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VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida judge has set a court date in the lawsuit filed by the parents of Gabby Petito, accusing the Laundrie family of knowing their son murdered 22-year-old Petito and claiming they sought to help him leave the country.
According to court documents obtained by WFLA, Judge Hunter W. Carroll scheduled a mandatory case management conference in Sarasota County Court for June 30 at 1:30 p.m. It is yet to be determined whether both sides will be expected to appear in person at the courthouse or virtually through Zoom.
As with civil case protocol, Carroll is requiring the two parties to meet and confer on the complaint filed by Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, before they meet in court.
Petito and Schmidt are suing Chris and Roberta Laundrie, Brian Laundrie’s parents, alleging they were told by their son of Petito’s murder “on or about” Aug. 28.
“It is believed, and therefore averred that… Brian Laundrie advised his parents, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, that he had murdered Gabrielle Petito,” the lawsuit states. “On that same date, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie spoke with Attorney Steve Bertolino, and sent him a retainer on Sept. 2, 2021.”
The Laundries were served with the lawsuit earlier this week, attorneys with both sides confirm to WFLA Now’s JB Biunno.
The lawsuit filed last week alleges Laundrie sent text messages back and forth between his phone and Petito’s phone after her death “in an effort to hide the fact that she was deceased.”
It also lays out some of what happened in the days after Petito’s death, before an official missing person alert went out. The Petito family says there was no contact between the two families after Brian Laundrie returned home to North Port alone driving Petito’s van on Sept. 1. It mentions the vacation the Laundries took to Fort DeSoto Park as well, “while Gabrielle Petito’s family was suffering.”
The lawsuit does not contain any evidence for these claims, however, it could be introduced by Petito and Schmidt’s representatives as the legal process plays out in court.
Once the official search for Petito was underway, before her remains were found, the lawsuit says the Laundrie family refused to respond to questions from law enforcement and Petito’s family. The suit claims Roberta Laundrie blocked Schmidt’s phone number and blocked her on Facebook around the time Petito was reported missing.
According to the documents, Petito’s parents also believe Laundrie’s parents were planning to help their son leave the United States.
“While Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt were desperately searching for information concerning their daughter, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie were keeping the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie secret, and it is believed were making arrangements for him to leave the country,” the suit says.
In the lawsuit, Petito and Schmidt accuse the Laundrie family of acting “with malice or great indifference to the rights of” Petito’s family. Petito and Schmidt are seeking damages of at least $100,000.