On Tuesday in Venice, Florida, the legal team for Petito’s parents deposed Christopher Laundrie, Brian Laundrie’s father, as part of the civil lawsuit filed against the Laundries and their longtime attorney Steven Bertolino.
Petito’s parents, Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt, described Christopher Laundrie’s testimony as “gut-wrenching.”
“It was extremely hurtful to listen to someone that has no remorse and no compassion for the girl they would call their daughter-in-law,” Schmidt told WFLA.
Attending the depositions in person were Christopher Laundrie, Roberta Laundrie, Joe Petito, Steven Bertolino, and various attorneys. Schmidt listened in virtually over Zoom.
“It was difficult to be in the room with Joe and Nichole on Zoom asking these questions knowing how difficult it would be for them to relive it all,” said Pat Reily, the attorney for Petito and Schmidt.
The depositions mark the first time Petito and Schmidt have had the opportunity to question the Laundries since Petito’s death in August 2021. In the weeks after Gabby went missing, Petito and Schmidt publicly pleaded for Brian Laundrie and his parents to help locate Gabby, but they say their phone calls, texts and social media messages all went unanswered.
The closed-door depositions are expected to play a major role in the civil trial between the two families, which is set for May 2024. Pat Reilly, the attorney for Petito and Schmidt, is handling the questioning of the Laundries, although the exact questions being asked are unknown.
For Tuesday’s scheduled meeting, only Christopher Laundrie and his attorney were required to attend, however, Roberta Laundrie and Bertolino also chose to be present. Roberta will be deposed on Wednesday.
“I have nothing to share other than there were no surprises on our side,” Bertolino told WFLA after the 3-hour deposition ended Tuesday.
Ryan Gilbert, the new attorney for the Laundries who stepped in to replace Matthew Luka, has not yet responded to WFLA’s request for comment.
“The Laundries are good people, and it was my pleasure to work with them,” Luka said in September. “Ryan Gilbert will do a terrific job for them, so I know they are in good hands.”
“I wish the Laundries all the best and have always believed in their case,” he continued. “But I’ll leave that for Mr. Gilbert to answer after he has had a chance to complete discovery.”
Roberta Laundrie will be questioned less than five months after the release of the infamous “burn after reading” letter she says she wrote to Brian shortly before he and Petito began their cross-country trip in June, 2021. In the letter, Roberta offered her son a shovel and garbage bags if he needed to dispose of a body.
“[Wednesday] will be worse,” Schmidt said in reference to Roberta’s upcoming deposition.
In May, Judge Danielle Brewer denied a motion of protection against the letter’s inclusion in the discovery process as the two families head to a civil trial next year. The letter was released to WFLA soon after.
More depositions are on the schedule, including with Brian Laundrie’s sister Cassie, as both sides prepare for trial in May 2024. Petito’s parents are suing the Laundries and Bertolino for intentional infliction of emotional distress based on the claim the Laundries were aware Petito had been murdered soon after the 22-year-old’s death in August 2021 and chose to do nothing other than issue a statement through Bertolino expressing hope she would be found.