The Disturbing Letter Brian Laundrie's Mother Told Him To 'Burn After Reading'

In a case of young love gone tragically wrong that gripped national headlines in 2021, the mystery was ultimately solved, but for the parents of Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito, the aftermath is far from over. In part, that's in light of the discovery that Laundrie's mother, Roberta Laundrie, wrote a letter to her son with chilling references to burying a body and helping her son break out of prison, CNN reports. Roberta also wrote "burn after reading" on the envelope. 

Laundrie's fiancé, Petito, was found dead in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming after she was reported missing by her parents in the midst of a cross-country trip with Laundrie. Petito's parents, Nicole Schmidt and Joseph Petito, hope to include the letter as evidence in the lawsuit they brought against the Laundries alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Laundrie and Petito were aspiring social media influencers when Petito went missing. Her body was found about a month later and it was determined she'd been strangled to death. After Laundrie, too, disappeared, his remains were later found in an Environmental Preserve near his family's Florida home. He had shot himself in the head, per the autopsy findings. His handwritten confession that he killed Petito was also recovered. 

Though undated, Laundrie's mother said the letter she wrote pre-dated her son and his fiancé's trip that culminated in Petito's death. For this reason, according to a Laundrie family defense attorney, the letter is unrelated to the case. On what motivated Roberta to write the letter, she stated in an affidavit (via CNN): "I had hoped this letter would remind him how much I loved him."

The Laundrie letter was in FBI possession

The letter Roberta Laundrie wrote to her son referencing a dead body and breaking him out of prison was in the possession of the FBI when it was spotted in a regional office by Petito family attorney, Patrick Reilly. Reilly now hopes to enter the letter as evidence in the Petito family lawsuit, along with other examples of the Laundrie family's behavior in the time before the remains of their son and his fiancé were found. As alleged in court filings, Brian Laundrie's parents, Christopher and Roberta, reportedly refused to communicate with the Petito family during the investigation. The Laundries have said they were under no obligation to do so.

Once the contents of the letter were exposed, Roberta wrote in an affidavit that her grisly references — including the phrase that she "would bring a shovel to help bury a body" — were merely an attempt to show Brian the depths of her motherly love, not an indication she was aware of Petito's fate. Roberta also wrote that phrases and statements in the letter were drawn from books that she and her son shared an interest in, including books from Brian's childhood. "These phrases are common enough in our circle of friends and family, to describe who you could turn to in the most troubling times of your life. While I use the words that seem to have a connection with Brian's actions and his taking Gabby's life, I never would have fathomed the events that unfolded months later," her affidavit stated (via FOX 13).

The full letter was eventually released to the public

In May 2023, a copy of the undated letter was released for the public to see (via CNN). "I just want you to remember I will always Love you and I know you will always Love me," Roberta Laundrie wrote. "You are my boy. Nothing can make me stop loving you, nothing will or could ever divide us. No matter what we do, or where we go or what we say- we will always Love each other."

The letter continued: "If you're in jail I will bake a cake with a file in it. If you need to dispose of a body I will bring show up with a shovel and garbage bags. If you fly to the moon, I will be watching the skies for your re-entry. If you say you hate my guts, I'll get new guts."

"Remember that love is a verb, not a noun. It's not a thing, it's not words, it is actions. Watch people's actions to know if they love you — not their words," Roberta wrote before quoting Romans 8:38, which underlies the unyielding nature of God's love, even in the face of adversity, according to BibleRef. She ends the letter by claiming that "nothing" can separate her from her son, be it hunger, hatred, homelessness — "not even sin."

According to Global News, Florida Judge Danielle Brewer was the catalyst for the release of the letter, ruling it potentially relevant to the distress lawsuit that Gabby Petito's parents brought against the Laundries.

A Petito family attorney says the letter is damning

Despite the protest of the Roberta and Christopher Laundrie family and their defense team that the letter written by Roberta to her son is irrelevant to the case, in a court hearing about whether or not it's admissible, prosecutor Patrick Reilly called the language Roberta used "damning" (via CNN). In response, Laundrie family defense attorney P. Matthew Luka said at that same hearing: "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." 

In his court statement, Luka went on to add, "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." However, Reilly said the decision on whether or not the note was admissible was best left up to a jury. As of this report, the trial regarding the lawsuit against the Laundrie family alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress during the time Gabby Petito was missing had been delayed until 2024, according to WFLA News Channel 8. The Petito family was already awarded $3 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's estate.

According to an opinion piece in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune by columnist Chris Anderson, Roberta and Brian had always been close, but their relationship had grown more distant in 2021. Regardless of when she gave Brian the letter, it clearly meant enough to him that he didn't burn it as she suggested. Instead, he kept in in his backpack to be discovered along with his confession letter.