Human remains found along a trail in the Florida wilderness near personal items belonging to Brian Laundrie have been confirmed as those of the missing man, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation Thursday.
Laundrie was a person of interest in the homicide of his fiancée, 22-year-old Gabby Petito, whose remains were found in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest in mid-September. A medical examiner confirmed that Petito died from strangulation. Laundrie, 23, hadn’t been seen since Sept. 13, according to his parents, authorities say.
A statement from the federal policing agency Thursday said that human remains found at the Carlton Reserve in Florida on Wednesday were confirmed to belong to him.
“On October 21, 2021, a comparison of dental records confirmed that the human remains found at the T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park are those of Brian Laundrie,” read the statement.
Michael McPherson, special agent in charge at the FBI’s Tampa field office, told reporters on Wednesday that the personal items found included a notebook and backpack owned by Laundrie.
“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.”
CNN reported that the remains found on the trail “appear to have been there a while.”
They were found “about two to three miles inside the Carlton Reserve, or about a 45-minute walk,” said North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor.
Laundrie’s parents, Chris and Roberta, took part in the search on Wednesday, and a Sarasota County Medical Examiner has been called to the trail in the Carlton Reserve.
Family lawyer Steve Bertolino shot down online conspiracy theories that Chris Laundrie had planted the backpack to somehow help his son, calling it “hogwash.”
Bertolino said the family was “heartbroken” by the discovery of human remains.
The new evidence comes more than a month after Laundrie’s family told police they hadn’t seen him in three days and that he had gone hiking in the Carlton Reserve park. The police had intensively searched the area for the last several weeks, but turned up no trace of Laundrie.
The Petito case has captured the world’s attention, thanks in part to the couple’s presence on social media.
The couple had posted photos of their trip across the United States 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 nor 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.”
Last Friday, Petito’s father Joseph posted an image from inside Bridger-Teton, seemingly indicating that they had scattered her ashes in the national park.
— With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and The Associated Press