Strong probability that suspected remains found in Florida park are Brian Laundrie’s, family attorney says
(CNN) — The apparent human remains that authorities found Wednesday in a Florida park most likely belong to Brian Laundrie, the missing man whose fiancée Gabby Petito was found fatally strangled last month, the Laundrie family attorney told CNN.
Investigators also found a backpack and a notebook belonging to Laundrie, 23, near the suspected remains while they were searching the Carlton Reserve in North Port, according to FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson. On Thursday morning, several K-9 units and off-road vehicles were observed entering the reserve to further search the area.
Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that “the probability is strong that it is Brian’s remains,” and he noted that Laundrie’s parents had been part of the search team.
“It’s quite sad, you can imagine as a parent, finding your son’s belonging alongside from the remains. That’s got to be heartbreaking. And I can tell you that they are heartbroken,” he said Wednesday.
The discovery comes during an exhaustive search for Laundrie that stretched over a month as authorities tried to piece together what happened to him and Petito during their road trip through the Western US this summer.
Petito, 22, disappeared on the trip amid tensions in their relationship, and her remains were later found in Wyoming near where the couple had last been seen together. Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue ruled her death a homicide and said she died by manual strangulation.
Laundrie, who had returned by himself to his parents’ home in Florida, refused to talk with investigators and then went missing in the nearby nature reserve. He has not been seen since September 13.
He has not been charged in her death, although he was indicted for allegedly using two financial accounts that did not belong to him in the days following her killing.
A medical examiner arrived to the reserve on Wednesday, and a formal identification of the remains could take a while. A source close to the investigation told CNN that the suspected human remains “appear to have been there a while.”
“Based on the condition of the remains, it may take some time to officially identify. It is going to be a very thorough process with the medical examiner,” the source said.
It was the same area of the park where Laundrie’s family told law enforcement to look, Bertolino said. The apparent remains were found in an area that has been underwater until recently, McPherson said, which could potentially make the identification process take longer.
Brian Laundrie’s parents were on scene when remains were found
Laundrie’s family had refused to talk publicly following legal advice, but they had directed authorities to where they believed he may be staying in the reserve, Bertolino said.
The parents — Chris and Roberta Laundrie — helped law enforcement with finding some items at the park on Wednesday morning, which their attorney described as “happenstance.”
According to Bertolino, Laundrie’s parents informed the FBI and the North Port Police Department on Tuesday night that they wanted to visit the park Wednesday morning to search for their son.
Law enforcement met them there and closely accompanied them as they entered the park, Bertolino said.
“As they went further in, Chris ventured off the trail into the woods. He was zigzagging in different areas, law enforcement was doing the same thing. And Roberta Laundrie was walking down the trail,” Bertolino said. “At some point, Chris locates what’s called a dry bag. The dry bag is a white bag, laying in the woods, say 20 feet or so off the trail.”
The dry bag was in some brambles and he didn’t want to move it because he wanted his law enforcement to see it, Bertolino said. However, Chris Laundrie “couldn’t find the law enforcement” because they were out of sight and didn’t want to leave the bag there with a news reporter standing nearby, so he picked it up, Bertolino explained.
“He did meet up shortly with law enforcement, they looked at the contents of the bag. At that time, law enforcement officers showed him a picture on the phone of a backpack that law enforcement had located also nearby and also some distance off the trail,” Bertolino told CNN.
“At that point, the Laundries were notified there was also remains near the backpack, and they were asked to leave the preserve.”
The suspected remains were found “about 2 to 3 miles inside the Carlton Reserve, or about a 45-minute walk” from the entrance at Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor said.
When asked why the parents chose to go to the park on Wednesday, Bertolino said it was the first day it was reopened to the public.
“The parents had assumed that the experts, the FBI and all the tracking teams they had would be able to locate Brian based upon the information that we had provided them to the specific areas and trails in the park that Brian liked to visit,” Bertolino said. “The park had been closed to the public. There was really no other reason for the Laundries to go search anywhere else.
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