TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As a Florida judge determines whether a civil lawsuit filed against Brian Laundrie’s parents will proceed to trial, an increasing amount of attention is being focused on the 23-year-old’s last words.
The FBI announced in January that a notebook found near Laundrie’s remains at the Carlton Reserve contained written statements where he claimed responsibility for Gabby Petito’s death.
The FBI collected the notebook, along with a backpack and the revolver Laundrie used to fatally shoot himself, from the scene on Oct. 20, 2021. Since then, it is believed to have remained with the FBI, despite the agency announcing the closure of their investigation on Jan. 21.
Chris and Roberta Laundrie, Brian’s parents, have not received their son’s notebook from the FBI, according to their attorney Steve Bertolino. They were briefly shown the note containing Brian’s confession but did not read it, Bertolino says.
“[Chris and Roberta] were too upset at the time,” Bertolino told WFLA. “That’s all there was to it.”
The notebook has remained an object of fascination with the public. To this day, the motive for Petito’s death remains unknown, as does whether the notebook contains Brian’s reasoning for killing his fiancee.
Pat Reilly, the attorney for Gabby’s parents, says he and Bertolino are meeting with the FBI in Tampa on Friday to receive belongings of Laundrie and Petito that were collected over the course of the investigation. It is unknown whether the notebook is among the items being given back.
“Some of those materials are Gabby’s, some of those are Brian Laundrie’s,” said Reilly. “Most of them we’ve agreed on how they should be split. There’s a few we just want to see before we decide who they really belong to.”
Reilly says Gabby’s parents, Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt, are aware of “some of the content” within Laundrie’s confession, but he couldn’t say whether they’ve seen the notebook or a copy of it for themselves.
The collection of the evidence does not have any connection to this week’s pre-trial hearing in the civil lawsuit filed by Petito and Schmidt against the Laundries, Reilly adds, but the notebook could have significant relevance to his case going forward.
“Let’s hope that the confession has a date when [Gabby’s murder] occurred,” said Reilly. “That date would hopefully and likely coincide with when we think he called his parents and told his parents he murdered Gabby.”
Former FBI agent and federal law enforcement expert Jennifer Coffindaffer says there are likely multiple reasons the FBI has remained in possession of the notebook for this long, including the time necessary for laboratory work on the evidence, as well as determining who the owner of the notebook actually is.
“There could be a question as to whose notebook that actually was in totality,” said Coffindaffer. “Yes, we know Brian Laundrie wrote in it, but did Gabby Petito write in it? Are there Gabby Petito writings or artwork, or does it belong to Brian Laundrie? I’m not so sure those questions have been answered.”
Coffindaffer believes it’s likely the public learns the contents of the notebook someday, especially if the civil lawsuit against the Laundries proceeds to a jury trial.
“If this goes to a civil court setting, I think we’re going to see a lot of evidence none of us thought we’d ever be able to see.”
Judge Hunter W. Carroll has announced he expects to reach a decision on the Laundrie’s motion to dismiss the civil lawsuit filed by Petito and Schmidt within two weeks.