An official with Sarasota County Medical Examiner told The Washington Post on Wednesday that officials were sent out to Carlton Reserve, a roughly 25,000-acre wetlands area in Sarasota County. Steve Bertolino, an attorney for the Laundrie family, told The Post that “articles” belonging to the 23-year-old were found on a trail that Laundrie frequented while his parents were at the scene.
“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 wrote in a text message. “Chris and Roberta will wait for the forensic identification of the human remains before making any additional comments.”
The attorney added, “As of now, law enforcement is conducting a more thorough investigation of that area.”
Petito’s disappearance during the couple’s cross-country trip attracted national interest for more than a month and highlighted inequities in missing person cases. Internet sleuths tried to piece together clues from the “#vanlife” enthusiast’s social media posts. Petito and Laundrie were on a months-long cross-country road trip, and they were last known to be together in Grand Teton, Wyo., on Aug. 25, heading toward Yellowstone National Park.
The 22-year-old woman’s body was found Sept. 19 in a remote area of Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming, and her death was ruled a homicide by strangulation.
Laundrie had not been charged in her death. A federal grand jury in Wyoming indicted him last month after determining that he used “one or more unauthorized devices” including a debit card and PIN numbers for two bank accounts, to fraudulently obtain more than $1,000.
Laundrie returned to the North Port, Fla., home he and Petito shared with his parents on Sept. 1, with police saying he had driven Petito’s white van there without her. Petito’s family reported her missing 10 days later, and Laundrie refused to cooperate with the authorities.
On Sept. 17, his family reported that he was missing and authorities removed items from his house. Police noted at the time that they were not “working a crime investigation.”
Local, state and federal authorities have focused their attention on Carlton Reserve, since his parents said he left their home for the site they frequently hike.
The manhunt for Laundrie in the park, which is infested with alligators, snakes and other Florida wildlife, has been complicated by the flow of water. Receding waters that exposed the area where the remains and belongings were found is “a natural phenomenon,” Sarasota County spokeswoman Sara Nealeigh wrote in an email. Heavy rains saturate the land before water is filtered through the soils and enters into the aquifer below.
While police searched for Laundrie in a Florida nature preserve, details of the couple’s trip began to emerge, with a video showing Moab Police Department officers responding to a fight between the two. They separated Laundrie and Petito for the night, according to the footage.
Shortly after Petito’s body was recovered, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming charged Laundrie with fraud for allegedly using “one or more unauthorized access devices, namely a Capital One Bank debit card,” court documents say.
With search operations underway, police announced rewards totaling $30,000 to anyone who could provide information on Laundrie’s whereabouts.
This is a developing story that will be updated.