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Autopsy inconclusive on Brian Laundrie’s cause of death, lawyer says

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 2:14 PM CDT
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A family lawyer says the initial autopsy on the remains of Brian Laundrie did not uncover a cause of his death and a more intensive examination will be done.

Laundrie’s skeletal remains, found in a Florida nature preserve, were positively identified last week using dental records.

He had been the subject of a manhunt for more than a month as investigators searched for clues in the slaying of his girlfriend, Gabby Petito, during their cross-country van trip together.

Laundrie family attorney Steve Bertolino said Monday police told him the autopsy was inconclusive and the remains were sent to a forensic anthropologist for further study.

A notebook and backpack believed to belong to Laundrie were also found in the wilderness park, the FBI said. The area where they were found had been underwater during previous searches.

The discovery of the remains concluded a massive search involving federal, state and local law enforcement that began shortly after Laundrie disappeared Sept. 14, two weeks after the 23-year-old returned alone to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida.

The investigation into Petito’s slaying, however, is not yet concluded. Her body was found Sept. 19 at edge of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, which the couple had visited.

Only Laundrie has ever been identified by law enforcement officials as a person of interest in the case.

Petito’s family reported her missing Sept. 11, launching a search that garnered worldwide media attention and, in Laundrie’s case, focused largely on the Carlton Reserve wilderness park near the Laundrie home. It is a densely wooded, swampy area that’s home to alligators, coyotes, bobcats, snakes and numerous other creatures.

The couple first met as teenagers on Long Island, New York, and more recently moved to Florida’s Gulf Coast to live with his parents.

They first gained an online following while on their trip in a converted Ford Transit van in videos filled with happy scenes that may have concealed deeper problems. After Petito disappeared, the case became a true-crime obsession on social media.

The intense focus on Petito’s case has led to renewed calls for people to pay greater attention to cases involving missing Indigenous women and other people of color. Petito, 22, was white.

The coroner in Wyoming concluded Petito died of strangulation and her body had been where it was found for three or four weeks.

The couple was stopped Aug. 12 by police in Moab, Utah, after they had a physical altercation, but no domestic violence charges were filed. The police department there is conducting an internal review to determine if policy was followed.

Laundrie returned home alone Sept. 1 in the van the couple took on their trip. The van was later impounded by authorities. He was reported missing after telling his parents he was going for a hike in the Carlton Reserve.

Dozens of unconfirmed tips poured into authorities about spotting Laundrie from Wyoming to the Appalachian Trail, but none panned out.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.