Brian Laundrie

Brian Laundrie Cause of Death Unclear as Discovery Brings as Many Questions as Answers

The FBI confirmed human remains found in Florida's Myakkahatachee Creek Environmental Park were those of Brian Laundrie, but it's still not clear how he died. The family's attorney said in a TV interview Friday law enforcement might have more to share by midday

NBC Universal, Inc. The Sarasota County Medical Examiner’s Office was called to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port, Fla., after items belonging to Brian Laundrie were discovered off a hiking trail.

What to Know

  • Dental records confirmed that skeletal remains found in a Florida nature preserve earlier this week are indeed those of Brian Laundrie
  • Laundrie's parents found his belongings just one day after the environmental park at the center of the FBI search reopened to public
  • No cause or manner of death for Laundrie has been released; Gabby Petito's death, likely in late August, was ruled a homicide by manual strangulation. Laundrie was the only person of interest in the case

Neither the parents of Gabby Petito nor the parents of Brian Laundrie have spoken publicly since this week's stunning development -- and discovery -- marked a dramatic end to a manhunt that has captivated the globe for more than a month.

The FBI had been looking for Laundrie, its only person of interest in Petito's killing during the couple's cross-country trip, since he vanished on Sept. 13, six days before her body was found in a remote area of a Wyoming national park. They scoured an environmental preserve and a 25,000-acre park where he was last said to have gone before he disappeared. For weeks on end, they found nothing.

On Wednesday, just one day after the Myakkahatachee Creek Environmental Park reopened to the public, Laundrie's own parents found his belongings, which led to his skeletal remains, after a "brief" search off a hiking trail he frequented.

The find was made only about 10 minutes from Laundrie's house.

Dental records confirmed the remains were Laundrie's, the FBI announced Thursday, bringing the five-week manhunt to and end. No cause or manner of death has been released for the 23-year-old -- and the FBI hasn't said when it expects to have more information to share.

Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino, though, told ABC Friday that law enforcement told him a day earlier there might be new information by midday, but no developments were ever shared. It is still unclear how Brian Laundrie died, how long he had been in the reserve and if anyone had helped him along the way.

Also of key interest in the case: a notebook found near a backpack that belonged to Laundrie. Those papers, should they be salvageable, could hold answers the Petito family has been looking for since they learned their 22-year-old daughter was dead. They also might not reveal any answers the family has been so desperately seeking.

In a text message to News 4 late Thursday, Petito family attorney Rich Stafford said the family was not making a statement at this time.

"They are grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter. Gabby’s family will make a statement at the appropriate time and when they are emotionally ready," Stafford wrote.

Bertolino had said Brian's parents, Chris and Roberta, were heartbroken when they discovered his belongings and anticipated the remains were their son's. Late Thursday, Bertolino said they were informed that was indeed the case. He asked the parents' privacy be respected as they grieve.

Outside the Laundrie home in North Port, people continued to stop by with flowers and notes reading "Justice for Gabby," as they spruced up a makeshift memorial.

"I'm sure every parent out there knows that getting the news that your child is no longer with you is sad, under any circumstances," Bertolino told NBC News. "The fact that the Laundries have been subjected to these people out in front of their house for the last four weeks, and they continue out there today, it's just making all the more difficult."

Asked by ABC Thursday whether Laundrie had told his parents anything about what happened to Petito before he died, Bertolino said he can't comment.

"I think everybody out there knows that whether the family or myself have some information to share, but there's not much we can say at this point in time," Bertolino said. "I've been quite clear when it comes to FBI we have absolutely nothing to say with respect to the Gabby Petito. With respect to Brian, we've been cooperating from day one. Those are two different scenarios." 

The FBI on Thursday identified human remains found in a Florida nature preserve as those of Brian Laundrie, a person of interest in the death of girlfriend Gabby Petito while the couple was on a cross-country road trip. NBC New York's Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

FBI teams will likely be on scene processing potential evidence for several days, officials said, and the park will remain closed to the public until further notice. The Denver team is leading the investigation, and though both bodies of the missing couple have now been recovered, many questions remain.

Atop many minds, will the Petito family ever get justice for their daughter?

Last week, the county coroner who ruled Petito's death a homicide revealed chilling details from the autopsy results: She was strangled by someone's bare hands, and likely died three to four weeks before she was found.

That type of death is one of "the most intimate of homicides that can occur," forensic expert Joseph Scott Morgan told News 4's The Debrief podcast last week.


LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: WHAT GABBY PETITO'S AUTOPSY DETAILS COULD MEAN -- AND WHY 'THE VANISHED' TEAM THINKS THIS CASE STOOD OUT


The coroner who examined Petito's remains, Dr. Brent Blue of Teton County, declined to share additional details on the autopsy results, citing state protocol.

The FBI continues to solicit tips by phone and online regarding the case, although it is now unclear what happens in the investigation now that the only person of interest in Petito's murder has been confirmed to be dead.

It has been 16 days since Gabby Petito's fiancé, Brian Laundrie, allegedly told his parents he was going for a hike in a sprawling Florida nature preserve. It's set of a massive manhunt - but one seasoned US Marshal says he doesn't think Laundrie was ever there. This week on The Debrief, retired U.S. Marshal Craig Caine gives his take.
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