Brian Laundrie took responsibility for the death of his fiancée, 22-year-old Gabby Petito, in a written statement investigators found in his notebook, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI in Denver shared the new details in a statement, released Friday, which laid out the final investigative findings in a case that made headlines around the world.
“Upon further search of (Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park), investigators found human remains later confirmed to be Mr. Laundrie, along with a backpack, notebook, and a revolver,” the FBI said.
“A review of the notebook revealed written statements by Mr. Laundrie claiming responsibility for Ms. Petito’s death.”
Petito and Laundrie initially set out together in a van on a summer-long tour of national parks, in a journey that she aimed to document on her social media. But on Sept. 1, Laundrie showed up with the van at their shared home in Florida — and Petito was not in the car.
“After Ms. Petito’s death, there were several text messages identified between Mr. Laundrie’s telephone and Ms. Petito’s telephone,” the FBI wrote in the new statement.
“The timing and content of these messages are indicative of Mr. Laundrie attempting to deceive law enforcement by giving the impression that Ms. Petito was still alive.”
In mid-September, Petito’s remains were found in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest. A medical examiner confirmed that Petito died from strangulation.
By that time, Laundrie was missing. He was named as a person of interest in her death, and a weeks-long, nationwide manhunt ensued. It ended when his remains were found along a trail in the swampy Florida wilderness on Oct. 21. However, the initial coroner’s report was inconclusive.
A lawyer for the Laundrie family later confirmed that Laundrie died by suicide, from a gunshot wound to the head.
Laundrie was never charged in connection with Petito’s death, but federal agents issued an arrest warrant for the 23-year-old on Sept. 23, after a jury indicted him for the unauthorized use of Petito’s debit card.
Authorities alleged Laundrie had used the card to make withdrawals of more than $1,000.
“All logical investigative steps have been concluded in this case,” said FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider, who was quoted in the new statement.
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“The investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito.”
The Petito case captured the world’s attention, thanks in part to the couple’s social media presence.
The pair 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 at 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.
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.”
“The FBI’s primary focus throughout the investigation was to bring justice to Gabby and her family. The public’s role in helping us in this endeavor was invaluable as the investigation was covered in the media around the world,” wrote Schneider.
“On behalf of the FBI, I want to express my deepest appreciation to the public for the thousands of tips that were provided during the investigation, and to our local, state and federal law enforcement partners for their work throughout the investigation.”
— with files from Global News’ Michelle Butterfield and Chris Jancelewicz
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