Petito’s lawyer filed new request for ‘bury the body’ letter

ABC7 News at 5pm
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 5:08 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The lawyer representing the parents of Gabby Petito has refiled a request for the mother of Brian Laundrie to turn over a letter she allegedly wrote to her son, offering to bring a shovel to help “bury the body,” new court records show.

In a hearing earlier this month, Circuit Court Judge Danielle Brewer denied the original request for the potentially explosive letter due to a technicality. The original request asked for all documents and correspondence between Brian Laundrie and his parents, between July 2, 2021 to Sept. 1, 2021.

Since the letter in question was undated, Brewer ruled the letter would not have to be included in the request; she also ruled that a separate request for the letter could be filed. The lawyer for Gabby’s parents, Patrick Reilly, filed the new request Feb. 14.

In a ruled filed Feb. 17, Brewer also denied the motion to compel the Laundries to pay the Petito’s attorney’s fees in the case.

In another development, Steven Bertolino, the Laundries’ longtime friend and attorney who was also named the lawsuit, has retained a lawyer for himself.

“Bury the body’

Reilly first referenced the note from Roberta Laundrie to her son in a Dec. 5 letter to Laundries’ lawyer, Matthew Luka.

The Dec. 5 letter was in response to the Laundrie’s objections to providing certain documents to the plaintiffs in advance of a civil trial, scheduled for later this year.

“(The) request ... is certainly relevant because, again, it goes to the issue of knowledge on the part of your clients of Gabby’s passing and the location of her body. This request certainly would also include the note that Roberta Laundrie wrote to Brian Laundrie when she offered to bring a shovel to help bury the body. This note was released to the custody of Mr. (Steven) Bertolino on Friday, June 24, 2022 by the FBI,” the letter said.

Bertolino told ABC7 at the time that Reilly was trying to sensationalize old evidence to bolster his case.

“A letter was written by Roberta Laundrie and given to her son, Brian, before Brian and Gabby left Florida for New York,” Bertolino said in an email.

“This information is not new. The FBI had possession of the letter and turned it over to me back in June of 2022 with the other personal items that belonged to Brian. Attorney Reilly is trying to further sensationalize the contents of this letter to bolster his case by taking the unrelated comments in the letter out of context. If Mr. Reilly’s allegations had any merit a reasonably intelligent person would think the FBI would have acted on such information.

“You can thus draw your own conclusions as to the legitimacy of Mr. Reilly’s allegations,” Bertolino said.

ABC7 has filed a Freedom of Information request for the letter to the FBI. Bertolino has not responded to ABC7’s request for the letter.

Brian Laundrie confessed to killing Gabby Petito in a suicide note. The two were on a cross country trip in 2021 when Gabby abruptly disappeared. Brian returned home -- alone -- to North Port. Her body was found Sept. 19, 2021, in a Wyoming national park.

Laundrie then vanished. His body was found in a month later in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park,

His remains were found there in October 2021, and investigators say he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and left a note confessing to Petito’s slaying, according to the FBI.

The pending lawsuit alleges Christopher and Roberta Laundrie knew Brian Laundrie had killed their daughter and said nothing; and were conspiring to help him flee. The suit asks for damages for pain and suffering, accusing the defendants of acting “with great malice or great indifference to the rights of Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt.”

The suit also claims the Laundries refusal to divulge any information about their daughter’s death “exhibited extreme and outrageous conduct which constitutes behavior, under the circumstances, which goes beyond all possible bounds of decency and is regarded as shocking, atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

The suit later added Bertolino as a co-defendant in the suit.

Both sides have already reached a $3 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit.