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Brian Laundrie’s mom says ‘burn after reading’ letter found in son’s backpack had nothing to do with Gabby Petito’s murder

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie appear in Aug. 12, 2021 Moab, Utah police body camera videos.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie appear in Aug. 12, 2021 Moab, Utah police body camera videos.

The mother of Brian Laundrie this week addressed the now-infamous “burn after reading” letter she wrote to her son, claiming that she penned the message months before her son and Gabby Petito left on the 2021 road trip that ended with Laundrie killing Petito and then taking his own life.

In a sworn affidavit seeking to prevent the letter from being admitted as evidence in a civil lawsuit filed by Petito’s parents, Roberta Laundrie said that she was merely trying to reach out to Brian Laundrie while she and her son were “experiencing a difficult period” in their relationship. She further claims that certain phrases from the “quirky” letter are being taken out of context and sensationalized for public consumption.

Petito’s parents filed a lawsuit against Roberta and Christopher Laundrie in March 2022, alleging that they knew Brian Laundrie had killed Petito but remained silent and were seeking to help him get rid of Petito’s body and flee law enforcement. The suit seeks monetary damages for pain and suffering.

The Petitos’ attorney, Patrick Reilly, revealed the existence of the “burn after reading” letter in a court filing in December seeking to have a copy of the letter turned over during the discovery process. He claimed the letter was relevant to the civil case because it “goes to the issue of knowledge” regarding the Laundries’ knowing about “Gabby’s passing and the location of her body.” Reilly further claimed that in the letter, Roberta Laundrie “offered to bring a shovel to help bury the body.”

The Laundries and their attorney, Steven Bertolino, are seeking an order of protection against producing the letter, arguing that “its origin has no relation to this case, but its publishing is embarrassing and most prejudicial to Roberta Laundrie.”

Roberta Laundrie penned the affidavit in support of the motion for the protective order, stating unequivocally that she gave the letter to her son “before Brian and Gabby left Florida for New York.”

“The purpose of the letter was to reach out to Brian while he and I were experiencing a difficult period in our relationship,” Roberta Laundrie wrote. “Brian and I always had a very open and communicative relationship and in the months prior to the trip our relationship had become strained. Brian and I shared a love of stories and some of the language in the letter was using similar phrases to describe the depth of a mother’s love.”

She also wrote that Petito had given Brian Laundrie a book, “Burn After Writing,” which the three of them often joked about. The book teaches about the therapeutic effects of writing down one’s feelings without having to share them with others.

The back of the book instructs the reader to create a secret book and then destroy by “burn after writing.” The bottom of the back cover says: “Write. Burn. Repeat.” Brian, Gabby and I often joked about this book and the importance of being able to express yourself. If you were embarrassed or simply did not want anyone to know your thoughts or feelings then the book offered the perfect solution by telling you to burn it. This is where my message to Brian came from and I wrote on the cover of the letter for Brian to “Burn After Reading.” In short, 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 went on to say that while some of the words “seem to have a connection with Brian’s actions and his taking of Gabby’s life,” she could not possibly have foreseen the tragic events that “unfolded months later between Brian and Gabby.”

“The words in the letter could never have been a comment on that tragic situation as they were written so many months before,” Roberta Laundrie wrote. “My words to Brian were meant to convey my love and support for my son through a light-hearted and quirky reminder that my love for him was not diminished and could not be shaken by the miles of separation we would soon be faced with.”

The civil case against the Laundries is currently scheduled to begin in August.

Read the full letter below.

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.