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What's in the "Burn after Reading" Letter That Brian Laundrie's Mother Wrote to Him?
Roberta Laundrie insists the letter was written before Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie left on a cross-country road trip in June 2021.
The Laundrie family had resisted calls to turn over the handwritten note, which contained the phrase "burn after reading," arguing it was of no relevance to Petito's murder at the hands of Brian, her fiancé who killed her during a cross-country trip back in late summer 2021.
Patrick Reilly, a lawyer for Petito's parents Nicole Schmidt and Joseph Petito, celebrated the ruling and thanked Judge Danielle Brewer for recognizing "the importance of the 'Burn After Reading' letter as a potential source of evidence to be used at trial against the Laundries" in a statement to Oxygen.com Thursday.
What Did Roberta Laundrie Write in Her Letter to Brian?
The letter, which contained no date on it, was reportedly among the items recovered at the Florida nature preserve where Brian Laundrie's remains were found in October 2021. The FBI later gave the letter to the Laundries' attorney Steve Bertolino in June 2022, according to a filing previously reviewed by Oxygen.com.
On the back, Roberta wrote to "Burn after reading" and the note contains references to Roberta offering to help Brian dispose of a body and break him out of jail. The Petito family has alleged this suggests Roberta was aware of Gabby's death at the time she wrote the note and was willing to help him cover it up. The Laundries dispute that interpretation and insist the note was written before Gabby's death.
The full text reads:
I just want you to remember I will always Love you and I know you will always Love me. You are my boy. Nothing can make me stop loving you, nothing can or ever will divide us no matter what we do, or where we go or what we say - we will always love each other. If you're in jail I will bake a cake and put a file in it. If you need to dispose of a body. I will show up with a shovel and garbage bags. If you fly to the moon, I will be watching the skies for your re-entry. If you say you hate my guts, I'll get new guts.
Remember that love is a verb, not a noun. It’s not a thing, it’s not words, it is actions. Watch people’s actions to know if they love you – not their words.
"Therefore I am certain that neither death nor life, nor angels nor the ruling spirits, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers from above, nor powers from below, nothing in the entire created world can separate our love. Neither hostile powers nor messengers of heaven nor monarchs of earth. Nothing has the power to separate us..." - Romans 8:38 (Extended version!)
(Nothing can separate us, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not threats, not even sin, not the thinkable or unthinkable can get between us.)
~ not time, not miles and miles and miles ~
What Has Roberta Laundrie Said About the "Burn After Reading" Letter?
Roberta Laundrie explained in her own statement issued by attorney Matt Luka that the correspondence was intended to mend her relationship with Brian prior to his and Gabby Petito's cross-country road trip in June 2021, not after Brian killed Gabby.
"I truly loved my son, and simply wanted to convey to him how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. I am sure people use phrases all the time to express to their loved ones the depths of their love. Although I chose words that I thought would be impactful with Brian given our relationship, the letter was in no way related to Gabby. Please read the entire letter before you believe the hype put out by Pat Reilly," Roberta's statement read in part.
In the Petito family statement, they called Roberta's explanation and publication of the letter "self-serving."
Roberta further explained in an affidavit filed March 6, 2023 that she and Brian reportedly had a "difficult period" in their relationship, prompting her to write the letter. She explained that some of the quotes were references that only she, Brian and Gabby would understand.
"I repeat that the letter I wrote to Brian before he left with Gabby for their fateful trip was nothing more than a private communication between myself and my son and I never expected anyone else would read it. In some way, I did not want anyone else to read it as I know it is not the type of letter a mother writes to her adult son and I did not want to embarrass Brian," the affidavit states.
Attorney Steve Bertolino, who is named as a defendant in the Petitos' lawsuit, said in a separate statement to Oxygen.com that Roberta's letter should be taken with a grain of salt.
"Just ask yourself if there would be any truth to Brian flying to the moon and Roberta waiting for his reentry? Or would there be any truth to Roberta taking out her guts and getting new guts? If you not believe those two sentiments to have any truth, why would you think the prior two sentiments would be any less facetious?" Bertolino questioned.
Bertolino, requested to be removed from the civil lawsuit in February, with his attorneys arguing that he had acted in a "legally permissible way" since he was representing the Laundries at the time.
Why Are the Petitos Suing the Laundries?
The Petitos filed a lawsuit against the Laundries, accusing Chris and Roberta Laundrie, as well as attorney Steve Bertolino, of “extreme and outrageous conduct” that went “beyond all possible bounds of decency,” according to the civil suit previously obtained by Oxygen.com. They're seeking damages of at least $30,000.
The Petitos accused the Laundries and Bertolino of knowing that Gabby was deceased but keeping that fact hidden from them, despite requests for their help in finding her. They furthermore released a statement in September 2021, through Bertolino, that read: "It is our understanding 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.”
Brian Laundrie returned to Florida but went on the run a few weeks after Petito was reported missing. Following a nationwide manhunt, he was found dead by Roberta and Chris Laundrie in a Florida nature preserve in October 2021. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, writing in his suicide letter that he had killed Gabby.
Why Did the Judge Rule in Favor of the Petitos?
The letter was the center of discussion at a Wednesday hearing tied to the civil suit. During the hearing, the Laundries sought to have the letter excluded from the suit, questioning its relevance and insisting it was written before Petito's death. There was also discussion of the Laundries giving the letter to the Petitos on the condition that it's withheld from the public, but both sides opposed that deal, according to Fox 13.
Judge Danielle Brewer ultimately ruled that the letter was relevant to the suit and that the Petitos should be given a copy.
"The letter is undated, and while Roberta Laundrie has suggested it was written before Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito left on their trip, a reasonable inference is that it was written after Gabby Petito was murdered, and is evidence that the Laundries and Attorney Bertolino were aware of Gabby Petito’s demise when the statement at issue was released on September 14, 2021. We look forward to having a jury determine when the letter was written at the time of trial," the Petito family statement concluded.
Judge Brewer scheduled a pre-trial conference for July 7, with a jury trial scheduled for Aug. 4, according to the court docket.