WFLA in Tampa, Florida reported Wednesday that the FBI had confirmed Brian Laundrie was the sole person of interest in what they bluntly called “the murder of Gabby Petito.” Just a day later, federal authorities said the 23-year-old had been found dead in a Florida nature preserve.
The grim discovery brings an anti-climatic and, for many, disappointing finish to a manhunt that has captivated the nation.
Laundrie had long been the only person of interest in the investigation into what happened to Petito, Laundrie’s 22-year-old girlfriend who went missing before Laundrie himself vanished last month. Her death has since been attributed to strangulation by a coroner in Wyoming, where her body was found.
The Long Island couple, originally from Blue Point, New York, went on a cross-country road trip this summer from which Petito never returned. Petito was found dead in a national park in Wyoming on Sept. 19, weeks after she was believed to have been strangled, according to Fox.
Suspicions arose when Laundrie, after returning to Florida without Petito on Sept. 1, refused to cooperate with police and then vanished.
In the end, Laundrie met his fate in the Carlton Reserve, a nature park where the 23-year-old liked to go hiking, at an area of the reserve that had recently been underwater, Fox said.
He had been missing for more than a month when his remains, said to be in a “skeletal” state, were found Wednesday with the help of his parents and later identified through dental records. Personal items were also found, according to reports.
“On October 21, 2021, a comparison of dental records confirmed that the human remains found at the T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park are those of Brian Laundrie,” the FBI said in a tweet, according to Fox.
Authorities visited the Laundrie home Thursday afternoon. Steven Bertolino, an attorney for the Laundrie family, issued a statement soon after.
“Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the remains found yesterday in the reserve are indeed Brian’s. We have no further comment at this time and we ask that you respect the Laundrie’s privacy at this time,” Bertolino said, according to Fox 13 News in North Port.
After weeks of speculation about Brian Laundrie’s whereabouts, a tireless search has ended, but without the closure that many were hoping for.
An attorney for the Petito family said they are not ready to make a statement at this time. “They are grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter,” he said, according to Fox. “Gabby’s family will make a statement at the appropriate time and when they are emotionally ready.”