A critical hearing took place in Florida on Wednesday, focusing on the contentious issue of whether Brian Laundrie’s parents should surrender a cryptic “burn after reading” letter to the parents of Gabby Petito, his deceased former fiancée. The hearing, part of a civil lawsuit stemming from Petito’s tragic strangling in Wyoming in 2021, aimed to shed light on the circumstances surrounding her untimely demise.
Chris and Roberta Laundrie, Brian’s parents, have not faced criminal charges related to Petito’s death. However, within the civil suit, they have requested that the court deny the Petito family’s request for a copy of the letter, which allegedly contains mentions of Roberta offering her son a shovel. Attorneys representing Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, argue that the letter is crucial to the discovery process, as it allegedly implicates the Laundries in having prior knowledge of Petito’s death and attempting to aid their son in evading justice.
After months of legal disputes revolving around the letter, a hearing was scheduled in Sarasota County. Judge Danielle Brewer presided over the proceedings, dedicating nearly three hours to arguments for and against the defendants’ motions to dismiss. Following the hearing, Judge Brewer reserved judgment and informed the parties involved that she would issue orders on the motions at a later date.
“I don’t feel comfortable summarizing the letter,” stated Pat Reilly, the attorney representing Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, in an interview with Fox News Digital. “The content is very specific and best read when available. If my belief as to the time it was written is accurate, it shows that at least Roberta Laundrie knew of Gabby’s murder before Gabby’s body was located.”
According to Reilly, the undated letter indicates that it was composed after Petito’s tragic passing. On the other hand, attorneys for the Laundrie family argue that the letter was written months before the couple embarked on their cross-country tour of national parks and is unrelated to Petito’s death.
In a sworn affidavit filed in a Sarasota court, Roberta Laundrie attempted to provide context for the letter. She explained that it was inspired by children’s books, namely “The Runaway Bunny” and “Little Bear,” as well as a writing exercise book called “Burn After Writing” that Petito had given her son. The intention behind the letter, she claimed, was to emulate the idea of burning away embarrassing thoughts or expressions.
“I did not want anyone else to read it as I know it is not the type of letter a mother writes to her adult son, and I did not want to embarrass Brian,” Roberta Laundrie wrote in her affidavit. “That is why I wrote ‘Burn After Reading’ on the envelope, and I knew that Brian would know what that meant. I am now appreciative that he actually kept it.”
The civil lawsuit alleges that Brian Laundrie, his parents, and their attorney were aware of Petito’s death when attorney Steve Bertolino issued a statement to the media on behalf of the Laundrie family on September 14th, expressing hope for the success of the search for Petito and her safe reunion with her family.
It should be noted that Brian Laundrie’s remains were discovered on October 20, 2021, in Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park near the Laundrie family home in North Port, Florida.