Families wait for answers after FBI confirms Brian Laundrie's remains found: What we know

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NORTH PORT, Fla. — The families of murder victim Gabby Petito and her fiance Brian Laundrie are awaiting answers Friday after the FBI confirmed Laundrie's remains were found in a Florida wilderness park that law enforcement has been searching for weeks.

In addition to the remains, which were identified using dental records, law enforcement officials found a backpack and notebook in an area that had previously been underwater, according to FBI Tampa special agent Michael McPherson.

Experts say it could be difficult to determine what caused Laundrie's death because only skeletal remains were found.

"There might not be a way to determine how he died," Jim Clemente, a former FBI profiler, told CNN. "If he drowned, for example, there wouldn't be any evidence of that on his skeleton."

Gabby Petito case: Remains found in Florida park identified as Brian Laundrie, FBI says

McPherson said investigators will likely remain in the area for days. Law enforcement officials have scoured the area for more than a month, sometimes in chest-high water infested with snakes and alligators, investigators had said.

Laundrie was named as the sole person of interest in Petito's death after returning home from a cross-country trip without her and then disappearing on Sept. 13 during a hike in the sprawling Carlton Reserve.

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito in their first and only Youtube video uploaded to their channel.
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito in their first and only Youtube video uploaded to their channel.

Chants of “Justice for Gabby” erupted during the press conference Thursday at the park as the FBI announced its findings.

Steven Bertolino, an attorney for Laundrie's parents, expressed frustration on Fox News that protesters were still outside the family's home in North Port, Florida.

"I’m upset, I’m angry, and for the last four hours I’ve been dealing with — I just have to call it nonsense," Bertolino said. "They're extremely upset, and for some unknown reason, there are still people outside of their home, yelling and screaming and causing a ruckus, which any parent grieving the loss of a child should not have to deal with."

Medical examiner will determine cause of death

Dr. Cyril Wecht said the Medical Examiner would examine the bones, teeth and insects to find answers most critical to the case – how long the body had been there and the cause of death.

The body likely had been submerged for an extended period of time, according to Wecht, who has been involved in some of the country’s most high-profile death investigations, such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“If he shot himself, that will still be evident,” Wecht said. “If he stabbed himself, that could be obliterated or markedly obscured by virtue of the post-mortem period and submersion in water.”

Dental records used to ID remains after father discovers bag

On Wednesday, Laundrie's parents were walking a trail with law enforcement personnel nearby when Chris Laundrie ventured off and found a white bag in some brambles, Bertolino told CNN.

Laundrie's then found law enforcement officers – who had discovered a backpack and human remains, Bertolino said. Bertolino dismissed the suggestion that Chris Laundrie planted the dry bag.

Experts who specialize in analyzing skeletons and bones were brought in to help law enforcement with identifying the remains and the FBI said dental records ultimately showed they belonged to Laundrie.

Michael McPherson with the FBI is joined by North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison during a news conference at the entrance to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port, Florida, on Oct. 20, 2021. McPherson announced that a body had been found along with a backpack and notebook belonging to Brian Laundrie, a fugitive sought in connection with the death of Gabby Petito.
Michael McPherson with the FBI is joined by North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison during a news conference at the entrance to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port, Florida, on Oct. 20, 2021. McPherson announced that a body had been found along with a backpack and notebook belonging to Brian Laundrie, a fugitive sought in connection with the death of Gabby Petito.

Laundrie disappeared days before Petito's body was found in Wyoming

High school sweethearts Petito and Laundrie left from New York's Long Island in July on a months-long tour of national parks and other sites, occasionally posting happy social media photos and stories.

The road trip was set to end in Oregon, but Laundrie returned to his parents' house in Florida, where he had been living with Petito, alone Sept. 1. Ten days later, Petito's parents filed a missing persons report after not hearing from her since late August.

Laundrie left his home on Sept. 13 for a hike in the Carlton Reserve, nearly 25,000 acres of land in southern Sarasota County, and never returned, his family has said.

Laundrie's car was found days later at the Myakkahatchee Park.

Petito's body was discovered Sept. 19 near a campground in Wyoming. Teton County Coroner Brent Blue ruled Petito's death a homicide by strangulation, saying her body had been "outside in the wilderness for three to four weeks" before it was found.

Gabby Petito was strangled: Experts say such an assault is a red flag for intimate partner homicides.

Laundrie not charged in Petito's death

Laundrie 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 to 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 records emerged that suggested the couple was having problems. Officers at one point separated Petito and Laundrie for a night after a domestic dispute turned physical.

'You’ve gotta question the appropriateness': True crime story of Gabby Petito draws attention-seeking frenzy

Laundrie is the sole person of interest in the strangulation death of his fiance, blogger Gabby Petito.
Laundrie is the sole person of interest in the strangulation death of his fiance, blogger Gabby Petito.

The Utah Grand County sheriff's office released an Aug. 12 911 call in which the caller reports driving by the couple's van and witnessing "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 Laundrie telling an officer friction had been building between the two for several days.

Contributing: Vonna Keomanyvong, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brian Laundrie skeletal remains found: Cause of death not determined

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