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Amid reports of a potential trial date in the civil lawsuit slain travel blogger Gabby Petito’s parents filed against the mother and father of her suspected killer, Brian Laundrie, the question remains whether the case will move forward.
Judge Hunter Carroll set an August 2023 start time — if the case doesn’t get dismissed before then.
“I believe everyone is misinterpreting that scheduling order, which merely reflects the tentative case schedule submitted by the parties,” New York-based attorney Steve Bertolino, who represents Laundrie’s parents, told Fox News Digital Thursday. “The motion to dismiss is still pending and will be decided once the plaintiffs file an amended complaint to correct the deficiencies in the first one.”
Chris and Roberta Laundrie in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on the morning police discovered their son’s skeletal remains. (Michael Ruiz/Fox News Digital)
When asked if he thought the attorneys for Petito’s parents and stepparents could convince the judge to bring the case to trial, Bertolino said no.
“I don’t think they can, but I believe the judge does not want to rule on a motion to dismiss without giving them an opportunity to make a coherent claim,” he said.
Pat Reilly, the Florida-based attorney representing the Petito and Schmidt families in the civil lawsuit, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Gabby Petito in an undated photo shared by her father. (Joseph Petito/Twitter)
Fox News Digital was first to report last month that the Laundrie family had filed a 20-page motion to dismiss the case with prejudice, arguing that there are no facts to support their claims of “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
He had also asked the judge to block Petito’s parents from filing a revised lawsuit, but the judge gave their attorney until May 3 to file an amended complaint before addressing the merits of the motion for dismissal.
Petito’s parents and stepparents filed a civil lawsuit in Florida in March alleging that Laundrie’s parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, were aware that their son killed their daughter and attempted to help him flee justice.
Brian Laundrie as seen in bodycam footage released by the Moab Police Department in Utah. (Moab Police Department)
The Laundries were exercising their constitutional right to remain silent, Bertolino has argued.
“The gravamen of the claimed wrongdoing is that the Laundries exercised their constitutional rights and essentially made no statements to Plaintiffs or law enforcement,” the motion to dismiss states. “While the [Petito-Schmidt families] allege some facts, those facts could never establish a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress because the Laundries’ ‘actions’ were legally permissible, constitutionally protected, not outrageous, and do not give rise to any cause of action.”
Bertolino, the family’s longtime friend and lawyer from their New York hometown, is representing the Laundries along with the Tampa-based law firm Trombley and Hanes.
Laundrie and Petito set off on a cross-country road trip last July. By October, both of them had been found dead thousands of miles apart.
The FBI has identified Laundrie as the sole suspect in Petito’s death — by strangulation and blunt-force trauma. An FBI-led search found her remains at a campground north of Jackson, Wyoming, where the couple stayed in late August.
On Sept. 1, Laundrie arrived at his parents’ Florida home driving Petito’s van. According to the civil lawsuit, he allegedly killed her on Aug. 27, then sent phony text messages between his phone and hers “in an effort to hide the fact,” according to court documents and the FBI. Her mother received another suspicious text days later.
On Sept. 11, police knocked on Laundrie’s door in response to a missing person report from Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, filed in her New York hometown.
In the days leading up to the investigation, he went camping with his family south of St. Petersburg and made no public comments about Petito’s disappearance. He did not come to the door for police, invoked his right to remain silent and declined to cooperate with investigators.
Then he snuck out of his parents’ house despite an attempt at surveillance by the North Port Police Department, drove to the nearby Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park and shot himself in the head.
Due to flooding in the park, it took weeks before police found his remains.
Fox News Digital was present when Laundrie’s own parents discovered his dry-bag and other belongings in a clearing that had been underwater for more than a month. At the same time, investigators found remains nearby that they later determined belonged to him through dental records and DNA testing.
The FBI eventually said he died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound and that they recovered a notebook at the scene in which he took responsibility for Petito’s death.