By David Matthews and Leonard Greene New York Daily News
Human remains were found in a Florida nature preserve where authorities have been searching for fugitive Brian Laundrie, the only suspect in the strangulation death of his fiancée, Long Island native Gabby Petito.
A coroner was on site in a section of the park where body parts were found near a backpack and notebook that Laundrie may have had when he disappeared in September, authorities said.
“Further forensic analysis” will be conducted to identify the remains, a law enforcement official said, but Laundrie’s parents apparently believe the remains are their son.
“The probability is strong that it is Brian’s remains,” Steven Bertolino, a lawyer for the family, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night.
Hours earlier, the FBI located a number of Laundrie’s items on a trail in Florida after his family told law enforcement about an outdoor spot he frequented.
“Earlier today, investigators found what appears to be human remains along with personal items belonging to Brian Laundrie,” Michael McPherson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Tampa division, said in a televised news conference Wednesday. “These items were found in an area that previously had been underwater.”
The remains have not yet been identified.
McPherson said portions of the Carlton Reserve and the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port, Florida, will remain closed to the public to protect the “integrity of the work” as federal and local law enforcement authorities continue their investigation.
“It’s likely the team will be on scene for days,” he said.
Authorities could be seen on site sectioning off an area with yellow caution tape.
Shortly after the items were located, the Sarasota County medical examiner, a Pasco County Sheriff’s Office cadaver dog and multiple spotters were called to the scene.
McPherson still referred to Laundrie as “a person of interest” in the murder of Petito, whose body was found Sept. 19 near a remote Wyoming campground surrounded by woodlands and brush, just over a week after she was reported missing by her worried family.
After McPherson’s 90-second news conference, supporters of Petito’s family held signs and shouted, “Justice for Gabby.”
Chris and Roberta Laundrie, Brian’s parents, informed authorities they were headed to Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park to search for their son, Bertolino said.
The FBI and local police went along and quickly uncovered evidence he had been there.
“Chris and Roberta Laundrie went to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park this morning to search for Brian,” Bertolino said, according to NBC News. “The FBI and NPPD were informed last night of Brian’s parents’ intentions and they met Chris and Roberta there this morning. After a brief search off a trail that Brian frequented, some articles belonging to Brian were found. As of now law enforcement is conducting a more thorough investigation of that area.”
Petito, a 22-year-old native of Blue Point, Long Island, had been on a cross-country trip with Laundrie, her longtime partner, when her family last heard from her in late August.
Laundrie, 23, returned to his Florida home by himself Sept. 1 — only to disappear about two weeks later without helping police find the missing woman. Laundrie has not been charged in her death, but he’s the only person of interest in the case.
The case has attracted worldwide attention.
After an autopsy last week, a Wyoming medical examiner said the official cause of death was “manual strangulation/throttling.”
Teton County Coroner Brent Blue said Petito’s remains had been outside for about three to four weeks.