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VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — The legal battle between the families of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie heads to court on Wednesday.
A lawsuit filed by Petito’s parents, Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt, claims Laundrie’s parents, Chris and Roberta, were aware their son murdered Petito and chose not to act.
Judge Hunter W. Carroll will begin hearing arguments Wednesday to decide if the case will go before a jury.
A coroner concluded Laundrie strangled Petito while the couple was on a cross-country road trip. Investigators said Brian then returned to North Port alone.
The lawsuit accuses his parents of knowing about the murder and keeping their son’s whereabouts a secret, and even “making arrangements for him to leave the country.”
Brian Laundrie was found dead in Sarasota County’s Carlton Reserve in October from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
His parents have not been charged in the case. A motion filed by their attorney, Steven Bertolino calls for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
“Assuming everything the Petitos allege in their lawsuit is true, which we deny, this lawsuit does not change the fact that the Laundries had no obligation to speak to law enforcement or any third-party, including the Petito family. This fundamental legal principle renders the Petitos’ claims to be baseless under the law,” Bertolino said in March.
The following witnesses are expected to testify during the hearings, according to the lawsuit:
- Joseph Petito (Gabby Petito’s father)
- Nichole Schmidt (Gabby Petito’s mother)
- Tara Petito (Gabby Petito’s stepmother)
- James Schmidt (Gabby Petito’s stepfather)
- Christopher Laundrie (Brian Laundrie’s father)
- Roberta Laundrie (Brian Laundrie’s mother)
- Representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Names not specified)
- Representatives of the North Port Police Department (Names not specified)
Judge Carroll will decide if jurors will hear the case. If so, the jury trial will be scheduled for sometime in August 2023.
Petito and Scmidt are expected to attend Wednesday’s hearing. Bertolino said Chris and Roberta Laundrie will not be present.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. and last approximately one hour.