Petito family expressed doubt about Roberta Laundrie’s claimed timing of her letter, suggesting it was in fact written after Ms Petito’s death.

Gabby Petito talks to a police officer after police pulled over the van she was traveling in with her boyfriend
Gabby Petito talks to a police officer after police pulled over the van she was traveling in with her boyfriend

The couple was travelling by van across the US in the summer of 2021, visiting scenic places in Colorado and Utah before heading north. They documented their trip in detail, in real-time, on social media. But their travels were not as happy as they appeared online.

Police in Moab, Utah, pulled over the van after it was seen speeding and hitting a curb at the entrance to Arches National Park in August 2021. Petito told police she and Laundrie had been fighting. Officers separated the couple for the night and didn’t pursue charges.

A month after Petito’s body was found, Laundrie was found dead in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Florida.

It was later revealed that he had taken his own life and investigators had recovered a letter near his remains that confessed to Ms Petito’s murder.

Last year, Ms Petito’s parents were awarded $3m in a wrongful death lawsuit against Laundrie’s estate.