What is a ‘burn after reading’ letter and why did Brian Laundrie have one?
The mother of deceased Brian Laundrie explains the contents of a letter she wrote her son, which has come under scrutiny in a civil suit
Brian Laundrie’s mother recently opened up about the contents of a letter titled “burn after reading” that she gave to her son, where she reportedly offered to lend him a shovel.
That’s according to Pat Reilly, the Petito family attorney, who in December 2022 wrote to the Laundries’ attorneys claiming the letter was sent after Brian’s fiancé Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old vlogger traveling the country, was discovered deceased in Wyoming. Brian Laundrie would later admit to killing her.
According to Fox News, Reilly described it as “the note that Roberta Laundrie wrote to Brian Laundrie, (in) which she offered to bring a shovel to help bury the body.”
The Laundries, however, claim the undated letter was sent “months” before the killing, a point reiterated in an affidavit filed in Sarasota County’s 12th Judicial Circuit Court on Monday.
“While I used words that seem to have a connection with Brian’s actions and his taking of Gabby’s life, I never would have fathomed the events that unfolded months later between Brian and Gabby would reflect the words in my letter,” writes Roberta Laundrie.
The affidavit is the latest development in a civil lawsuit filed by the Petitos, who claim the Laundries and their attorney, Steven Bertolino, knew Gabby was deceased when they issued a statement on Sept. 14, 2021. Five days later, police found Gabby Petito’s body near a campground near Grand Teton National Park.
Brian Laundrie’s remains were found that October, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and in January an entry in his notebook was made public where he admitted to killing Gabby.
Petito and Laundrie were on a cross-country road trip, with many stops in Utah. On Aug. 12 2021, police were called to a domestic incident involving the couple outside Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. That response is now the subject of a separate $50 million lawsuit filed in November against the Moab Police Department and the officers involved.
In the other suit, Reilly had previously told Fox News “the content of the letter seems to indicate that it was written after Gabby’s death,” referring to the “burn after reading” letter.
Roberta Laundrie pushed back on that assertion Monday.
“Although I do not know the exact date I wrote the letter, I do know that I wrote it and gave it to Brian before Brian and Gabby left Florida for New York, which was on June 2, 2021,” she writes, according to court documents, claiming the letter was intended “to reach out to Brian while he and I were experiencing a difficult period in our relationship.”
The letter, Roberta Laundrie said in the affidavit, references several childhood books, “The Runaway Bunny” and “Little Bear,” and a book Gabby had gifted Brian called “Burn After Writing.”
“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 the cover of the letter for Brian to ‘Burn After Reading,’” the affidavit reads.
In the letter, Roberta Laundrie acknowledges there are phrases in the letter that are not in the books she shared with her son. “However, these phrases were common enough in our circle of friends and family to describe who you could turn to in the most troubling times of your life.”
Roberta Laundrie also pushed back on what she calls “speculation” that the letter was in her son’s possession when he died.
“That is not true because the FBI had the letter in their possession and questioned members of my family about it prior to October 20, 2021, when my husband and I found Brian’s remains in the reserve,” she writes in the affidavit.
Roberta Laundrie says she never expected anyone to read the letter.
“I did not want anyone else to read it as I know it is not the type of letter a mother writes to her adult son and I did not want to embarrass Brian. That is why I wrote ‘Burn After Reading’ on the envelope and I knew that Brian would know what that meant. I am now appreciative that he actually kept it.”