ORLANDO, Fla. — Authorities on Wednesday said they found partial, unidentified human remains along with a backpack and notebook belonging to Brian Laundrie at a Florida park near where his vehicle was found.
“These items were found in an area that up until recently had been underwater,” said FBI Tampa special agent Michael McPherson at a news conference from the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port.
The identity of the remains were not confirmed to be Laundrie, who is a person of interest in the homicide of Gabby Petito.
“I know you have a lot of questions, but we don’t have all the answers yet,” McPherson said. “We are working diligently to get those answers for you.”
As law enforcement officials left the news conference without taking questions, several members of the crowd on site could be heard chanting, “Justice for Gabby!”
The Sarasota County medical examiner’s office confirmed to several media outlets that it had been called to the park, which is adjacent to the Carlton Reserve, where Laundrie’s parents had said he had gone more than a month ago when they reported him missing.
Laundrie, 23, lived in North Port at his parents home with fiancée Petito, 22, before he and Petito went on a cross-country trip beginning in July. Laundrie returned home without Petito on Sept. 1, and Petito’s body was found Sept. 19 at a campground in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, with her death being ruled a homicide by strangulation. The coroner in that case said her body had been deceased for three or four weeks.
Laundrie has not been charged in Petito’s death, but is wanted by the FBI for unauthorized use of a debit card, alleging he used a Capital One Bank card and someone’s personal identification number to make unauthorized withdrawals or charges worth more than $1,000 during the period in which Petito went missing. The FBI did not say who the card belonged to, but Petito’s family revealed to media it had been her card Brian was using.
Laundrie’s parents reported him missing on Sept. 17, saying they last saw him on Sept. 13 leaving home with a backpack, but that he had left behind his wallet and phone, to the massive Carlton Reserve. A multiday search then began for Laundrie at the reserve, which is farther east than the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, but part of the same larger wilderness area near Sarasota.
When they reported him missing, Laundrie’s parents had stated they were worried Brian may have harmed himself.
With a month without any sign of Laundrie, authorities had just reopened the areas to the public, and Laundrie’s parents had informed law enforcement that they had intended to go to areas where Brian may have previously frequented, according to Tampa-area NBC affiliate WFLA-TV. They met police and the FBI Wednesday morning.
That’s when the items were found, prompting the call to the medical examiner as well as a K-9 unit from neighboring Pasco County to the search site that is capable of detecting human remains, the station reported.
The FBI’s Evidence Response team also came to the site with all possible forensic tools to process the scene, McPherson said, saying they would likely remain on site for several days.
Both Carlton Reserve and the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park will now remain closed while the investigation continues.
McPherson said the FBI Denver office remains the lead investigator on Petito’s homicide, and all future inquiries should be directed to that office.