Do Brian Laundrie parents face criminal charges in Gabby Petito case? Are Chris & Roberta Laundrie legally culpable in the Gabby Petito case?
Legal pundits are beginning to weigh in whether Brian Laundrie’s parents are likely to now face criminal charges in connection with Gabby Petito’s disappearance and suspected death, while also citing the difficulty in building any potential case against them.
Christopher and Roberta Laundrie have kept quite since their son’s girlfriend/fiancee was reported missing Sept. 11, even barring cops from speaking to their lawyered-up son, who has since vanished himself.
Matters in the case which has captivated the nation took a tragic turn Sunday when a body ‘consistent’ with Petito’s description was found at Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.
While the discovery of the corpse apparently provided enough probable cause for the feds to execute a search warrant at the Laundrie’s North Point, home Monday, legal experts say it still doesn’t mean the Laundries are legally culpable.
‘I doubt it,’ Alfredo Garcia, a former Florida assistant state attorney told the nypost when asked whether Brian Laundrie parents could be charged in the case — which involves their son, who last week was named a ‘person of interest.’
Can Brian Laundrie parents be charged as an accessory after the fact?
‘To charge someone as an accessory after the fact, you have to establish that the person knew that they were harboring someone who had committed a crime and they did so in a way to prevent the police from apprehending him,’ said Garcia, a professor at the St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami Gardens. ‘That’s a fairly high threshold [authorities] have to find in terms of intent.’
‘I seriously doubt an obstruction charge now is in the cards,’ the legal scholar told the nypost.
Roberta and Christopher reported Brian missing to police on Friday, three days after their son told them he was ‘going hiking’ near their home only to never return.
Former FBI Agent Oliver Farache agreed that it would be very hard to charge the parents with anything.
‘I think it’s going to be very unlikely that anybody’s going to be charged other than Brian if it turns out he’s the one who is suspected of having committed the crime,’ Farache told the nypost.
‘I think as a general rule it’s very difficult to charge parents for helping a kid if they weren’t part of the act itself.’
‘I can’t imagine a lot of prosecutorial resources going to go after the parents,’ he added.
What will Gabby Petito autopsy show?
Also in the Laundries’ favor is the fact that they refused to speak to investigators in the early days of the probe — meaning charges of lying to law enforcement could be off the table, the experts said.
‘It depends on if they actively interfered in the investigation,’ former Manhattan prosecutor Daniel Bibb told the nypost. ‘They certainly can’t be charged with anything for refusing to speak to the police. But if they’re actively thwarting an investigation, they could.’
The potential wild card is the results of an autopsy on Gabby Petito’s remains, which is scheduled to be released on Tuesday.
The autopsy will not only provide a positive identification of the remains but also determine the cause of death — and whether foul play was involved.
‘The autopsy really is the most important thing right now — and whatever else they find at the crime scene,’ a retired NYPD detective told the nypost. ‘If she fell, she could have blunt force trauma.’
‘If she doesn’t appear to have fallen and she has a fractured skull, well, that shows something else,’ the ex-cop added. ‘Then you’re getting towards a homicide.’
But that too doesn’t necessarily implicate Brian Laundrie as the individual who necessarily murdered Petito, meaning prosecutors would have to prove a case and intention against the deceased woman’s boyfriend and placing him at any murder scene.