(NEW YORK) — A massive search for Brian Laundrie, the boyfriend of slain 22-year-old travel blogger Gabby Petito, took a dramatic twist Thursday with the announcement that human remains found in a Florida nature preserve are those of the wanted fugitive, according to the FBI.
The remains were recovered Wednesday, nearly five weeks after Petito’s body was recovered in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. The Teton County Coroner ruled her death a homicide by strangulation.
The search for the 23-year-old Laundrie was centered around North Port, Florida, where investigators said he returned to his home on Sept. 1 without Petito but driving her 2012 Ford Transit.
Laundrie had been named by police as a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance and a federal warrant had been issued for him alleging unauthorized use of Petito’s credit card.
He refused to speak to the police and vanished on Sept. 13. His parents told investigators they believed he was headed to the Carlton Reserve in North Port.
The case grabbed national attention as Laundrie and Petito had been traveling across the country since June, documenting the trip on social media. Petito’s parents reported her missing on Sept. 11 after not hearing from her for two weeks.
Here is how the weekslong search for Laundrie unfolded:
Oct 21, 5:06 pm
‘Skeletal remains’ recovered at Florida nature preserve
Apparent human “skeletal remains” were recovered Wednesday in a Florida wildlife preserve where the search for Brian Laundrie has centered, police told ABC News on Thursday.
“We have confirmed skeletal remains,” said Josh Taylor, spokesman for the North Port, Florida, Police Department.
Asked of media reports describing portions of the remains recovered, Taylor said, “We have not said anything about a skull.”
Oct 21, 3:08 pm
ID of remains could take several days: Medical examiner
Dr. Russell Vega, the chief medical examiner for Florida’s 12th District, confirmed to ABC News that he is working on trying to identify the apparent human remains found Wednesday in a nature preserve along with Brian Laundrie’s backpack and notebook.
Vega said it could take several days to identify the remains. He declined to confirm media reports that the remains discovered at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port, Florida, were bones.
Early in the search for Laundrie, FBI agents collected samples of Laundrie’s DNA from his parents home in North Port, according to the Laundrie family attorney.
Oct 20, 6:06 pm
Laundrie family attorney reacts to discovery of apparent human remains
Steven Bertolino, the family attorney for the Laundrie family, spoke with New York ABC station WABC Wednesday evening after law enforcement found human remains and items belonging to the fugitive at a Florida park.
The attorney said the area where investigators found Brian’s belongings was shown to police two weeks ago when Laundrie’s father, Chris, aided in the search.
“I can’t say for certain that Chris showed this particular area to police at that point in time, but I can say that this is an area that we initially notified the FBI that Brian liked hiking,” Bertolino said.
The attorney said the family is waiting for a proper identification before making any comments.
“As you can imagine, the parents are very distraught. … At this moment in time they’re grieving,” he said.
Oct 20, 4:42 pm
Police find apparent human remains, personal items belonging to Laundrie
Police have recovered apparent human remains that have not been identified in the search for Brian Laundrie, the FBI said Wednesday.
Authorities also found items belonging to Laundrie, like a backpack and notebook, officials said.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson said the area where the items were found had previously been underwater. McPherson said a team would be on site for several days processing the scene.
Oct 20, 2:55 pm
Remains found at park, not clear if human
A law enforcement source told ABC News remains were found at a Florida environmental park. The source said investigators are working to determine whether the remains are human and whether the remains and other discovered articles are linked to Laundrie.
Oct 20, 2:19 pm
FBI confirms ‘items of interest’ found
The FBI said “items of interest” in connection to the search for Laundrie were found at the Carlton Reserve Wednesday morning and an evidence response team is processing the scene.
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