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Gabby Petito Legal Reps Cite 'Damning' Letter Penned By Brian Laundrie's Mother
A lawyer representing the family of murdered woman Gabby Petito says Roberta Laundrie wrote a "Burn After Reading" letter to her late son, allegedly offering to bring a shovel to help bury a body.
The parents of murdered woman Gabby Petito have cited what could be a damning letter written by Brian Laundrie’s mother in their emotional distress lawsuit, according to legal representatives.
Patrick J. Reilly, filing on behalf of Petito’s parents, entered a motion with the 12th Judicial Circuit Court for Sarasota County, Florida on Tuesday, requesting Laundrie’s parents produce a letter that allegedly supports the plaintiffs’ claims that they knew about Petito’s death before she was found dead, according to the filing reviewed by Oxygen.com.
The motion comes as part of an ongoing civil lawsuit filed in March 2022 in which parents Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt are suing Christopher and Roberta Laundrie for emotional distress.
“Please produce a copy of a letter written by Roberta Laundrie to Brian Laundrie, which letter states, in part, that Roberta Laundrie would bring a shovel to help bury a body, and which letter was contained in an envelope which on said envelope stated, ‘Burn after reading,’” Reilly stated in the motion.
The FBI reportedly delivered the letter to the Laundries’ family attorney, Steve Bertolino, on June 24, 2022, according to the recent filing.
During a remote court hearing in Sarasota County on Tuesday, Reilly claimed he saw the letter in question at an FBI regional office, claiming the letter mentioned items “including helping him get out of prison, getting a shovel, and some other things,” as reported by CNN.
The letter was reportedly found with Laundrie’s body, according to Reilly.
Gabby Petito, 22, of Long Island, New York, was reported missing by her family on Sept. 11, 2021, after she and Laundrie, 23, left Laundrie’s Florida home to document and blog their cross-country travels. Gabby was last known to be camping near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when Laundrie returned to Florida without Petito, 10 days before she was reported missing.
Laundrie was named a person of interest in the case and became a fugitive after disappearing from his Sarasota home — which he shared with his parents — on Sept. 13, 2021.
Following massive searches, Petito was found strangled to death on Sept. 19 at the national park.
Laundrie was found dead in the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve, not far from his Sarasota home, on Oct. 20, 2021. A postmortem examination revealed he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
In their civil lawsuit against Brian Laundrie’s parents in March — seeking no less than $30,000 in damages — Petito’s parents accused the Laundries of “shocking, atrocious, and utterly intolerable” behavior, per records previously reviewed by Oxygen.com.
“Christopher and Roberta Laundrie knew of the mental suffering and anguish of Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt and knew that they could alleviate, at least in part, such mental suffering and anguish by disclosing what they knew about the well-being and the location of the remains of Gabrielle Petito, yet they repeatedly refused to do so,” the lawsuit stated. “In doing so, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie acted with malice or great indifference to the rights of Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt.”
In December, the plaintiffs expressed their wish to add Bertolino, the Laundries’ family attorney, to the lawsuit, alleging he “knew that Gabby Petito was deceased” when issuing a public statement hoping for Petito’s safe return.
On Tuesday, defense attorney P. Matthew Luka told the court that the undated letter penned by Roberta Laundrie was irrelevant to their ongoing civil suit, according to CNN.
“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,” said Luka. “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.”
Reilly said it should be up to a jury to decide whether the letter should be factored into the lawsuit. If so, Petito’s family reps plan to question Roberta Laundrie about the letter during a deposition.
Reilly stated, “the language in that letter is damning,” CNN reported.
Petito’s parents reached a $3 million settlement in a lawsuit against Laundrie’s estate in November, though Reilly, noting Brian Laundrie did not have that much money, called it an “arbitrary” figure. They are also in the midst of a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Moab Police, claiming officers failed to protect Petito when responding to a domestic violence report shortly before Petito’s murder.
The emotional distress case is expected to go to trial in August.