Brian Laundrie‘s mother offered to help her son “bury a body” in a letter, which she urged him to “burn after reading,” according to a motion filed by the family of Gabby Petito.
During a remote court hearing in Florida Tuesday, the lawyer for Petito’s parents, Patrick Reilly, alleged that the letter also alluded to Brian’s mother — Roberta Laundrie — “helping him get out of prison” and “some other things,” reports CNN.
Reilly claimed that the letter was retrieved from Brian’s backpack when his body was found in a Florida swamp. Reilly said he saw the letter at a regional FBI office.
Motions filed Tuesday say Brian’s father, Christopher, and mother have 30 days to produce the letter.
Also in the backpack was a notebook in which the 23-year-old confessed to murdering Gabby during their 2021 cross-country road trip.
“I ended her life. 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,” he wrote.
The Petitos are suing the Laundries for emotional distress in connection with Gabby’s death during the road trip. They are seeking $30,000 in damages for mental anguish suffered due to what they describe as deceit by the Laundries.
However, the lawyer for Laundrie’s parents argued Tuesday that the letter is irrelevant to the lawsuit. He confirmed in court that the letter exists, but said they shouldn’t have to produce it.
“This document pre-dates Brian and Gabby’s trip so its creation really doesn’t have any relation necessarily to the unfortunate events that unfolded thereafter. I know that some of the wording that was used in the letter is unfortunate and might suggest that it has some connection but it doesn’t,” P. Matthew Luka said in court, according to CNN.
In response, Reilly countered that the letter is not dated and it should be up to a jury to decide if it’s relevant.
“The language in that letter is damning and that letter has a reference to bringing a shovel and burying a body,” he said, calling for Roberta Laundrie to be deposed over the letter.
Petito’s parents sued the parents of Laundrie for emotional distress in a separate lawsuit, claiming they had knowledge that Petito was dead, but did not tell anyone. In November 2022, they were awarded US$3 million in the wrongful death lawsuit.
Gabby disappeared in the summer of 2021 after a month-long cross-country trip with Brian across the United States. She was last seen alive on Aug. 26, 2021.
Her family reported her missing on Sept. 11, saying Gabby had not been responding to calls or texts for more than a week after Brian had reportedly returned to his family’s home in North Port, Fla., without her.
Brian returned home on Sept. 1 in the white van that the couple had rented for the trip.
In mid-September, Gabby’s remains were found in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest. A medical examiner confirmed she died from strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head.
By that time, Brian was missing. His parents told police their son disappeared on Sept. 17, three days after they said they had last seen him.
He was named as a person of interest in Gabby’s death, and a weeks-long, nationwide manhunt ensued. It ended when his remains were found along a trail in the swampy Florida wilderness on Oct. 21.
A lawyer for the Laundrie family later confirmed that Brian died by suicide.
Last week, the Petitos shared a photo of their daughter, claiming that she took a photo of herself on the same day she was interviewed by police officers over a domestic disturbance call. The photo apparently shows Gabby with facial injuries, including skin lacerations and what appears to be blood smeared across her nose and cheek and around her eye.
The family’s lawyers claim the data attached to the photo revealed it was taken at 4:37 p.m., shortly before the encounter with Moab police.
Gabby and Brian were stopped by police on Aug. 12, 2021, while they travelled through Utah on their road trip. Officers from the Moab City Police Department confronted the couple after a witness reported they’d seen Brian hit Gabby outside a grocery store.
In bodycam footage released by police last year, Gabby said she hit Brian first. She added that Laundrie “gets frustrated with me a lot.”
The photo was shared as part of a lawsuit filed by Gabby’s parents in November. They are suing the Moab City Police Department for negligence in investigating claims of domestic violence.
Petito’s parents argue in the lawsuit that she showed officers her injuries but was ignored.
— With files from Global News’ Sarah Do Couto