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Laundrie family hopes for answers after remains found

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 22, 2021

By Curt Anderson Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Family members were hoping for more answers from law enforcement regarding the cause of death for Brian Laundrie, who was a person of interest in the death of girlfriend Gabby Petito while the couple was on a cross-country road trip, an attorney said Friday.

“I was informed by law enforcement yesterday that perhaps by midday today we’d have some more information,” the Laundries’ attorney, Steve Bertolino, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday.

The FBI on Thursday identified human remains found a day earlier in a Florida nature preserve as those of Brian Laundrie. A notebook and backpack believed to belong to Laundrie were also found in the wilderness park, the FBI said. The area where they were found had been underwater during previous searches.

A statement from the FBI did not list a cause of death. It was not clear how long the remains may have been submerged in water.

Petito’s body was found Sept. 19 at edge of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, which the couple had visited.

“We have no further comment at this time and we ask that you respect the Laundries’ privacy at this time,” the FBI statement said.

Richard Stafford, attorney for Petito’s family, said they would have no immediate reaction to the identification of Laundrie’s remains.

“They are grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter,” Stafford said in an email. “Gabby’s family will make a statement at the appropriate time and when they are emotionally ready.”

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 concluded, but only Laundrie has been identified by law enforcement officials as a person of interest in the 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.

They first gained an online following while on their trip in a converted Ford Transit van in videos filled with happy scenes that may have concealed deeper problems. After Petito disappeared, the case became a true-crime obsession on social media.

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, 22, was white.

The coroner in Wyoming concluded Petito died of strangulation and 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 physical altercation, but no domestic violence charges were filed. The police department there is conducting an internal review to determine if policy was followed.

Laundrie returned home alone Sept. 1 in the van the couple took on their trip. The van was later impounded by authorities. He was reported missing after telling his parents he was going for a hike in the Carlton Reserve.

Dozens of unconfirmed tips poured into authorities about spotting Laundrie from Wyoming to the Appalachian Trail, but none panned out.

The remains were found Wednesday as searches concentrated on the nearby Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, where a Ford Mustang that Laundrie drove to the wilderness was found. That park is directly adjacent to the Carlton Reserve, both of which are about 35 miles south of Sarasota, Florida.

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