TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Law enforcement officials searching for Brian Laundrie found partial human remains in the Carlton Reserve on Wednesday near personal items that belong to the 23-year-old, according to the FBI.
Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson with the FBI Tampa office gave a brief update on developments in the search for Laundrie on Wednesday afternoon. He did not take questions and did not identify the remains, but confirmed several items of interest had been found in an area that was previously underwater.
“As you’re aware, the FBI and the North Port Police Department, and our state and local law enforcement partners, have been searching the area of the Carlton Reserve for Brian Laundrie – a person of interest in the murder of Gabby Petito,” McPherson said. “Earlier today, investigators found what appears to be human remains, along with personal items such as a backpack and notebook belonging to Brian Laundrie.”
According to McPherson, the FBI’s evidence response team is at the scene using “all available forensic resources” to process the area. It’s likely they will remain at the park for several days, he said.
“I know you have a lot of questions but we don’t have all the answers yet,” McPherson said. “We are working diligently to get those answers for you.”
8 On Your Side reached out to Steve Bertolino, the attorney representing the Laundrie family, after the FBI’s update.
“Chris and Roberta will wait for the forensic identification of the human remains before making any additional comments,” he said.
Several hours before the news conference with the FBI, the Sarasota County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed it had been called to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park by police. The environmental park connects to the Carlton Reserve, where the search for Laundrie has been focused for more than a month now. Search crews had previously cited difficulties maneuvering through the massive area due to some sections being underwater.
Bertolino told 8 On Your Side both of Laundrie’s parents went to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park to search for Brian on Wednesday morning. He said the FBI and North Port Police Department met the parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, at the park Wednesday morning.
“After a brief search off a trail that Brian frequented some articles belonging to Brian were found,” Bertolino said.
In addition to the medical examiner’s office, FBI team and North Port Police Department, a mobile command unit from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office was also seen pulling up to the search area Wednesday.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it was assisting as well.
“North Port PD has once again requested a human remains detection K9 to assist with the search today,” Public Information Officer Amanda Hunter confirmed. “We sent one HRD K9 team and two spotters to ensure the safety of the team during the search.”
Both entrances to the park, which reopened to the public on Tuesday after being closed for nearly a month, were blocked off by North Port police on Wednesday. They told WFLA’s Allyson Henning the park was closed, but did not share any further details. North Port Public Information Officer Josh Taylor would only say, “the search continues.”
Laundrie remains the only person of interest in the disappearance of his fiancée Gabby Petito, who was found dead last month a week after being reported missing.
The couple had set off on a cross-country trip across the United States in July, and documented their travels online. Police said Laundrie returned home to North Port without Petito on Sept. 1. Her family reported her missing on Sept. 11.
Petito’s remains were found on Sept. 19 at a campground in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. The 22-year-old had been strangled to death, a coroner said earlier this month.
Laundrie is wanted for unauthorized use of a debit card. A federal grand jury indictment alleges he withdrew or spent $1,000 after Petito went missing, using a debit card that wasn’t his.
Laundrie’s parents say their son went for a hike in the nearly 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve on Sept. 13 and never returned. The reserve connects to the heavily-wooded Myakkahatchee park, a 160-acre area just north of Interstate 75.
Local and federal agencies have spent more than a month combing the vast reserve and the park in hopes of finding Laundrie.
This story is developing and will be updated.