Gabby Petito: Why is Brian Laundrie STILL not talking to cops? Experts say he's right

He's a 'person of interest' but that can mean anything from being a suspect to being a material witness. The term is kept intentionally vague


                            Gabby Petito: Why is Brian Laundrie STILL not talking to cops? Experts say he's right
Brian Laundrie and Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Petito. (Instagram/@bizarre_design_)

The mysterious disappearance of Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Petito has people across the US asking many questions. But the two questions being asked most frequently is – "Where could she be?," and the other, “Why is he not talking?” The second question is also usually accompanied by the belief that if Brian Laundrie, Petito’s boyfriend, is not cooperating with cops and is lawyering up, he must be hiding something.

So far, Laundrie has only released one statement on the whole issue, that too through his lawyer. On Tuesday afternoon, September 14, lawyer Steven Bertolino released a statement saying: “This is an extremely difficult time for both the Petito family and the Laundrie family. I understand that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family. On the advice of counsel, the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”

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Laundrie has been named a "person of interest" in the case of the 22-year-old Petito's disappearance under mysterious circumstances during their cross-country road trip. But what does that mean? In FindLaw, a legal resources website, lawyer George Khoury examined the problem with “person of interest” and media trials — much like what is happening with the Gabby Petito case so far. 

Khoury wrote, “It's a story as old as mass media. An innocent man gets identified as a ‘person of interest’ in a criminal investigation by law enforcement, then the mass media reports to the public that the man is a ‘person of interest,’ then the man's life begins falling apart due to public scorn, despite being innocent. If you've been named as a ‘person of interest’ by law enforcement, talk to a criminal defense attorney before you do anything else.”

Khoury explained that the phrase is “intentionally vague,” but the common understanding is that it refers to a suspected criminal. Sometimes, the phrase can also refer to a witness to a crime that has gone missing and needs to be located, but even then, he said, “individuals tend to associate the phrase with suspected criminals.”



 

So, Brian Laundrie lawyering up is the advisable position. Especially because Laundrie has not been charged with any crime. This is because the authorities have not yet determined if a crime has taken place at all. Sure, the fact that Petito went incommunicado followed by Laundrie returning home soon after is suspicious. But so far, no one knows what really happened. The absence of any tangible evidence that would suggest foul play, however, has not stopped strangers from forming their opinions about Laundrie’s involvement in the supposed crime. But the cops have made it clear that their hands, as far as Laundrie’s detention goes, are tied.

Earlier, North Port chief of police Todd Garrison in a tweet asked Laundrie's lawyer to arrange a conversation with the suspect after he refused to cooperate with the ongoing investigation. He wrote, “Mr. Steven Bertolino, esq. The @NorthPortPolice 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!”



 

But on Thursday, September 16, Garrison addressed the media alongside Petito’s father Joe. He said that while investigators had grown tired of Brian Laundrie’s refusal to speak to them, even if he was “exercising his constitutional rights” to remain silent, he could not compel him. “We share that frustration with the world,” Garrison added, saying that they had no evidence a crime had been committed and that they were still treating it as a missing person case.

Laundrie’s lawyer, Bertolino, spoke about his client’s continuing silence in a statement released on Wednesday, September 15. “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,” he said. “As such, on the advice of counsel, Mr Laundrie is not speaking on this matter.” 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’,” Skordas said. “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’.”

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