Brian Laundrie’s mother offered him a shovel and garbage bags if he needed to dispose of a body, according to a letter enclosed in an envelope that said “burn after reading,” court filings reveal.
The letter was released to Gabby Petito’s parents Wednesday after a Florida judge denied a request from Laundrie’s parents to withhold it, as the two families head to a civil trial next year.
In March 2022, Petito's family sued Laundrie's parents and the Laundries' former attorney for emotional distress in connection with her death.
Petito, an aspiring social media influencer, vanished on a cross-country trip with Laundrie, her fiancé, in the summer of 2021. The search dominated headlines for weeks.
Petito’s body was found on Sept. 19, 2021, in Wyoming, and the cause of her death was later ruled a homicide as she died by “manual strangulation“ at least three weeks earlier, a coroner said.
Laundrie’s body was found in a nature preserve not far from his parents’ home in Florida on Oct. 20, 2021, and the FBI said he left behind writings “claiming responsibility” for Petito's death. A medical examiner ruled that Laundrie died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Petito's parents had requested a copy of Roberta Laundrie's letter to her son several times, most recently earlier this month, court filings show.
Patrick Reilly, an attorney for the Petito family, shared a copy of the letter, which was written on a brown card and undated, with NBC News on Thursday.
“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 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,” Roberta Laundrie wrote.
“If you’re in jail, I will bake a cake with 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,” the letter continued.
Roberta Laundrie included a Bible verse from Romans 8:38.
She ended the letter by saying: “(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. ~”
The letter was in an envelope that said, “Brian Christopher Laundrie (burn after reading).”
Roberta Laundrie says letter had nothing to do with Petito
An attorney for Laundrie's parents filed for a protective order on the letter in March, saying Roberta Laundrie wrote it months before Gabby Petito’s death.
Roberta Laundrie added in an accompanying affidavit that she wrote the letter to her son at a time when their relationship was “difficult” and “strained.” She said that she did not know the exact date she wrote the letter but that she gave it to him before he and Petito left for their trip.
“I was trying to connect with Brian and repair our relationship as he was planning to leave home — and I had hoped this letter would remind him how much I loved him,” she wrote.
She said that the two shared a love of stories and Petito had given her son a book entitled “Burn After Writing” that they often joked about.
“This is where my message to Brian came from and I wrote on the cover of the letter for Brian to 'Burn After Reading,'” she said.
“While I used words that seem to have a connection with Brian’s actions and his taking of Gabby’s life, I never would have fathomed the events that unfolded months later between Brian and Gabby would reflect the words in my letter,” Roberta Laundrie said.
She said the letter was not in her son’s possession or in his backpack when he died because the FBI had the letter and questioned the Laundrie family about it prior to the discovery of his remains.
Reilly, the attorney for the Petito family, said that the FBI found the letter in a box in a closet in the Laundries' house. It contained items from the van he and Petito were traveling in, Reilly added.
The Petito family said in a statement after Wednesday's proceedings that they appreciated the judge's ruling, adding that "she recognized the importance of the 'Burn After Reading' letter as a potential source of evidence to be used at trial against the Laundries."
"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," the statement said. On that day, the Laundrie family released a statement through their attorney hoping that Petito would be found.
"We look forward to having a jury determine when the letter was written at the time of trial," the Petito family said.
Laundrie's parents insisted the letter had nothing to do with Petito in a statement released by their attorney, Matthew Luka.
“The letter to Brian was written prior to Gabby and Brian leaving my home for their trip,” Roberta Laundrie said.
"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," she added.
The jury trial is set for May 2024.