The human remains discovered in a Florida swamp during the hunt for Brian Laundrie are in all likelihood those of the fugitive sought as a person of interest in the murder of his fiancée Gabby Petito, an attorney for the missing man’s family has admitted.
‘The probability is strong that it is Brian’s remains, but we’re going to wait for the forensic results to come in and verify that,’ said Laundrie family attorney Steve Bertolino in a phone interview with CNN host Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night.
The remains were discovered alongside items belonging to Laundrie earlier on Wednesday, five weeks after he disappeared after going on a hike in the alligator-infested Florida swamp, and on the day his parents joined the search for the first time.
In the interview, Bertolino called any suggestion that the parents planted the items in the swamp ‘hogwash’, pointing out that reporters and police followed them into the nature preserve.
He insisted that the family had informed investigators about the exact location within the preserve where the remains and personal items were found a month ago, based on the trails they knew Laundrie to frequent.
‘Indeed, this is the very area of the park that we initially informed law enforcement, on I believe it was September 17th, that Brian would be most likely in the preserve,’ said Bertolino.
‘Mr. Laundrie informed me that it was quite near the entrance. He didn’t put an exact distance on it. He put a time frame of about 30 minutes in. But I would guess it could be a mile or two into the preserve,’ he added.
Local authorities say the nature reserve was largely submerged in water in September, when police first searched the park, which may have hindered the discovery of the items found this week.
Asked why the parents had not joined the search earlier, Bertolino pointed out that the park had not been open to the public before Tuesday.
‘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,’ he said.
The grim discovery of human remains was made in the Carlton Reserve in Florida, near Laundrie’s home, along with a backpack and notebook identified by the FBI as belonging to Laundrie. Bureau investigators are for the first time calling Laundrie a person of interest in Gabby’s death, which they are now describing as murder.
A police officer is pictured walking in the Carlton Reserve with what appears to be the dry bag discovered by Laundrie’s father in the preserve. The discovery was made on Wednesday, five weeks after he went on the run following the disappearance of his fiancée Gabby Petito. She was found strangled to death in September in Wyoming
Chris and Roberta Laundrie (pictured) alerted investigators on Tuesday night that they intended to search Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park for their son on Wednesday morning. The FBI and North Port Police Department agreed to meet them at the park
Brian Laundrie, 23, is the sole suspect in the murder of his 22-year-old fiancee Gabby Petito. Her strangled body was found in September, weeks after she was last seen alive. The pair were on a cross-country camper van trip when she vanished and he went home in September
Until Tuesday, the reserve had been sealed off to the public while investigators searched for any sign of the fugitive. It reopened on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning, Laundrie’s mother and father, Roberta and Chris, joined the search teams in the morning for the first time together.
Within a few hours, the remains – along with the other items – had been found. In a statement through their attorney, Roberta and Chris said they would reserve public comments until the remains had been identified.
According to Bertolino, Chris was the one to discover a white plastic dry bag belonging to Laundrie, which he found in the presence of a news reporter about 20 feet off the trail, while police discovered the backpack and human remains nearby.
‘Chris didn’t want to pick the bag up because he wanted law enforcement to see it. This was caught on camera. Chris couldn’t find the law enforcement because they were then out of sight, because Chris had been in the woods, so he didn’t want to leave the bag there with the news reporter standing nearby, so he picked it up,’ Bertolino said.
‘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. At that point, the Laundries were notified that there was also remains near the backpack and they were asked to leave the preserve,’ he continued.
The Laundrie parents have been under a cloud of public suspicion since their son disappeared, including wild theories that they were hiding their son in an alleged bunker under their garden, but Bertolino said that the family informed the FBI on the night of September 13 that their son had not returned from a hike that day.
Laundrie’s parents had not spoken publicly or to Gabby’s parents about what they may know about her murder, which Bertolino insisted had been on his own legal advice.
‘They know it’s been hard. But ultimately, you know, this is the advice I gave them. This is the advice they’re taking, and that’s on me,’ he said. ‘I’m the one who told them not to talk. That’s been on me from day one. That’s not on the family.’
The FAA has issued a temporary suspension on flights over the park – that applies to drones and aircraft – until 4pm Friday.
At a briefing at 4.30pm, FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson identified Laundrie as ‘a person of interest in the murder of Gabby Petito.’
It marked the first time that the FBI has called Gabby’s death a murder, rather than a homicide, as well as the first time Laundrie was identified as a person of interest. Previously, authorities had been referring to him just as a wanted suspect for theft, for using Gabby’s bank card.
If the remains are identified are Brian’s, it brings a somber end to a hunt for a killer that has captivated the nation.
Pathologist Dr. Michael Baden told DailyMail.com that it is likely the FBI already know whether the remains are Brian’s, and that they would have been able to confirm it immediately, but are waiting for more examination to determine the cause of death.
‘Dental is 99.9 percent immediately accurate. They know it’s him. But the cause of death might still take a while to determine. The cause of death has to be determined at autopsy, which probably won’t be performed till tomorrow or the next day,’ he said.
The Sarasota County Medical Examiner’s Office is at the scene. It’s unclear how long it may take for the remains to be formally identified
The manhunt for Laundrie continued on Wednesday, a day after the park was reopened to the public following weeks of unsuccessful searches for the 23-year-old fugitive
TIMELINE OF GABBY PETITO DISAPPEARANCE AND DEATH
July 1: Gabby Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie left Blue Point, New York for a cross-country road trip
August 12: Police in Moab, Utah respond to a domestic incident involving the couple
Aug. 17: Laundrie allegedly flies back to Florida to ‘clear out a storage unit’
Aug. 21: Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, has his last FaceTime video call with his daughter who was in Salt Lake City, Utah
Aug. 23: Laundrie flies back to Utah to ‘rejoin Gabby’ on their trip
Aug. 24: Petito is last seen at a hotel in Salt Lake City with Laundrie
Aug. 25: Petito makes final call to her mother, Nichole Schmidt, saying she was in Grand Teton National Park
August 30: Gabby’s family receive final text from her phone saying ‘No service in Yosemite’
Sept. 1: Laundrie returns to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida in a van without Petito
Sept. 13: Laundrie’s lawyer says on October 5 that his parents now ‘believe’ this was the day they last saw him heading for a hike
Sept. 17: Laundrie family attorney confirms his whereabouts are unknown
Sept. 21: Coroner confirms remains found in Grand Tetons belong to Petito
Oct. 12: Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue announces autopsy findings which show Petito died by strangulation
Oct. 16: Petito’s parents are seen collecting her ashes from the Valley Mortuary in Jackson, Wyoming
October 20: Human remains found in Carlton Reserve
McPherson confirmed that human remains had been found, but he would not speculate on the identity of those remains, nor would he reveal how long they had been there.
He told reporters at the scene: ‘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,’ McPherson said. ‘It’s likely the team will be on site for several days.’
Steve Bertolino, an attorney for the Laundrie family, said in a statement: ‘Chris and Roberta Laundrie went to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park this morning to search for Brian.
‘The FBI and NPPD were informed last night of Brian’s parents’ intentions and they met Chris and Roberta there this morning.
‘After a brief search off a trail that Brian frequented some articles belonging to Brian were found. As of now law enforcement is conducting a more thorough investigation of that area.’
In a follow-up statement, Bertolino said that the items and remains were found in an area where the parents had previously informed investigators that Brian might be hiding.
‘Chris and Roberta will wait for the forensic identification of the human remains before making any additional comments,’ he added.
The Sarasota County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed it had been summoned to the reserve but would not comment further.
Authorities have been searching the park for weeks, but the portion where the remains were found on Tuesday was previously underwater, according to NBC.
The area is near where a Ford Mustang that Laundrie drove to the wilderness was found abandoned several weeks ago.
Gabby and Brian embarked on a cross-country trip earlier this summer with a plan to document it all on film for their social media channels.
But their loved-up Instagram persona was a far cry from the combative relationship that was playing out behind the scenes.
Just a few weeks before she vanished, police in Moab, Utah, were called to the pair’s van after fellow travelers saw Brian hit Gabby.
They were separated for the night, and Gabby was deemed to be the aggressor. August 26 was the last time anyone saw or heard from Gabby.
Laundrie returned to his parents home on September 1.
At first, they told cops they last saw him on September 14. They later said it was in fact September 13, when he told them he was going on a hike in the reserve and never returned.
He has been on the run ever since and his parents refused to speak publicly about the case or help Gabby’s parents.
They retrieved her remains from a mortuary in Wyoming last week.
At a briefing at 4.30pm, FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson confirmed that human remains had been found, but he would not speculate on the identity of those remains, nor would he reveal how long they had been there
North Port cops block the entrance to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park Wednesday after items belong to Brian Laundrie and potential human remains were found in a Florida wilderness park during a search for clues
The sprawling park connected to the 25,000 acre Carlton Reserve was locked down following the grim discovery
A coroners van leaves the reserve in North Port where the FBI have been looking for Brian Laundrie. The FBI didn’t confirm that the remains found today are Brian’s, but they were found along with items belonging to the fugitive suspect
Supporters of Gabby Petito hold up photos of Gabby after a news conference Wednesday at the nature reserve
On Tuesday, a day before the remains were found, Chris and Roberta Laundrie were seen shopping in North Port.
Among the items they were seen carrying was a cardboard box, which they shipped from a FedEx store in Venice, Florida.
Later that night, they said they planned to join Wednesday’s search. The pair were photographed on the search on Wednesday by FOX News.
They were seen walking with an officer, who was overheard saying: ‘I think we might have found something.’
The officer then emerged with a bag that contained articles belonging to Laundrie.
The FBI and North Port Police Department have closed the park, which just reopened to the public on Tuesday after being closed to the public for nearly a month due to the ongoing search for Laundrie.
The Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park is situated on 160 acres of heavily wooded land and connects to the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve.
Laundrie was reported missing by his parents on September 17 after claiming they last saw him three days prior. His whereabouts have been unknown ever since.
Federal investigators issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie on September 23 for ‘use of unauthorized access device’ last month after alleging he used a Capital One Bank debit card that wasn’t his.
The Carlton Reserve in Florida is 13 miles from where the Laundrie family lives in North Port
Until Wednesday, there had been no signs of Laundrie at the Carlton Reserve in Florida, the area his parents cite as the last place he was seen.
Last week, North Port police noted there was ‘nothing to suggest’ whether Laundrie was dead or alive.
Officials claimed no one had seen him in the reserve and search teams didn’t find any physical evidence of his presence in the area.
On Tuesday, Chris and Roberta broke cover for a nearly five-hour shopping trip, dodging questions about their son’s whereabouts as they shipped a mysterious package labeled ‘meal kit’.
The couple emerged from their home in North Port, Florida, at 7.45am Tuesday and climbed into their red Dodge Ram truck for the trip.
After making a few stops, DailyMail.com spotted them at a FedEx store where Christopher went inside carrying a parcel with the intriguing words ‘meal kit’ stamped on one end. The addressee could not be seen.
DailyMail.com spotted Brian Laundrie’s parents on a five-hour shopping trip Tuesday morning
After making a few stops, DailyMail.com spotted them stop at a FedEx store where Christopher went inside carrying a parcel with the intriguing words ‘meal kit’ stamped on one end
They also refused to answer DailyMail.com’s inquiries of ‘is he in the park, did you help him get there?’ in reference to the massive swampland search for survivalist Brian, 23, that started nearly five weeks ago at the alligator-infested Carlton Reserve near North Port
Chris and Roberta have been widely criticized for refusing to publicly speak about the case
Gabby’s father Joseph Petito clutches the ashes of his murdered daughter, whose remains were found at a nearby campsite on September 19
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito are shown on August 12 after being pulled over by police in their van. The cops had received reports of a fight between the pair. Witnesses said they saw Laundrie hit Petito. She was however deemed to be the aggressor in the argument, and the pair were separated for the night
They refused to answer DailyMail.com’s questions when asked ‘is he in the park, did you help him get there?’ in reference to the massive swampland search for survivalist Brian, 23, that started nearly five weeks ago at the alligator-infested Carlton Reserve near their home.
The Laundrie family lawyer, Anthony Bertolino, gave a statement attempting to express sympathy to Petito’s family on Thursday after her cause of death was revealed.
‘Gabby Petito’s death at such a young age is a tragedy. While Brian Laundrie is currently charged with the unauthorized use of a debit card belonging to Gabby, Brian is only considered a person of interest in relation to Gabby Petito’s demise.
‘At this time Brian is still missing and when he is located we will address the pending fraud charge against him.’
Petito’s mother texted a reported a curt, blunt response.
‘His words are garbage. Keep talking,’ she wrote to a reporter from WFLA in Florida.
Gabby’s family said earlier this week that they wanted him to spend the rest of his life in a jail cell. She also abhorred Roberta and Chris for not helping them.
‘Silence speaks volumes. I believe they know most of the information. I would love to just face to face ask, ‘Why are you doing this? Just tell me the truth.’
‘He’s a coward. I don’t want to say he’s insane because he went home, he’s hiding, he used her credit card. That’s not somebody who’s gone crazy.
Jim, her husband, added: ‘We want vengeance. And justice.’