Gabby Petito case: Human remains found during search for Brian Laundrie, FBI confirms

Gabby Petito Case

NORTH PORT, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Potential human remains have been found in a Florida reserve where authorities have been searching for Brian Laundrie, the FBI confirmed Wednesday.

Michael McPherson, chief of the Tampa FBI office, said at a news conference that it will take time to identify the remains, which forensic teams were examining. 

Personal items, including a backpack and a notebook believed to belong to Brian Laundrie, were also found in the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve.

“We are working diligently to get those answers for you,” McPherson said, adding that the items and remains were found in a swampy area — home to alligators, snakes, coyotes and other wildlife — that had previously been underwater. “It’s likely the team will be on site for several days.”

A medical examiner told NewsNation’s Brian Entin on Wednesday evening that it could be one to two days before they identify the potential remains.

Following the FBI update, the Laundrie family’s attorney sent NewsNation this statement:

“Chris and Roberta Laundrie were at the reserve earlier today when human remains and some of Brian’s possessions were located in an area where they had initially advised law enforcement that Brian may be.   Chris and Roberta will wait for the forensic identification of the human remains before making any additional comments.“

Steven Bertolino, ATTORNEY FOR THE LAUNDRIE FAMILY

The attorney also told Entin his clients called him Tuesday and said they wanted to search the reserve since it was back open. Bertolino says he called police and told them the Laundries would be at the reserve at 7 a.m. Wednesday. He says police met them there.

While searching, Bertolino said Christopher Laundrie, Roberta Laundrie and two officers spread out on either side of a trail that Brian Laundrie liked to hike. He said Chris Laundrie found a bag containing some of his son’s items and officers found the backpack on the other side of the trail, which was near the remains.

Christopher Laundrie previously helped in the search for his son two weeks ago.

See the full FBI update in the player below.

Police presence ramped up at the reserve as additional mobile command units arrived at the park. Authorities closed the nearby Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park to the public; they had reopened the park for the first time in a month Monday.

It had been weeks since any firm new details emerged in the case as authorities searched for the boyfriend of Gabby Petito. Brian Laundrie’s parents say they last saw him Sept. 13, when they said he drove to the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve. He was reported missing Sept. 17.

The Carlton Reserve connects to the 160-acre Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, which is a heavily wooded area near an interstate freeway.

Petito, 22, vanished while on a cross-country road trip with Brian Laundrie in a converted camper van. The trip was well-documented on social media until it abruptly ceased, allegedly somewhere in Wyoming.

Petito was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days. Petito’s body was found Sept. 19 just outside Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. A Teton County coroner said earlier this month that Petito died by strangulation three to four weeks before her body was found.

Brian Laundrie is a person of interest in Petito’s death.

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The FBI has issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie. He is wanted for “use of unauthorized access device” related to his activities following Petito’s death. The FBI says he used a debit card and a PIN to access two bank accounts Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.

“Gabby Petito’s death at such a young age is a tragedy,” the Laundrie family attorney, Steven Bertolino, said in a statement to NewsNation earlier this month. “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.”

Former FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer joined Rush Hour to help break down the latest update from authorities.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.

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