Mother of man who killed Gabby Petito said in letter she would help son ‘dispose of a body’
By MEAD GRUVER
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The mother of the man who killed Gabby Petito told her son in an undated letter that she would “dispose of a body” if needed because she loved him so much, according to copies of the note shared publicly for the first time this week by attorneys for Petito’s parents.
The handwritten note by Roberta Laundrie that says “burn after reading” on the envelope was released after a Florida judge ruled on Wednesday that the letter could be used as evidence in a lawsuit. The Petitos sued Brian Laundrie’s parents, accusing them of knowing that their son had murdered Gabby Petito and helping him with the coverup for nearly a month before her body was found in western Wyoming in September 2021, causing mental anguish, pain and suffering.
The letter reads in part: “We will always love each other. 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 show up with a shovel and garbage bags.”
Whether the letter was written before or after Brian Laundrie strangled Petito is in dispute between the parents.
Roberta Laundrie claims in a sworn statement in the Florida case that she gave it to her son just before he and Petito left on a cross-country van trip in early June 2021.
Roberta Laundrie and her son were having difficulties in their relationship at the time, three months before Brian Laundrie, 23, killed Petito, 22, the court-filed statement said.
“I was trying to connect with Brian and repair our relationship as he was planning to leave home,” the statement said. “I had hoped this letter would remind him how much I loved him.”
The Petito family expressed doubt about Roberta Laundrie’s claimed timing of her letter, suggesting it was in fact written after Petito’s death.
A “reasonable inference” may be made from the letter that Roberta Laundrie knew of Petito’s demise when the Laundries issued a statement Sept. 14, 2021 — five days before her body was found — saying they hoped she would be reunited with her family, the Petito family said in a statement Thursday.
“We look forward to having a jury determine when the letter was written,” the statement reads.
A search for Brian Laundrie ended with his suicide and discovery of his body in a Florida nature preserve in October 2021.
The letter “may appear to be unfortunately worded, but that was never its intention,” the Laundries’ attorney, Matthew Luka, wrote in a March motion trying to persuade the judge not to allow the letter to be used in the case.
Along with the statements about disposing of a body and “a cake with a file in it,” Roberta Laundrie’s letter tells her son she would “get new guts” if he said he hated hers, and watch the skies for his return if he ever flew to the moon, Luka pointed out in an emailed statement Friday.
The statements were written before the van trip and “demonstrably not intended to be serious” because they “are not events that would realistically occur,” Luka said.
Roberta Laundrie added Friday in a statement through her attorney: “Although I chose words that I thought would be impactful with Brian given our relationship, the letter was in no way related to Gabby.”
Brian Laundrie and Petito were engaged and traveled by van across the U.S. in the summer of 2021, visiting scenic places in Colorado and Utah before heading north. They documented their trip in detail, in real time, on social media.
Police in Moab, Utah, pulled over the van after it was seen speeding and hitting a curb at the entrance to Arches National Park in August 2021. Petito told police she and Laundrie had been fighting. Officers separated the couple for the night and didn’t pursue charges.
Searchers found Petito’s body Sept. 19, 2021, near a campground on the edge of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. A coroner determined she’d been strangled a few weeks earlier.
Associated Press writer Terry Spencer in West Palm Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.