Brian Laundrie’s mother Roberta has commented on the Petito family’s request for a court to make available a letter reportedly found in Roberta’s now-deceased son’s backpack.
In the summer of 2021, Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie traveled cross-country, blogging about their experience. The trip ended in tragedy with Laundrie murdering Petito at a state park in Wyoming — he later took his own life in a swampy wilderness area of Florida.
Investigators submitted the notable letter, written by Roberta Laundrie, into evidence. The letter has come to be known as the “burn after reading” letter, so called because of an ominous line in the correspondence from Roberta to her son Brian.
Petito’s parents, who have several open cases concerning the murder, have petitioned the court to disclose the letter. The letter appears to some to indicate that Roberta Laundrie was aware of and condoned her son’s actions. One disconcerting line notes Roberta offering to lend Brian a shovel.
In a statement filed in a Sarasota court on Monday, Roberta expressed remorse for her son’s actions and denied condoning the murder: “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.”
Speaking through their attorney, Steve Bertolino, Roberta Laundrie and her husband Christopher maintain Roberta wrote the “burn after reading” letter months before the murder and cross-country road trip.
The Laundries have petitioned the court to deny the Petito family access to the letter.
Pat Reilly, an attorney representing the Petito family, disputes Roberta Laundrie’s contention that she wrote the letter before Gabby and Brian embarked on their trip and has noted he expects the court to release the letter.
In an affidavit concerning the matter, Roberta Laundrie attempted to put the letter in a particular context, saying she wrote it in the style of the children’s books “The Runaway Bunny” and “Little Bear” and references an exercise book Gabby reportedly gave to Brian titled “Burn After Writing.”
Referencing the “Burn After Writing” book, Roberta said: “Brian, Gabby, and I often joked about this book and the importance of being able to express yourself.”
“In some way, 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. 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.”
Brian’s mother claims she prepared the letter because she felt her son was drifting away, and she wanted to encourage a renewed relationship “through a light-hearted and quirky reminder.”
Roberta argued her letter does not reference or point to an awareness of Gabby’s murder: “Although a few of the words in the letter are being quoted by others as having a connection to this case, all of the words taken together and in the context of the reason the letter was written show that there is no connection.”
Roberta’s affidavit also addresses the speculation investigators found the letter near Brian’s body:
“There has been some speculation that this letter was in Brian’s possession or in his backpack when he died – insinuating that I gave it to him as he left my home on September 13, 2021 – but that is not true because the FBI had the letter in their possession and questioned members of my family about it prior to October 20, 2021 when my husband and I found Brian’s remains in the reserve,” she wrote.
Brian’s final note includes an admission that he killed Gabby but notes it was a kind of mercy-killing — an act of desperation, shock and panic.
“I ended her life,” Brian wrote, claiming his actions followed Gabby severely injured herself when she fell in the wilderness. “I thought it was merciful, that it is what she wanted, but I see now all the mistakes I made. I panicked. I was in shock.”
Laundrie added: “From the moment I decided, took away her pain, I knew I couldn’t go on without her.”
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