Brian Laundrie: Human remains found in search for missing fugitive

Partial human remains have been found near a backpack which resembles one belonging to Brian Laundrie

Bevan Hurley
In New York
Wednesday 20 October 2021 21:17
Police continue search for Brian Laundrie
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Authorities have reportedly discovered human remains in the Carlton Reserve, where Brian Laundrie was believed to have gone missing when he fled his parent’s Florida home five weeks ago.

A senior law enforcement official told NBC News they had located partial human remains in the vast, alligator-infested swampland in a location that had previously been under water.

Follow all the latest on the Brian Laundrie search here.

There has not yet been any official confirmation that the remains belong to Mr Laundrie, who is a “person of interest” in his girlfriend Gabby Petito’s disappearance.

Sources told NBC News a backpack consistent with one belonging to Mr Laundrie had been found near the remains.

A bag containing personal items belonging to Brian Laundrie is removed from the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on Wednesday morning

Mr Laundrie had been the subject of an intensive, FBI-led nationwide manhunt since the remains of Ms Petito were discovered in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming on 19 September.

On Wednesday morning, Mr Laundrie’s parents Chris and Roberta Laundrie went to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park this morning to search for Brian.

Within a few hours they located items belonging to Mr Laundrie, and the family lawyer Steve Bertolino put out a statement soon afterward to say they had found Mr Laundrie’s personal belongings.

Roberta and Chris Laundrie speak to a law enforcement officer on Wednesday

“The FBI and (North Port Police Department) were informed last night of Brian’s parents’ intentions and they met Chris and Roberta there this morning,” the statement said.

“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.”

Law enforcement set up a tent near to where human remains were found

The area had been closed for a month to the public, and had only reopened on Tuesday.

Footage shot by a news helicopter above the reserve showed a tent has been erected in the location where Mr Laundrie’s items were believed to have been discovered. The FBI later put in place a no fly zone over the reserve.

The Sarasota County Medical Examiner has been called out to the nature reserve to examine the items.

A canine unit used to track human cadavers had also been deployed to the scene by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

If confirmed, the discovery will bring to an end one of the largest manhunts in recent US history.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie

Mr Laundrie’s disappearance from his family’s North Port home, roughly five miles from where the human remains were found, sparked hundreds of sightings, from North Carolina to Mexico, Alabama to the Appalachian Trail.

But amid the intense public attention, law enforcement remained focused on the Carlton Reserve, and the nearby Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park.

Law enforcement agencies scoured the 25,000-acre nature reserve for weeks using drones, dive teams, sonar, all-terrain vehicles, fixed-wing aircraft and canine units.

An estimated 75 per cent of the reserve was underwater and inaccessible, and filled with dangerous animals including alligators, snakes, bobcats and panthers.

Locals with knowledge of the area said there was “no chance” anyone could survive in the terrain, which becomes submerged in water for months on end over summer.

Search for Brian Laundrie: Parents concerned he might hurt himself

Ms Petito and Mr Laundrie had been high school sweethearts, meeting at Bayport-Blue Point High School in Long Island, New York.

After finishing high school they moved to Florida to live with Mr Laundrie’s parents, and began travelling the US as part of a community of adventure-lovers known as “van-lifers”.

They set out on their last journey from Long Island on 2 July in a Ford Transit van that the couple spent months converting into a mobile home.

The couple documented their journey through America’s national parks in seemingly idyllic images posted to their Instagram accounts and on their YouTube vlog channel, Nomadic Statik.

But away from the camera, their relationship was falling apart.

On 12 August, police in Moab, Utah, were called after a witness saw Mr Laundrie hitting and slapping his partner.

Officers from the Moab City Police Department pulled the couple’s van over soon afterwards, and in harrowing bodycam footage Ms Petito could be seen holding her hands to her throat as she described their violent altercation.

The police officers separated the couple for the night, but allowed them to continue on their trip after deciding there was insufficient evidence that a domestic violence crime had been committed.

New bodycam video of Gabby Petito released

On 17 August, Mr Laundrie flew from Salt Lake City to Florida. Laundrie attorney Steve Bertolino said Brian was there to collect some personal items and close a storage unit as the couple were planning to extend their trip. He returned to Salt Lake City six days later.

Days later Mr Laundrie was seen arguing violently with a waitress in a bar in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on 27 August, in what is thought to be the final time anyone saw Ms Petito was found alive.

Jackson Hole is approximately 40 miles south of Spread Creek, in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, where the couple’s van was captured parked on the side of a dirt road by a YouTuber later that evening.

Ms Petito stopped communicating with her parents around that time, and they became increasingly concerned for her welfare.

Mr Laundrie returned home alone to Florida from a van-life trip without Ms Petito on 1 September, and he and his parents ignored the desperate attempts by Ms Petito’s family to find out what had happened to their daughter.

A few days later over Labour Day weekend, Brian, his parents and sister Cassie and her family visited the Fort De Soto Campground, a trip that became has puzzled many who have followed the case closely.

The trip only became public after Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman became involved in the manhunt.

On 11 September, North Port Police seized the van belonging to Ms Petito from the Laundrie family home.

In the days afterward the case came to national prominence as Gabby’s father and mother Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt appealed for help from the public and media in finding their daughter.

Gabby Petito’s father calls Laundrie family ‘cowards’

Mr Laundrie’s parents always maintained that their son had gone to the reserve after his girlfriend’s disappearance came to the attention of law enforcement on 11 September.

Chris and Roberta told authorities Mr Laundrie drove to the reserve on 13 September, after initially saying he had left their home a day later on 14 September.

Mr Laundrie is said to have departed carrying only a backpack and is known to have driven there in a silver Mustang.

According to an abandoned vehicle report filed on 14 September, the vehicle was found at 6968 Reisterstown Road in the Myakkahatchee Environmental Park, close to the location where the human remains were discovered.

The Laundries reportedly went to collect the car and search for their son after being notified the car had been found.

On 19 September, Ms Petito’s remains were found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest after a grid search by local search and rescue teams and the FBI.

Crucial to the discovery, was video shot by a passing traveller who saw the couple’s van parked on the side of a remote road near Spread Creek, close to the Wyoming border with Idaho.

A coroner would later confirm that Ms Petito had died by manual strangulation.

On 24 September, the US District Court of Wyoming issued an arrest warrant for Mr Laundrie after he was indicted by a grand jury for “use of unauthorised devices.”

It was later confirmed Mr Laundrie used his dead girlfriend’s bankcard to pay for his trip back to Florida.

Gabby Petito’s family said they hoped Mr Laundrie would be found alive, so they could get answers about what happened to their daughter.

Joseph Petito said his daughter’s boyfriend was a “coward” in an interview with Dr Phil.

Her stepfather Jim Schmidt, who helped locate the missing woman’s remains, said he wanted “vengeance” in an interview with 60 Minutes Australia.

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