A Florida judge denied a motion by Brian Laundrie’s parents to withhold a letter written to him by Laundrie’s mother, which said on the envelope “cremation after reading,” what an attorney for Gabby Petito’s family found potentially “damaging” evidence in referred to in their civil action.
Laundrie was accused of killing Petito, his fiancee, while they were on a cross-country road trip, which Petito documented on Instagram as an aspiring #vanlife influencer. While her disappearance and death were being investigated, Laundrie disappeared into a wildlife sanctuary near his parents’ home in Florida, where he himself was later found dead.
In March, Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, sued Laundrie’s parents, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, for emotional distress and accused them of knowing of their daughter’s death weeks before her body was found near a Wyoming campground.
At the heart of the ongoing civil lawsuit is a Letter written by Roberta Laundrie to her son Pat Reilly, the Petitos’ lawyer, argued that the Laundries knew that Petito had been killed and helped her son escape from authorities. The letter from Roberta Laundrie was about lending her son a shovel, helping with the burial of a dead body and helping him get out of prison, Reilly said.
“The letter is about burying a body, baking a cake and putting a stabbing in it,” Reilly told the court Wednesday.
The letter is undated and the laundries and their attorney have stated that it had nothing to do with Gabby Petito’s death.
Reilly has argued that since the letter is undated, it could have been written after the young woman’s death and it should be up to a jury to decide whether it constitutes relevant evidence.
Wednesday’s ruling will include the letter in disclosure, the evidence that parties in a lawsuit exchange with each other.
In an affidavit filed in March, Roberta Laundrie claimed she wrote the letter at a time when her relationship with her son was strained, months before Petito’s death. She said what she wrote was taken out of context.
“My words to Brian were to express my love and support for my son through a lighthearted and whimsical reminder that my love for him was not diminished and could not be shaken by the mile-long separation we would soon face ‘ she called.
According to Roberta Laundrie, she wrote “Burn After Reading” as an inside joke, referring to a book entitled “Burn After Writing” that Petito had given her son. In it, readers are asked to answer questions, express themselves on the page, and then burn the book.
“In short, I’ve been trying to get in touch with Brian and restore our relationship as he was planning to leave home — and I was hoping this letter would remind him how much I loved him,” she said.
The Laundries attempted to keep the letter secret, arguing that Roberta Laundrie did not expect anyone but her son to read it.
“In a way, I didn’t want anyone else to read it, knowing it’s not the kind of letter a mother writes to her adult son, and I didn’t want to embarrass Brian,” she said. “So I wrote ‘Burn After Reading’ on the cover and knew Brian would know what that meant. I’m grateful now that he actually kept it.”
Talking to reporters After Wednesday’s hearing, Matthew Luka, who represents the Laundrie family, reiterated that the letter’s content could appear inflammatory without context, but revealed how much Roberta Laundrie loved her son.
“We believe, as Ms Laundrie has said, the letter was written before Brian and Gabby traveled,” he said. “The letter is not related to Gabby in any way, which would be unlikely if it had been written after what happened between Gabby and Brian.”
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