Police chief admits he can’t force Brian Laundrie to speak on Gabby Petito’s disappearance - here’s why

Brian Laundrie’s refusal to cooperate with his girlfriend’s disappearance has angered family and police

Bevan Hurley
In New York
Thursday 16 September 2021 20:52
Gabby Petito's father pleads with her boyfriend's family to help in search for his daughter

North Port Police chief Todd Garrison cut a frustrated figure as he addressed the media about the disappearance of Gabby Petito at a press conference in Florida on Thursday.

Appearing alongside Ms Petito’s father Joe, Mr Garrison acknowledged that investigators had grown tired of Brian Laundrie’s refusal to speak to them, even if he was “exercising his constitutional rights” to remain silent.

“We share that frustration with the world,” Mr Garrison added, saying that they had no evidence a crime had been committed and were still treating it as a missing person case.

The growing tension around Mr Laundrie’s lack of cooperation has been keenly felt by Ms Pettito’s family, who issued an open letter on Thursday pleading with Mr Laundrie’s parents Christopher and Roberta to reveal where their daughter is.

“We believe you know the location of where Brian left Gabby. We beg you to tell us.”

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie

Joe Petito even encouraged his family members and friends to call a special FBI tipline with anything they might know.

The case has also been playing out on social media and internet message boards, in conversations from Ms Petito’s home state of New York to Wyoming where she was last seen, with everyone asking the same question: why won’t Mr Laundrie tell police what he knows?

Legal experts confirm Mr Laundrie’s right to silence is guaranteed by the Constitution’s 5th amendment, which protects the rights of anyone, suspect or otherwise, from making self-incriminating statements.

The 6th amendment asserts that everyone is entitled to a lawyer.

Utah defense attorney Greg Skordas, who is not involved with the case, told KUTV that many people assume a person is hiding something if they assert their right not to speak.

“I think it’s smart for this attorney to say ‘look my client is not hiding anything I’m advising him not to speak at this time and he’s willing to follow my advice at this time’”, Mr Skordas says.

Mr Skordas added there could come a time when a person of interest would want to talk to police.

“Maybe down the road there will come a time when there will be some quid pro quo and they’ll talk with the government and say ‘look we’ll give a statement but we want some concessions as to what that will do and how that will be used in the case,’” Mr Skordas told KUTV.

Mr Laundrie was named a “person of interest” in the case on Wednesday by North Port Police.

The term has no legal definition, and is used by law enforcement to indicate someone who authorities believe might have information “pertinent to a crime”.

Mr Laundrie’s New York-based family attorney, Steve Bertolino, shed some light on the continuing silence in a statement released on Wednesday.

“In my experience, intimate partners are often the first person law enforcement focuses their attention on in cases like this and the warning that “any statement made will be used against you” is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance.

“As such, on the advice of counsel, Mr. Laundrie is not speaking on this matter.”

The comment angered Ms Petito’s family, who said he had “left Gabby in the wilderness with grizzly bears and wolves.”

It also prompted a response from the North Port Police chief, who directed his anger at the Laundrie’s attorney on Wednesday.

“Mr. Steven Bertolino, esq. The North Port Police needs your help in finding Gabby Petito. Please call us to arrange a conversation with Brian Laundrie. Two people left on a trip and one person returned!”