Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, February 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Human remains, backpack found in Florida park during search in Gabby Petito case

The FBI would not confirm if the human remains belong to the boyfriend of murder victim Gabby Petito.

NORTH PORT, Fla. (CN) — Investigators have found a backpack belonging to Brian Laundrie and human remains in a Florida nature preserve, the FBI announced on Wednesday afternoon.

Special agent Michael McPherson of the FBI’s Tampa office would not confirm if the remains belong to Laundrie, the 23-year-old sought in connection with the murder of his girlfriend Gabby Petito, a case that has attracted national attention.

The remains were found next to a backpack and notebook belonging to Laundrie, the agent noted.

“Our evidence response team is on scene using all forensic resources to process the area,” McPherson told reporters at the entrance to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park. “It’s likely the team will be on scene for several days.”

“I know you have a lot of questions, but we don’t have all the answers yet,” he added.

As McPherson walked away, several people began chanting, “Justice for Gabby.”

The park had been closed to the public for several weeks until a day ago. On Wednesday morning, Laundrie’s parents went to the park to look for their son along with the FBI and North Port police. The area where the remains and Laundrie’s belongings were found was previously covered by water.

The discovery is the latest twist in the saga that began with Laundrie and Petito embarking on a cross-country trip in July.

Body camera video shows Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito talking to an officer after police pulled over the van she was traveling in with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, near the entrance to Arches National Park in Utah on Aug. 12, 2021. Petito’s body was found at a national park in Wyoming after a cross-country trip with Laundrie. (The Moab Police Department via AP)

On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to Florida without Petito. Days after Petito’s parents reported her missing on Sept. 11, Laundrie went for a hike in the Carlton Reserve, a swampy wooded area covering several thousand acres near Sarasota. He has not been seen since.

The body of Petito, 22, was found on Sept. 19 in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. A coroner later determined she was strangled.

Laundrie has not been charged in her death, but the FBI named him a person of interest. In addition, the agency issued an arrest warrant for him alleging the unauthorized use of a debit card between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.

FBI and North Port police began searching the Carlton Reserve soon after Laundrie’s parents reported him missing on Sept. 19, but the search was hampered by heavy rains and waist-deep water filled with alligators and snakes.

Over the last month, people have reportedly spotted Laundrie, but the accounts never checked out. Even Duane Chapman of Dog the Bounty Hunter fame joined in on the search at various parks around Florida’s west coast.

Laundrie’s parents – Chris and Roberta – were at the park when the remains were found, according to a statement released by the family attorney Chris Bertolino after the FBI’s press conference.

“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,” Bertolino said in the statement. “Chris and Roberta will wait for the forensic identification of the human remains before making any additional comments.”

Follow @alexbpickett
Categories / Criminal, National

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.