The search for Gabby Petito: Legalities involved in a missing person case

Gabby Petito

SALT LAKE CITY, UT. – The search for Gabby Petito continues as many questions over the legalities of the investigation continue to be asked.  

“I can understand why everyone’s really worked up about this case. I mean this was a beautiful young couple, he comes home without her, he’s not talking to anyone…she’s missing,” Former Prosecutor Greg Skordas said.

Day six in the search for Petito and still no sign of her. This comes as Brian Laundrie, her fiancé, is refusing to speak to police and is now reported missing

“The decision of not speaking to the police is one of the difficult challenges we face because oftentimes it’s the best and smartest decision… but it looks really bad to those who don’t know what’s going on,” Defense Attorney Steve Burton said.

Many ABC4 viewers are wondering why Brian has been allowed to stay quiet even though he’s a person of interest.

“We have the right to remain silent, to get the advice of the attorney… he’s done both of those things,” Burton said.

Laundrie’s attorney says his client will “continue to remain silent on the advice of counsel because they believe any statement made will be used against you.”

“If I knew that every single word that I said was going to be scrutinized and analyzed by thousands or in this case millions of people, I wouldn’t want to speak with somebody without really thinking beforehand exactly what I should say. So that I don’t accidentally say something that would get me in trouble,” Burton said.

Burton said police can use Brian’s words in order to justify arresting him. However, with Brian’s family now claiming he’s been missing since Tuesday, many are skeptical with the role his family is playing in the investigation.

“If his family or friends know what’s going on, they can very well be suspects in an obstruction of justice charge. He’s asserting his fifth amendment right, but others don’t have that right. If they’re protecting him or covering him, they may have an obligation to cooperate with police,” Skordas said.

Meanwhile, the North Port Police Department spent several hours at the Laundrie family home today, bringing in evidence bags, looking through a car in the driveway, and speaking with the family at their request.

“Until we have evidence to look at and analyze and until someone is charged with a crime, we can’t speculate as to guilt or innocence. We should presume that someone is innocent until someone can prove otherwise,” Burton said.

Burton and Skordas believe the police body camera footage showing the couple just days before Gabby was last seen will be vital in the investigation.

“How is that related to her disappearance? We don’t know. In fact, it seems to indicate that she was at least at times the aggressor and so if he were to be charged, that may be a very relevant scenario to bring up,” Burton said.

“That might form the basis for his motive or why he did this. If the two of them were fighting and something got out of hand and something horrible happened,” Skordas said.
Burton said the more national attention this case gets the more likely it is that Brian’s attorney will not want him to speak. However, Skordas believes the more people that are invested in this case, the greater the chance that Gabby will be found.

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