Apparent human remains found in Florida park during search for Brian Laundrie, missing fiance of murder victim Gabby Petito
SARASOTA, Fla. — The FBI on Wednesday announced the discovery of what appears to be human remains along with personal items believed to belong to Brian Laundrie in a Florida park, potentially ending the search for the missing fiance of murdered blogger Gabby Petito.
At a brief news conference, FBI Tampa special agent Michael McPherson said the items, including a backpack and notebook, and the apparent human remains were found in an area that was previously underwater.
Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino previously confirmed the items were believed to belong to Laundrie. The Sarasota County Medical Examiner's office confirmed the agency was called to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park.
Laundrie's parents went to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park to search for their son, Bertolino said. He said the FBI and North Port police were "were informed last night of Brian’s parents’ intentions" and met the couple at the park.
"After a brief search of a trail that Brian frequented, some articles belonging to Brian were found," Bertolino said. "Law enforcement is conducting a more thorough investigation of that area."
Bertolino did not say what items were found at the park, and police did not respond to a request for comment. The heavily wooded, 160-acre park connects to the Carlton Preserve, a 25,000-acre wetlands and wilderness area where authorities spent days searching for Laundrie after his family reported him missing Sept. 17. Family members said Laundrie had gone camping in the reserve days earlier.
"The probability is strong that it is Brian's remains," Bertolino said Wednesday night on CNN.
The FBI in Tampa tweeted that "items of interest" were found and that an FBI Evidence Response team was processing the scene.
Petito and Laundrie were high school sweethearts from New York's Long Island. Laundrie's parents later moved to North Port, Florida, 35 miles southeast of Sarasota, and the couple moved in with his parents.
They left from Long Island in July on a months-long tour of national parks and other sites, bound for Oregon, occasionally posting happy social media photos and stories along the way. Laundrie returned to Florida alone Sept. 1, and 10 days later, Petito's parents filed a missing persons report after not hearing from her since late August.
Petito's body was found Sept. 19 near a Wyoming campground. Teton County Coroner Brent Blue ruled Petito's death a homicide by strangulation, saying Petito's body had been "outside in the wilderness for three to four weeks" before it was found.
Laundrie is the sole person of interest in Petito's death. He has not been charged in Petito's death, but he does face charges of unauthorized use of a debit card and several accounts involving more than $1,000. The documents do not state whom the cards or accounts belong to.
The indictment also charges Laundrie with unauthorized access of a device and says he used the bank accounts without permission from about Aug. 30 through Sept. 1.
After Petito's disappearance, police video emerged of problems between the couple, and officers at one point separated Petito and Laundrie for a night after a domestic dispute had turned physical.
In Utah, the Grand County sheriff's office released a 911 call from Aug. 12 in which the caller says he drove by the couple's van and witnessed that "the gentleman was slapping the girl."
Body camera video showed Petito in tears during a police stop on the side of a highway near Arches National Park in Utah. The footage shows a police officer speaking with Laundrie, who said friction had been building between the two for several days, though authorities at the scene took no action other than telling the couple to separate for the night.