The parents of slain travel blogger Gabby Petito and her killer fiancé Brian Laundrie are headed to mediation in their ongoing Florida court battle, records show.
The parties will meet in person the morning of Feb. 21 with mediator W. Andrew Clayton Jr., whose website shows he bills $7,000 or more for a full day for his efforts. Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit and is expected to take part.
Lawyers for both sides were taking part in a case-related deposition Wednesday morning and did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, Petito’s parents, previously rejected a settlement offer, but their attorney, Pat Reilly, has said they would be open to one under different terms. Last week, Reilly asked Bertolino to turn over insurance information that could play a role in any civil judgment or come up in mediation.
If the negotiations fail, a trial date has been scheduled for May 13.
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New Jersey lawyer David Gelman, who has been following the case, said the scheduled mediation shows both sides have good faith and are willing to negotiate.
“I would expect if there was a resolution that it would happen very quickly,” he told Fox News Digital. “If it doesn’t happen within a day or two, three days max, then I would say that the mediation is going to fail.”
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The scheduled talks come shortly after Reilly dropped efforts to have the court force Bertolino to testify about his private conversations with Brian Laundrie, which he argued are protected by attorney-client privilege.
A successful settlement will avoid the legal costs of a trial and the emotional weight of reliving the highly publicized saga that left both young people dead in 2021.
“There are a lot of emotions involved in this particular case, obviously more emotion than your regular civil case because there are individuals who are no longer with us,” Gelman added.
Laundrie, the only suspect in Petito’s death, is believed to have killed her around Aug. 28, 2021.
According to testimony from the lawsuit, Laundrie made a “frantic” phone call to his parents Aug. 29, 2021, telling them that “Gabby was ‘gone’ and he needed a lawyer.”
Laundrie returned home to his parents in North Port, Florida, Sept. 1, 2021, police said, citing a license plate reader recording of the van rolling into town.
Bertolino retained a high-powered Wyoming defense firm on Laundrie’s behalf on Sept. 2, 2021.
The Laundries went camping on the beach at Fort De Soto Park, south of St. Petersburg, and said nothing of Petito’s disappearance publicly.
After police knocked on their door Sept. 11, 2021, the killer slipped out and killed himself at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park up the road, but search teams could not find his remains for weeks after floodwater buried the area.
An FBI-led search discovered Petito’s remains in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming on Sept. 19, 2021. Investigators ruled her death a homicide by manual strangulation and blunt-force trauma to the head and neck.
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Just over a month later, police and the FBI found Laundrie’s remains, along with a dry bag that contained his handwritten confession.
“I thought it was merciful, that it is what she wanted, but I see now all the mistakes I made. I panicked. I was in shock,” he wrote.
The lawsuit alleges his parents knew about the murder and tried to conceal it and help him evade justice, claims the Laundries’ attorneys have denied.
The two families previously settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $3 million.
Reilly at the time called the sum “an arbitrary number,” but “whatever monies they do receive will help Gabby’s family in their endeavors with the Gabby Petito Foundation.”
The foundation is dedicated to combating domestic violence.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 (SAFE).
Source: Fox News