Florida

Brian Laundrie Had Mom's ‘Burn After Reading' Letter in Backpack When He Died. Now It's Out

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie, a couple in their 20s, went on a cross-country road trip in the summer of 2021. The saga that unfolded over the next months left both dead, families torn apart -- and families at war

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

The mother of the Florida man accused of murdering Long Island's Gabby Petito two summers ago before a manhunt found him dead, offered to bring him a shovel and trash bags, should he need to dump a body, and bake him "a cake with a file in it," should he go to jail, according to an undated later recovered from Brian Laundrie's backpack.

Brian Laundrie's parents, Roberta and Christopher, are mired in a civil lawsuit with the Petito family in Florida, where the Laundries live, over the 22-year-old woman's mysterious death last year. Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie had left on a cross-country road trip in August 2021 and, at some point, Petito's family could no longer get in touch with her.

Petito's parents say they petitioned Laundrie's parents for information on her whereabouts, which they say the other couple withheld -- in an alleged effort to shield their son from his crimes. They allege Roberta and Christopher Laundrie likely knew where their son was during the month he was missing, and the target of an intensive FBI manhunt.

Brian Laundrie's skeletal remains turned up in a Florida swamp in October. His parents had told authorities their son told them he was going there for a hike and never returned. Laundrie is believed to have killed himself, and writings found in his notebook, part of which was recovered despite being submerged for a time, apologize for killing Petito.

NBC New York

The letter from Roberta Laundrie also was in that knapsack, according to Petito family attorney Patrick Reilly. Reilly shared the letter Thursday, a day after the Laundrie's attorney released the letter through their lawyer after a failed court bid to prevent its release associated with that civil emotional distress lawsuit. A Florida judge denied the motion.

It wasn't clear what moved the Laundries to release the letter publicly -- it was not revealed by the court. The move came after a half-year of refusing to hand it over, Reilly says, and the same day she sought a confidentiality agreement.

Reilly shared images of the letter itself and the undated envelope, which reads simply: "Brian Christopher Laundrie (burn after reading)" in his mother's handwriting.

"I just want you to remember I will always love you and I know you will always love me., You are my boy," the letter begins. "Nothing can make me stop loving you, nothing will or could ever divide us. No matter what we do, or where we go or what we say - we will always love each other."

Then come the jail and body disposal references. See the full letter below.

According to CNN, Robert Laundrie claimed in an affidavit ahead of Wednesday's hearing regarding the letter that she wasn't sure when she had written it, exactly. She insisted it was before her son and Petito even left on their road trip -- and CNN reports the affidavit indicated her hopes that the letter would repair her troubled relationship with her son.

The Laundries had argued the letter wasn't relevant to the civil case, which the Petito family adamantly opposed. The judge determine it could potentially be relevant evidence and that the Petito lawyers should receive a copy of it. Reilly says the Laundries released the letter on their own. They have insisted no criminal wrongdoing in the case.

They have also said it was not their obligation to communicate with the Petito family about their daughter as they pleaded for help finding her during a gut-wrenching several weeks.

In a statement Thursday, Reilly said the Petito family appreciated the judge's ruling on the letter.

"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," Reilly said. "We look forward to having a jury determine when the letter was written at the time of trial."

Steve Bertolino, who is representing the Laundries, is also named as a defendant in the civil case.

The Petito family has already won a $3 million wrongful death lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's estate. They're also suing a Utah police department for $50 million over a traffic stop they claim could have saved Petito's life. The police department in question, in Moab, has pledged to conduct a thorough review and implement any needed reforms.

Police in Moab, Utah, on Thursday released new body camera footage of a stop involving Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie in the days before the 22-year-old Long Island native went missing in Wyoming.
Copyright NBC New York
Contact Us