Letter in Petito lawsuit is released, both sides argue its relevancy
Gabby Petito’s parents now have a copy of a letter Brian Laundrie’s mother wrote to her son, which included references to getting a shovel and burying a body.
Attorneys for both sides argued in a Sarasota County, Florida, courtroom Wednesday over whether the letter is relevant to the lawsuit brought by Gabby Petito’s parents against Laundrie’s parents and the Laundries’ former attorney.
The envelope containing the letter – which is undated – said “burn after reading” and was recovered from Brian Laundrie’s backpack when his remains were found in October 2021.
“As we all know the letter references burying a body bringing a shovel and burying a body,” Petito family attorney Patrick Reilly said in court Wednesday. “Those are criminal acts, by the way, that Roberta Laundrie has said she would commit.”
The Petitos sued the Laundries for emotional distress in connection with Gabby Petito’s death while travelling the Western United States with Brian Laundrie, her fiancé. Laundrie came home from the trip without Petito and disappeared several weeks later.
Gabby Petito’s remains were found at Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest in September 2021 and her death was ruled a homicide by manual strangulation. Before taking his own life, Brian Laundrie wrote in a notebook he was responsible for her death, according to the FBI. His remains were found the next month in a preserve not far from his parents’ home in North Port, Florida.
Attorneys for Brian Laundrie’s parents fought to not turn over the letter, arguing that it’s not relevant to the civil lawsuit brought by Petito’s parents.
In an affidavit filed before the hearing, Roberta Laundrie wrote she doesn’t know the exact date of the letter but that she wrote it before Brian left with Gabby Petito for their trip in hopes it would help repair her relationship with her son.
After a lengthy back-and-forth in court Wednesday, both parties agreed that a confidentiality order was not necessary to keep the letter under seal once Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Danielle Brewer determined the letter could be relevant to the case and the plaintiff lawyers should at least get a copy.
“Your Honor, I think at this point, we probably wouldn’t be in favour of a confidentiality agreement on this issue either just because Mr. Reilly just put probably the two worst parts of the letter on the record in open court so I mean, that’s where – we would be dealing with that throughout the litigation,” Laundries’ attorney P. Matthew Luka said Wednesday.
It is unclear, however, whether the letter will be made public.
Reilly told CNN he’d consult Petito’s parents and make a decision as to whether they’d share it with the press.
CNN also reached out to Luka but did not immediately hear back.
The lawsuit alleges outrageous behaviour of intentional infliction of emotional distress by Roberta and Christopher Laundrie during the time Gabby was missing. The couple refused to return calls or texts to the Petito family as they were frantically trying to find their daughter, it says.
The Laundries have argued in court filings they had no duty to Petito’s family.
Earlier in the hourslong hearing, attorneys for the Laundries and their former attorney Steven Bertolino, who is also a named defendant in the lawsuit, argued motions to dismiss the civil case. The judge said she’d rule on the motions to dismiss in a written order posted on the docket.