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 his girlfriend Gabby Petito while the couple was on a cross-country road trip.
The remains, a backpack and notebook believed to belong to Laundrie were discovered Wednesday in a Florida wilderness park, according to the FBI. The area where they were found had been under water during earlier searches.
The FBI’s Denver office said in a news release that a comparison of dental records confirmed that the remains belonged to Laundrie. A lawyer for his parents, Steve Bertolino, also confirmed in a statement they were told the remains were those of their son.
“We have no further comment at this time and we ask that you respect the Laundrie’s privacy at this time,” the statement said.
The FBI statement did not list a cause of death. 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, Fla.
Worldwide media attention
The search was focused largely on the Carlton Reserve wilderness park near his family’s home. It is a densely wooded, swampy area that’s home to alligators, coyotes, bobcats, snakes and numerous other creatures.
Petito’s family reported her missing Sept. 11, launching a search that garnered worldwide media attention. The intense focus on her case has led to renewed calls for people to pay greater attention to cases involving missing Indigenous women and other people of colour.
The body of Petito, 22, was found Sept. 19 on the edge of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, which the couple had visited. The coroner there concluded that she died of strangulation and that her body had been where it was found for three or four weeks.
The couple was stopped Aug. 12 by police in Moab, Utah, after they had a fight, but no charges were filed.
Laundrie returned home alone Sept. 1 in the Ford van the couple took on their trip. He was reported missing after telling his parents that he was going for a hike in the Carlton Reserve.
The activity Wednesday focused on the nearby Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, where a Ford Mustang that Laundrie drove to the wilderness was found.
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. It does not say to whom the card belonged or what type of charges were made.