The Tragic Letter Gabby Petito Wrote To Brian Laundrie Before Her Death

On September 19, 2021, authorities found the body of 22-year-old Gabby Petito near a campsite in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. She'd been strangled to death, missing since September 11, and dead for three to four weeks. Media outlets kept the public apprised as police followed clues back to Petito's boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. Laundrie was also found dead in October from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, submerged in water, and largely reduced to bones. And now, the FBI has released 366 pages of documents that provide further insight into Petito and Laundrie's fatal relationship.

There were clues early on that things were not alright between the young couple. They'd been traveling together and living in a van in the American Southwest when the Moab, Utah police department caught up with a sobbing Petito on August 12. Witnesses reported seeing Laundrie strike her — this was less than a month before she was reported missing. "We've just been fighting this morning. Some personal issues," Petito says on police bodycam footage. Ultimately, police believed that nothing serious was afoot and left the couple alone.

Now, thanks to the FBI's document release, we can hear Gabby pleading to Brian in her own words. In a handwritten letter with no date she writes, "You know how much I love you, so (and I'm writing this with love) just please stop crying and stop calling me names, because we're a team and I'm here with you."

A handwritten letter and mountain of evidence

It's not clear why the FBI released its files related to the Gabby Petito case, or why they released the files now. The files contain written overviews of the case and chronological actions taken by authorities, as well as a detailed evidence recovery log. Essentially, the FBI's release catalogues artifacts discovered by those involved in the investigation. There are pictures of a laptop and an iPhone box, shoes, clothing, boxes of knickknacks, drawings like that of a skull with the words "Trust no one" next to it, books from Cormac McCarthy and Neil Gaiman, boxes of ammunition, and much more. Frankly, it's all a bit disturbing to look at.

Included is the letter that Petito wrote to her boyfriend and murderer, Brian Laundrie. In addition to Petito asking Laundrie to stop calling her names, she also apologizes to Brian for getting "upset for a dumb piece of paper." She then writes, "Just try to understand. Yes I can be a child sometimes, I know, but it's cause you give me this energy and I just love you too much. Like so much it hurts. So you in pain is killing me. I'm not trying to be negative but I'm frustrated there's not more I can do." While it's not known when Petito wrote her letter, it seems like she wrote it before she and Brian went on their extended road trip, as she references being in New York.

Clarity and resolution for Petito and Laundrie's families

In the end, Gabby Petito's letter to Brian Laundrie might provide some clarity to those affected, or just tear at wounds that maybe haven't even begun to heal. Petito's letter portrays her as a sensitive, conciliatory, and confused person who wanted peace with her boyfriend. Other handwritten passages written in Laundrie's hand portray a potentially insightful and disturbed young man, especially oddly prescient words like, "The dead have a light over them. People can point at individuals for being evil but not groups." 

Earlier this year in February 2024, the Petito family settled a civil lawsuit against the Laundrie family for emotional distress. The Petitos claimed that the Laundries knew that their son Brian had murdered Gabby before her body was discovered, but said nothing about it. In late 2022 the families had already reached a settlement in a separate wrongful death lawsuit. Per Rolling Stone, the Petito's attorney said of the rationale behind that lawsuit, "The Petito family lost their daughter, and they were also denied the opportunity to confront her killer." The Petitos were awarded $3 million at the time.

If it's possible for such actions to bring about a semblance of resolution to the families of those involved, then good. If not, then Petito and Laundrie's newly released FBI documents might at least help their families understand them, and see how the young couple got so violently and tragically entangled.