“The only thing that a lawyer can do is to advise his client to surrender to the warrant,” said Texas attorney Dick DeGuerin, whose clients have included David Koresh and Robert Durst. “Now that depends on whether he is in contact with his client — and certainly if he is in contact and knows where he is or has any kind of control over his client, the advice that he gives to the client is, ‘Let’s surrender to the warrant.’”
However, Laundrie is on the run and his attorney, Steve Bertolino, says he hasn’t been able to reach him for weeks.
Bertolino said Friday that his last contact with Laundrie came on Sept. 13, the day he is now believed to have left his parents’ home for the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Reserve in North Port, Florida. That’s two days after Petito’s mom reported her missing to police in New York and just shy of a week before authorities found her remains in Wyoming.
“Nobody seems to know where he is, and that’s not a good situation for the lawyer to be in because the lawyer may be getting his marching orders from the parents and not from the actual client,” DeGuerin said.
Bertolino indicated Thursday that his client may not even be following media coverage of his own case.
“I believe Brian is still in the preserve,” he said. “And as such, I don’t think he has access to the news.”
Mark Geragos, a leading Los Angeles–based defense lawyer who has represented Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson and the brother of former President Bill Clinton, said the high-profile case carries a lot of pressure, but also gives Bertolino a chance to control the narrative as it unfolds.
“Presumably he’s got more facts than we do,” Geragos told Fox News. “Presumably, he’s talked to his client … and he knows things that we may not know.”
With few official details available since the FBI assumed the lead role in the investigation into Petito’s death and Laundrie’s disappearance, many updates have come from Bertolino directly.
He confirmed that Cassie Laundrie met with her family and brother at a campsite on Sept. 6, after he’d returned from out West but before Petito’s mother reported her missing. That prompted her to tell protesters on her front lawn that she’d been thrown “under the bus” by her family’s attorney.
He acknowledged a six-day break the couple took in mid- to late-August, when Laundrie flew home to Florida and then back to Salt Lake City. And he gave a heads-up before Chris Laundrie briefly joined law enforcement in the search for his son Thursday at in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, which connects with the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Reserve.
He also admitted this week that Laundrie’s parents, who initially told police that they’d last seen him on Sept. 14, had actually last seen him a day earlier.
Geragos said the attorney will need to be careful not to deliver contradictory details due to the massive attention on the case.
“This is one of those cases that I used to refer to as super-sized,” he said. “It is going to become increasingly difficult to manage this.”
Laundrie is believed to have vanished on Sept. 13, after his parents said he told them he was going for a hike in a sprawling, swampy park near their North Port home.
That’s just two days after Nichole Schmidt reported her daughter Gabby Petito missing.
Petito and Laundrie set off on a cross-country road trip in early July and made their way west, camping out at national parks in her modified white Ford Transit van.
But they had a bumpy ride – with police called on them in Moab, Utah, on Aug. 12 over a possible domestic incident.
About two weeks later, the couple arrived in Wyoming. On Aug. 27, in what may have been the last time anyone saw Petito alive in public, eyewitnesses saw her crying at a Jackson Hole restaurant as Laundrie allegedly fought with female wait staff over money.
By Sept. 1, license plate readers in North Port spotted Petito’s van returning to town.
She wasn’t inside. The FBI uncovered her remains at their Wyoming campsite 18 days later.
By then, Laundrie had already vanished.
As it stands, he is currently wanted on a federal warrant alleging that he used someone else’s bank card without permission.
One possible defense to such charges would be to argue that he had authorization to use the card, Geragos said.
Authorities have not specified whose card Laundrie is accused of using, but the Richard Stafford, the New York attorney for Petito’s parents, told Dr. Phil McGraw in a televised interview this week that it belonged to the slain 22-year-old.
“Presumably, there’s going to be evidence that he used the card before, and he’s going to claim, presumably, that he didn’t know anything had happened to her — that they had they had mixed their funds, and their funds were fungible,” Geragos said.
Authorities are also looking into Laundrie as a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance and death.