ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The FBI on Thursday identified human remains found in a Florida nature preserve as those of Brian Laundrie, a person of interest in the death of girlfriend Gabby Petito while the couple was on a cross-country road trip.
According to the FBI, Laundrie’s backpack and notebook were found Wednesday in a Florida wilderness area. They were previously found in an area that was under water.
The FBI’s Denver office said in a news release a comparison of dental records confirmed that the remains were Laundrie. Steve Bertolino, a lawyer for the parents of Laundrie, said that they had been told by their son’s remains in a statement.
“We have no further comment at this time and we ask that you respect the Laundrie’s privacy at this time,” the statement said.
In the FBI statement, no causes of death were listed. It wasn’t clear how long the remains may have been submerged in water.
The discovery of the remains concluded a massive search involving federal, state and local law enforcement that began shortly after Laundrie disappeared Sept. 14, two weeks after the 23-year-old returned alone to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida.
The investigation into Petito’s slaying, however, is not yet concluded. Law enforcement officers have never identified Laundrie as an individual of interest in this case.
Petito’s family reported her missing Sept. 11, launching a search that garnered worldwide media attention and, in Laundrie’s case, focused largely on the Carlton Reserve wilderness park near the Laundrie home. It is a densely wooded, swampy area that’s home to alligators, coyotes, bobcats, snakes and numerous other creatures.
The couple first met as teenagers on Long Island, New York, and more recently moved to Florida’s Gulf Coast to live with his parents.
While on a trip with a Ford Transit van converted into sanitized, they gained an initial online following. The videos were filled with joyful scenes and may not have revealed deeper issues. Petito’s disappearance made the case a social-media obsession.
The intense focus on Petito’s case has led to renewed calls for people to pay greater attention to cases involving missing Indigenous women and other people of color. Petito was 22 years old and white.
Her body was found Sept. 19 on the edge of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, which the couple had visited. She died from strangulation, and the coroner concluded that her body was there for at least three to four weeks.
After a physical altercation between the couple, police stopped them in Moab (Utah) on August 12. However, they were not charged with domestic violence. Police in Moab, Utah are currently conducting an internal investigation to see if the policy was being followed.
Laundrie was the only one who returned from their trip alone to home on Sept. 1. He was driving the van they took, and it was later confiscated by authorities. After telling his parents he planned to hike the Carlton Reserve, he was reported as missing.
Numerous tips were submitted to authorities, with no confirmation.
As searches focused on Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park (where a Ford Mustang Laundrie used to drive to the wilderness), the remains of the victims were located Wednesday. The park is located directly next to the Carlton Reserve. Both parks are approximately 35 miles (56 km) south of Sarasota.
Laundrie was charged in a federal Wyoming indictment with unauthorized use of a debit card, which alleged Laundrie used a Capital One Bank card and someone’s personal identification number to make unauthorized withdrawals or charges worth more than $1,000. The indictment does not specify who the card belongs to or what charges were brought.
This indictment, if Laundrie were alive today would have enabled authorities to detain him.