Brian Laundrie's Mom Wrote a Letter About "Burying a Body," Petito Attorney Says
The Petito family is asking for the letter to be included as evidence in their civil suit.
During the summer of 2021, the nation was following the search for Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman who went missing while traveling cross-country with her fiancé Brian Laundrie. Gabby was reported missing on Sept. 11, 2021, and Brian was named a "person of interest," by authorities, as he was the last person known to have seen her, The New York Times reported.
While many held out hope that Gabby would be found alive, on Sept. 19, her remains were found in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming, with an autopsy determining that she died by manual strangulation. After the news broke, Brian was found dead by suicide in a wooded Florida park, alongside a written confession to Gabby's murder, according to a press release from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The tragic case made national headlines for months, and Gabby's parents, Joe Petito and Nicole Schmidt, are now suing the Laundrie family for "emotional distress" in relation to her death. On Tuesday, the Petito family lawyer pointed to a letter written by Roberta Laundrie to her son, which included mention of a shovel and "burying a body," CNN reported.
Read on to find out what the letter said, and why the Petitos are pushing to have the Laundries' legal team produce it as evidence.
READ THIS NEXT: 7 Bombshells Dropped by Alex Murdaugh's Housekeeper.
The letter was in an envelope marked "burn after reading."
According to CNN, the Petito family lawyer, Patrick Reilly, said that there is a suspicious letter from Brian's mother, Roberta Laundrie. During a Feb. 14 remote court hearing in Sarasota County Circuit Court in Florida, Reilly cited the incriminating language in the letter, which "has a reference to bringing a shovel and burying a body."
The letter was reportedly found in Brian's backpack when his body was found, and Reilly stated he personally saw it at the FBI regional office. According to Reilly, it contained information about "helping [Brian] get out of prison, getting a shovel and some other things." The envelope that the letter was found in also said "burn after reading."
According to the court filing, an initial request for the letter said, "This request would also include the note that Roberta Laundrie wrote to Brian Laundrie which she offered to bring a shovel to help bury the body. This note was released to the custody of Mr. Bertolino on Friday, June 24, 2022 by the FBI," CNN reported. Steven Bertolino is the Laundries' attorney.
Reilly said that the Laundries' legal team threatened to sue him for defamation over the request for the letter.
The Laundrie family says the letter is irrelevant.
During the hearing, an attorney for the Laundries confirmed the letter is real and being held by another attorney, CNN reported. But he argued that the family shouldn't have to present the letter.
"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," defense attorney P. Matthew Luka said, per CNN. "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."
However, Reilly wants its relevance left up to a jury, as he stated that there's no date on the letter, and they want to ask Roberta about it in a deposition. In response to the situation, Judge Danielle Brewer said, "I don't see how it wouldn't be relevant to the action," CNN reported.
The trial is scheduled to begin in August.
RELATED: For more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
The lawsuit was first filed in March 2022.
The Petito family first asked for the letter in the court filing, but they will have to do so again during the discovery process—where both parties exchange information about witnesses and evidence to be presented at trial.
Gabby's parents filed the civil lawsuit against the Laundries in March 2022, as a result of their behavior while Gabby was missing, claiming that they knew Brian killed her and were attempting to help him flee the country, ABC-affiliate WWSB reported.
"Christopher Laundrie 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 suit says, per WWSB.
After the lawsuit was filed, the Laundries' attorney stated that they weren't obligated speak to the public, law enforcement, or the Petito family. Gabby's parents filed a motion to add Bertolino as a defendant in the civil lawsuit in Dec. 2022, CNN reported, claiming that he also knew that Brian murdered Gabby.
Brian was in contact with his parents until he disappeared.
Brian returned to his parents' home in North Port, Florida, on Sept. 1, 2021—in the van that he and Gabby had been sharing. The family later went camping from Sept. 6 to Sept. 8, per a timeline published by CNN.
While he came back without his fiancé, Gabby wasn't reported missing until Sept. 11, after her family wasn't able to reach her. When police tried to speak with Brian and his family, they were only provided with information from the family attorney, per CNN.
After several days of police and the Petito family calling on the Laundries to help find Gabby, Brian's parents reported him missing on Sept. 17, saying they hadn't seen him since Sept. 14.
"We've been trying all week to talk to his family, to talk to Brian, and now they've called us here on Friday, we've gone to the home, and they're saying now they have not seen their son," North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor told CNN's Chris Cuomo at the time. "It is another twist in this story."
Brian's remains were later found on Oct. 20, 2021, in Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, and the FBI confirmed in Jan. 2022 that a notebook including Brian's written confession "claiming responsibility for Ms. Petito's death" was also found.