Gabby Petito’s family to get ‘burn after reading letter,’ court rules

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 10:45 AM EDT|Updated: May. 24, 2023 at 4:56 PM EDT
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VENICE, Fla. (WWSB) - The controversial “burn after reading” letter written by Roberta Laundrie will be turned over to the family of Gabby Petito, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The Petito family was in a Venice courtroom Wednesday for a hearing in the civil suit against the family of Brian Laundrie and Laundrie’s former family attorney.

The Petito family is suing Chris and Roberta Laundrie for emotional distress in relation to Gabby Petito’s death during a 2021 road trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie. They expanded the claims to the Laundrie family’s former attorney Steven Bertolino.

Patrick Reilly and the Petito family spoke to reporters outside of the courthouse, saying they considered, “There are still many questions the Petito family has about what the Laundrie family knew.”

The hearing discussed statements made by Bertolino on behalf of the family, requests relating to transaction on the Laundries’ bank account and written correspondence between Brian and his parents.

Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt say Bertolino’s statements on behalf of the Laundries caused them “mental suffering and anguish” at the time they were desperately searching for their daughter.

The Laundries were not at the hearing but Bertolino did appear with his attorney. Bertolino’s attorney argued that his client was serving as an agent for the Laundries and that the actions of Brian Laundrie caused distress that predated any statement made by Bertolino.

His attorney also noted that there is not enough evidence to substantiate accusations that the three knew that Brian had killed Gabby.

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Judge Hunter Carroll denied the plaintiff’s motion to compel bank statements from the Laundries. The Petito family attorney was trying to compel evidence of large withdrawals of cash, but the judge told Reilly the accounts didn’t have what he was specifically seeking.

Attorneys for Gabby’s family have expanded their request for correspondence and text messages to expand to a larger date range.

Court documents filed last week show that Patrick J. Reilly, the attorney for Petito’s parents, has filed a request to produce text messages between the Laundries and their son Brian from July 2, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2021, as well as an emails or other correspondence produced between the three in the same date range.

Correspondence has been brought up previously in regards to the “burn after reading” letter. The Petito/Schimdt family attorney Patrick Reilly had been seeking the entrance of a letter from Roberta Laundrie to Brian Laundrie pledging assistance such as “helping him get out of prison, getting a shovel and some other things,” according to CNN.

Reilly said the envelope read “burn after reading” but it was found among Brian’s belongings after his remains were discovered. Roberta Laundrie later issued a statement saying the contents of the letter were being taken out of context and that the phrase “burn after reading” was from a book they had both read.

In an affidavit filed earlier this month, Roberta Laundrie says she wrote the letter “on or about the end of May 2021,” before Brian and Gabby left on their ill-fated cross country trek that ended in Gabby’s death. That date provided by Roberta Laundrie would not fall into the date range provided by the current notice of production.

The judge ruled against an attempted protective order to keep the letter private and the Petito team has been given a copy of the letter.