Sarasota County, FL – Attorneys representing Gabby Petito’s family have asked a Florida judge to order the attorneys representing Brian Laundrie’s parents to turn over a letter in which his mother allegedly offered to help him bury a body and to spring him from prison.
The letter, which was labeled “burn after reading,” was written by Roberta Laundrie and was found inside Brian Laundrie’s backpack when his partial remains were discovered at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on Oct. 20, 2021, Gabby Petito’s family’s attorney, Pat Reilly, told FOX News.
It allegedly referenced burying a body and supplying a shovel.
“The language in that letter is damning and that letter has a reference to bringing a shovel and burying a body,” Reilly said, according to CNN.
The note also mentioned “helping him get out of prison,” the attorney said.
Reilly alleged the undated letter was written after 22-year-old Gabby Petito was strangled to death by her fiancé, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie.
“I don’t feel comfortable summarizing the letter,” Reilly told FOX News. “The content is very specific and best read when available. If my belief as to the time it was written is accurate, it shows that at least Roberta Laundrie knew of Gabby’s murder before Gabby’s body was located.”
He alleged that “the content of the letter seems to indicate it was written after Gabby’s death.”
In addition to the letter, investigators also located Brian Laundrie’s handwritten murder confession and various notes to his family inside the backpack, FOX News reported.
The documents were released to Brian Laundrie’s parents’ attorney, Steve Bertolino, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) back in June of 2022, according to the news outlet.
Bertolino has insisted Roberta Laundrie wrote the “burn after reading” letter long before Gabby Petito’s murder, FOX News reported.
P. Matthew Luka, an attorney defending the Laundries in a lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito’s parents, confirmed the existence of the letter during a court hearing on Tuesday and echoed Bertolino’s claims, CNN reported.
“This document pre-dates Brian and Gabby’s trip so its creation really doesn’t have any relation necessarily to the unfortunate events that unfolded thereafter,” Luka said. “I know that some of the wording that was used in the letter is unfortunate and might suggest that it has some connection but it doesn’t.”
He said another family attorney is currently in possession of the note, CNN reported.
The judge has not ordered the release of the letter, and Luka said he expects a hearing on the issue will take place before any final decision is made, according to FOX News.
Gabby Petito’s parents filed the wrongful death lawsuit against Chris and Roberta Laundrie on March 10 of 2022.
A Sarasota judge granted a request from the Petito family to add Bertolino as a co-defendant in the lawsuit in January, according to WTVT.
They are seeking at least $100,000 in damages, WFLA reported.
The lawsuit alleged that the Laundries stonewalled police and withheld information that could have assisted in the search for Gabby Petito, according to KSTU.
The Petito family further claimed the Laundries assisted their son in avoiding police, thereby inflicting emotional distress on her family.
The lawsuit accuses Bertolino of being aware Gabby Petito was dead when he allegedly withheld information and mislead the public by statements he made to the media, according to WTVT.
A jury trial in the case is slated to begin on Aug. 14, KSTU reported.
Gabby Petito’s family has also filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab Police Department (MPD) and two officers who interacted with her and Brian Laundrie approximately two weeks before her murder.
Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie were on a cross-country trip touring U.S. national parks in Gabby Petito’s converted camper van during the summer of 2021 when she disappeared In Wyoming.
Her mother, Nichole Schmidt, said she last spoke with her daughter on Aug. 25, 2021.
Brian Laundrie returned to his family’s Florida home in Gabby Petito’s van on Sept. 1, 2021, but she was not with him.
He refused to speak with police or the Petito family about where he last saw her before he supposedly vanished while hiking in a Florida nature reserve on Sept. 14, 2021.
Brian Laundrie’s parents claimed that was the last time they spoke with him.
Gabby Petito’s body was discovered in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming on Sept. 19, 2021.
Brian Laundrie’s partial remains were found on Oct. 20, 2021 in Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Sarasota County.
The FBI announced in a press release on Jan. 21, 2022, that the District 12 Medical Examiner’s Office in Sarasota had concluded Brian Laundrie died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The FBI further revealed that Brian Laundrie had taken responsibility for 22-year-old Gabby Petito’s death in a handwritten statement found in a notebook located in a waterproof bag near his body.
According to the lawsuit, Gabby Petito was murdered by Brian Laundrie on Aug. 27, 2021, WFLA reported.
The coroner determined she died by manual strangulation, but the lawsuit further alleged Gabby Petito also suffered blunt force injuries to her neck and head.
Gabby Petito’s parents claimed in the lawsuit that Brian Laundrie told his parents about murdering his fiancé on Aug. 28, 2021 – one day after her murder.
“It is believed, and therefore averred that… Brian Laundrie advised his parents, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, that he had murdered Gabrielle Petito,” the lawsuit read, according to WFLA. “On that same date, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie spoke with Attorney Steve Bertolino, and sent him a retainer on Sept. 2, 2021.”
The lawsuit further alleged Brian Laundrie used Gabby Petito’s phone to send messages back and forth with his phone after her murder “in an effort to hide the fact that she was deceased,” according to the lawsuit.
Gabby Petito’s family said Brian Laundrie and his parents refused to speak with them or police after he returned to Florida without her, WFLA reported.
Schmidt said Roberta Laundrie blocked her on Facebook and blocked her phone number at approximately the same time the family reported Gabby Petito’s disappearance.
“While Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt were desperately searching for information concerning their daughter, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie were keeping the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie secret, and it is believed were making arrangements for him to leave the country,” the lawsuit alleged, according to WFLA.
Gabby Petito’s parents accused the Laundries of acting “with malice or great indifference to the rights of” the Petito family, to include taking Brian Laundrie on a family camping trip while the search for Gabby Petito was ongoing, the lawsuit contended.
“Christopher and Roberta Laundrie exhibited extreme and outrageous conduct which constitutes behavior, under the circumstances, which goes beyond all possible bounds of decency and is regarded as shocking, atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the lawsuit read.
Rick Stafford, an attorney representing Schmidt and Joseph Petito, told WFLA in a statement in March of 2022 that Brian Laundrie and his parents had “multiple conversations” with Bertolino prior to Brian Laundrie leaving Wyoming on Aug 30, 2021.
“Christopher and Roberta had multiple opportunities to disclose to Joe, Nichole or the authorities that Gabby was no longer alive and to direct them to her body,” Stafford said. “Instead, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie showed callous indifference to the suffering of Gabby’s family and compounded her family’s anguish, pain and suffering by their actions.”
“For this, Christopher and Roberta must be held accountable,” he told WFLA at the time.