Gabby Petito’s parents ‘reluctantly’ reach settlement with Brian Laundrie’s family

FILE - The families of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie reached a legal settlement in relation to an emotional distress lawsuit on Feb. 21, 2024. Instagram @gabspetito

The parents of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie on Wednesday reached a settlement in an emotional distress lawsuit initiated by the Petito clan.

Gabby’s parents, Nichole Schmidt and Joseph Petito, sued the parents of Brian, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, as well as their lawyer, Steven Bertolino, over claims they inflicted intentional emotional distress by withholding knowledge that Gabby was dead.

The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed publicly, though the case will no longer require a civil trial, NBC reported.

A statement released by a lawyer for the Petito parents said the settlement with the Laundries came “after a long day of mediation.”

“All parties reluctantly agreed in order to avoid further legal expenses and prolonged personal conflict,” the statement reads. “Our hope is to close this chapter of our lives to allow us to move on and continue to honor the legacy of our beautiful daughter, Gabby.”

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A photo of Gabby Petito, included in a Facebook post about her disappearance by the North Port Police Department in Florida, the lead agency in the missing person case. North Port Police Department via Facebook

As part of their lawsuit, Nichole and Joseph argued that Christopher and Roberta had been told by their son in August 2021 that Gabby was dead. But instead of alerting her parents or police, Nichole and Joseph claimed the Laundrie parents, through their lawyer, chose to issue a statement for Gabby’s hopeful return.

Bertolino told WFLA that he and the Laundrie parents “participated in mediation with the Petito family and the civil lawsuit has now been resolved.”

“The terms of the resolution are confidential, and we look forward to putting this matter behind us,” he concluded.

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What happened to Gabby Petito?

Gabby, 22, was reported missing by her family on Sept. 11, 2021. At the time, Gabby had been chronicling a cross-country van trip with her fiancé Brian, 23, on her popular social media accounts.

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A nationwide search followed, with intense media and public attention focused on finding Gabby.

A photo of Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie, included in a Facebook about her disappearance by the North Port Police Department in Florida, the lead agency in the missing person case. Courtesy North Port Police Department/TNS/ABACAPRESS.COM

Gabby’s body was eventually discovered in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming on Sept. 19, 2021. She had been strangled.

Brian was the only individual ever identified by law enforcement as a person of interest. After a nationwide search, he was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Florida on Oct. 20. The FBI said a notebook found in Brian’s possession contained an entry confessing that he’d killed Gabby.

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Human remains found in Florida trail are Brian Laundrie’s, FBI confirms

In his deposition for the Petitos’ emotional distress lawsuit, Christopher said he’d received a call from his son in late August 2021 in which Brian told him “Gabby’s gone.” Christopher claimed he did not know what Brian meant when he spoke about Gabby in the call.

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The lawsuit also revealed a note written by Roberta to Brian, which she labelled “burn after reading.”

“If you’re in jail I will bake a cake and put a file in it. If you need to dispose of a body, I will show up with a shovel and garbage bags,” Laundrie’s mother wrote. “If you fly to the moon, I will be watching the skies for your re-entry. If you say you hate my guts, I’ll get new guts.”

The Laundrie parents were not charged with any crimes in connection to Gabby’s death.

Gabby’s disappearance triggered an international conversation about domestic violence. The contrast between the cheerful façade on display on her widely followed Instagram account and the darker reality she was experiencing in the lead-up to her death captivated millions.

Gabby Petito with facial injuries. There are tears in her eyes.
Gabby Petito is seen with facial injuries in this photo released by the lawyers representing her parents in a lawsuit against the Moab City Police Department. Parker & McConkie

In November 2023, the Petito family was awarded US$3 million in a wrongful death lawsuit. Petito’s parents sued the Moab City Police Department for negligence in investigating claims of domestic violence. The Petito family told the court they believe their daughter would still be alive if police had properly handled the investigation.

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If you or someone you know has been a victim of intimate partner violence or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.

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