TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The attorney for Gabby Petito’s parents claims Brian Laundrie’s mother offered her son a shovel to bury Petito’s body, according to a new court filing in the lawsuit against Laundrie’s parents.
Pat Reilly, the attorney for Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt, wrote to Laundrie attorney Matthew Luka to settle a dispute over evidence they are seeking to use in the lawsuit filed for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Chris and Roberta Laundrie.
“The request certainly would also include the note that Roberta Laundrie wrote to Brian Laundrie in which she offered to bring a shovel to help bury the body,” said Reilly in the letter to Luka filed in Sarasota County court.
As NewsNation local affiliate WFLA. has previously reported, Reilly has stated a note from Roberta to Brian allegedly written after Petito’s case was found in an envelope that had “burn after you read this” written on it. The letter in question was released by the FBI and into the custody of longtime Laundrie attorney Steve Bertolino, Reilly says.
“Attorney Reilly and his clients are entitled to allege what they want in court filings but their allegations are not based on fact, but on conjecture only,” said Bertolino in a statement Friday evening to WFLA. “The letter in question was written prior to Brian and Gabby leaving Florida and has nothing to do with the case. Attorney Reilly is trying to further sensationalize this tragedy to bolster his case by taking unrelated comments out of context.”
Reilly has not responded to WFLA.com’s requests for comment.
“I have the letter in question but its contents are personal between a mother and a son,” said Bertolino.
A hearing on the motion for the Laundries to produce the documents Reilly is seeking, including the letter, is scheduled for March 13 in Sarasota County Circuit Court.
Petito, 22, vanished while on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie in a converted camper van. On Sept. 19, Petito’s body was found just outside Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Laundrie was at the center of a search that made national headlines after Petito vanished. It eventually ended when Laundrie’s remains were found in October 2021, after more than a month of searching a 24,000-acre Florida nature reserve. Authorities later confirmed he’d died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Earlier this year, the FBI confirmed Laundrie claimed responsibility for Petito’s death through written statements discovered in a notebook investigators found near Laundrie’s remains.
Petito’s parents, Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt are suing the Laundries for allegedly knowing their son had killed Petito and doing nothing but issuing a statement expressing hope that Petito would be found.
Reilly is seeking to add Bertolino as a defendant in the lawsuit. A hearing on the motion to include Bertolino is slated for January 24.
Bertolino declined to comment to WFLA.com when asked about attempts to add him as a defendant.
Earlier this year, Judge Hunter W. Carroll ruled against the Laundries’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Carroll also denied a motion to limit the scope of the Laundrie’s depositions, which are now scheduled for January.
The depositions will mark the first time the parents of Petito and Laundrie will be in the same room since Petito’s murder and Laundrie’s suicide in 2021.
If you or someone you know needs help, resources or someone to talk to, you can find it at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website or by calling 1-800-273-8255. People are available to talk to 24×7.