Remains found at a Florida nature preserve Wednesday are, indeed, those of missing man Brian Laundrie, an attorney for his family confirmed for Law&Crime.
“Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the remains found yesterday in the reserve are indeed Brian’s,” attorney Steve Bertolino told Law&Crime’s Angenette Levy early Thursday evening. “We have no further comment at this time and we ask that you respect the Laundrie family’s privacy at this time.”
Federal agents confirmed the news almost simultaneously.
“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,” the FBI’s Denver field office said on Thursday. The brief FBI statement thanked a plethora of agencies which cooperated with the investigation.
#UPDATE: 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. @FBITampa pic.twitter.com/ZnzbXiibTM
— FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) October 21, 2021
Laundrie, 23, disappeared after returning to Florida without his fiancee Gabby Petito, 22, on Sept. 1. The pair had been on a weeks-long cross-country van tour of the United States when Petito vanished. Her family last heard from her in late August and reported her missing in September; searchers found her body on Sept. 21 in Wyoming’s Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area. Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue determined that Petito’s cause of death was strangulation and that the manner of her death was homicide.
Laundrie vanished on Sept. 13. His car — a Ford Mustang convertible — turned up near Florida’s vast Carlton Reserve the next day. The vehicle was situated near the entrance to the Myakkahatchee Environmental Park, which is adjacent to the Reserve.
A massive law enforcement search ensued but initially turned up nothing.
The Park reopened to the public on Wednesday. Searchers, including Laundrie’s parents, found items of interest and human remains when they returned to the area; the medical examiner’s office was immediately called to investigate. Protective tents, police tape, and search dogs dotted the swampy landscape on Wednesday as seen by television helicopters hovering overhead.
The FBI confirmed early Wednesday evening that a notebook and a backpack were found near the remains. The contents of either have not been released.
“These items were found in an area that up until recently had been underwater,” said Michael McPherson, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office, on Wednesday. “Our evidence response team is on scene using all available forensic resources to process the area. It’s likely the team will be on scene for several days. 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.”
Some of those answers came Thursday through the confirmation that the remains were, indeed, those of the man whose disappearance captivated millions — in part because Petito and Laundrie had been chronicling their journey online.
The trip fractured, however, as evidenced by a domestic violence call by worried onlookers in Utah on Aug. 12. Authorities in Moab asked Petito and Laundrie to separate for the evening but made no arrests. A police report acknowledged that Petito was “crying uncontrollably” when police detained the pair, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Laundrie’s face showed “minor visible scratches” and his right arm showed “small scratches,” officers wrote. Images of an emotional Petito were eventually released via police body camera video.
The Moab Police Department’s handling of the situation is under investigation.
Laundrie was indicted for allegedly using a debit card without permission — presumably Petito’s — to access more than $1,000 between the dates of Aug. 30 and Sept. 1 “in the District of Wyoming and elsewhere.” Laundrie was never found alive, and the criminal case will almost certainly be dropped.
Laundrie had been named a “person of interest” in Petito’s killing.
Editor’s note: this piece, which began as a breaking news report, has been substantially updated since its initial publication.
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