VENICE, Fla. – A Florida judge heard arguments Wednesday afternoon in a civil lawsuit filed by the family of a murdered Florida woman against her suspected killer.
The lawsuit claims suspect Brian Laundrie told his parents he had killed Gabby Petito before he returned home alone from a road trip in a converted van.
Petito was later found dead in a Wyoming national park in a case that captured national attention.
This afternoon a judge heard arguments from both sides after a motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed by the lawyer for the parents of Laundrie.
It was an emotional hearing for the parents of Petito who lost their 22-year-old daughter last year.
The lawyer for Brian Laundrie’s parents argued that a lawsuit from the parents of Petito should be dismissed because they had the right under the fifth amendment not to speak up as law enforcement searched for Petito after she went missing.
“Plaintiffs argued that the Laundries had an obligation, a duty to speak. The law imposes no such obligation to speak and the state and federal Constitution support that in our society under our laws. People are free not to speak,” said Matt Luka, the Laundrie family attorney.
Petito’s parents, Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt, who were visibly emotional during the hearing, filed the lawsuit for “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” claiming the Laundries were aware that Brian had murdered their daughter and chose not to act.
The lawyer for the parents of Gabby Petito focused on a statement made by another attorney of Laundrie’s parents supporting the search for Petito. He claims Laundrie’s parents knew she was already dead.
“They make a statement saying we hope you find her, we hope you’re reunited, giving them false hope that perhaps their daughter is still alive. If that’s not outrageous your honor, I don’t know what’s outrageous,” said Petito family attorney Patrick Reilly.
According to the FBI, Laundrie admitted to killing Petito in a notebook discovered near his body in a Florida swamp. Investigators say he died by suicide.
The parents of Laundrie have not been accused of a crime and neither was in court on Wednesday.
The judge said he would issue a ruling sometime in the next two weeks. Petito’s parents are seeking damages exceeding $30,000 and attorney fees.
If the case does proceed, it could go to trial next year.