Laundrie, 23, is a person of interest in the killing of his fiancé Gabby Petito, who was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents while the couple were on a cross-country trip in the western United States.
Michael McPherson, special agent in charge at the FBI’s Tampa field office, told reporters Wednesday that the personal items found included a notebook and backpack owned by Laundrie. It is unclear if the human remains found are Laundrie’s.
“These items were found in an area that up until recently have been underwater,” he said. “Our evidence response team is on scene using all available forensic resources to process the area.”
McPherson said the investigation could take several days to complete, adding that portions of the the Carlton Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park would be closed until further notice.
“I know you have a lot of questions, but we don’t have all the answers yet. We are working diligently to get those answers for you,” he said.
Laundrie’s parents, Chris and Roberta, took part in the search and a Sarasota County Medical Examiner has been called to the trail in the Carlton Reserve, Reuters and CNN reported on Wednesday.
The new evidence comes more than a month after Laundrie’s family reported him missing on Sept. 17, telling police they hadn’t seen him in three days and that he had left to go hiking in the Carlton Reserve park.
The case generated a media frenzy but has also raised questions over the unequal attention given to Petito, a white woman, compared with the hundreds of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and other women of colour across North America.
Petito’s remains were identified on Sept. 21 after her body was found along the border of Grand Teton National Park, located 48 kilometres northeast of Jackson, Wyo., where the couple had been camping.
Dr. Brent Blue, the leading coroner in Petito’s case, confirmed last week that she was strangled to death likely three or four weeks before her body was found.
The couple had posted photos of their trip on their social media accounts, but chilling bodycam footage and a 911 call that were released to the public hinted to the possibility of a darker side to Petito and Laundrie’s relationship.
The pair were stopped outside of the Moonflower Community Cooperative in Moab, Utah, on Aug. 12 after a 911 caller told police they had seen Laundrie slapping and hitting Petito.
Body camera footage showed Petito crying as she described an argument that escalated into her slapping Laundrie while he was driving. Police asked the couple to separate for the night, but neither Petito or Laundrie were detained and no charges were filed.
A warrant was issued for Laundrie’s arrest on Sept. 23, after authorities charged him with bank fraud, alleging he had used Petito’s debit card to make withdrawals worth more than $1,000. This would allow authorities to arrest him if he were found alive.
Laundrie returned home without Petito on Sept. 1 in the Ford van the couple took on their trip. Petito’s parents held a funeral for their daughter in Holbrook, N.Y., on Sept. 26. Across the street from the funeral home, a chain link fence was adorned with posters featuring Petito’s image and messages such as, “She touched the world.”
— With files from the Associated Press