The FBI on Wednesday discovered human remains next to personal belongings of Brian Laundrie in a Florida nature park where cops had been hunting for the fugitive. And in all likelihood, the human remains are of Laundrie, the lawyer of the family said. However, authorities stopped short of confirming that they belonged to Laundrie.
Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino made the shocking statement in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo. However, he too said "we are going to wait for the forensic results to come in to verify that." If the remains are that of Laundrie, it will potentially end the search for the missing fiance of Gabby Petito, who disappeared more than a month ago.
Is that Laundrie?
On Wednesday, the FBI discovered the human remains alongside personal items including a backpack and a notebook belonging to Laundrie, five weeks after he disappeared after going on a hike in the alligator-infested Florida swamp.
Moments later, Bertilino in an interview to CNN said, "The probability is strong that it is Brian's remains, but we're going to wait for the forensic results to come in and verify that." Bertolino told Cuomo that the findings were made near a bridge that connects the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park and adjoining Carlton Reserve.
Interestingly, the remains were found on the same day Chris and Roberta joined police to help them search for their fugitive son. In fact, both Chris and Roberta insisted on searching the place where the personal belongings and the human remains were found.
Later, FBI Tampa special agent Michael McPherson in a brief press conference said that the area where they searched was previously underwater. "After a brief search of a trail that Brian frequented, some articles belonging to Brian were found," Bertolino said. "Law enforcement is conducting a more thorough investigation of that area."
"This is the very area of the park that we initially informed law enforcement on, I believe it was Sept. 17, that Brian would be most likely in the preserve in this particular area," he added.
Mystery Not Yet Solved
The FBI had earlier conducted a search in the surrounding area but failed to trace Laundrie. However, it was only after Laundrie's parents insisted they search the particular area, where their son would often go camping, that the human remains were discovered.
Moreover, the particular area so long was inaccessible to the cops. Local authorities say the nature reserve was largely submerged in water in September, when police first searched the park, which may have hindered the discovery of the items found on Wednesday.
Asked why the parents had not joined the search earlier, Bertolino said that the park had not been open to the public before Tuesday. The park was once again closed on Wednesday following the discovery.
That said, an autopsy is awaited to officially confirm if the human remains are that of Laundrie. In a statement through their attorney, Roberta and Chris said they would reserve public comments until the remains had been identified.
Petito and Laundrie were high school sweethearts from New York's Long Island. Laundrie's parents later moved to North Port, Florida, 35 miles southeast of Sarasota, and the couple moved in with his parents. The parents filed a missing persons report on September 17 after Laundrie apparently failed to return home after going for a hike in the park.
Laundrie vanished just two days after he was named a person of interest in Petito's disappearance. A couple of days later, on September 19, Petito's body was found in Wyoming. It was later confirmed that she was strangulated and murdered. Police had since been searching for Laundrie.
Wednesday's discovery is the first major breakthrough for the FBI in the case. However, Laundrie's parents are "heartbroken" after the grim discovery, the family's lawyer said.