What was Brian Laundrie’s cause of death? That is still an open question in the Gabby Petito investigation.

The partial remains found in a Florida park have been identified as belonging to Brian Laundrie, the FBI said in a statement Thursday.

“On October 21, 2021, a comparison of dental records confirmed that the human remains found at the T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park are those of Brian Laundrie,” the statement read. 

Brian Laundrie’s cause of death has not been revealed. At this time it is unclear whether there were any self-inflicted wounds. Very few details were disclosed by the FBI on Thursday.

WPBF’s Jossie Carbonare posted a text message from Steven Bertolino, the Laundrie family attorney, confirming that Brian’s parents had been informed of the identification. 

“Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been notified that the remains found in the reserve yesterday are indeed Brian’s,” the text read. “We have no further comment at this time and we ask that you respect the Laundries’ privacy.” 

Brian Laundrie Identified From Dental Records
The human remains in the Carlton Reserve have been identified as Brian Laundrie by matching dental records. Brian’s parents, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, were notified at their home.

Brian Laundrie Identified as Skeletal Remains

The sudden revelation marks a grim resolution to the case that has captivated the nation for weeks on end — bitterly confirming that the many questions surrounding the death of Gabby Petito will never be answered. 

It is not clear whether the investigation into Gabby Petito’s murder will continue. But it is assumed that it will. Many questions remain, including how Brian Laundrie died.

The remains, discovered Wednesday in Carlton Reserve next to a notebook and backpack belonging to Brian Laundrie were described as  “skeletal” by a North Port police spokesman Thursday afternoon. 

The contents of the notebook were not immediately clear on Wednesday. But with Laundrie confirmed dead, the investigative focus may shift to the items he left behind.

Law enforcement sources told NBC that the remains “included a portion of a human skull, and other sources told Fox News that the remains were only “bones.” 

“These items were found in an area that up until recently had been under water,” said FBI special agent Michael McPherson on Wednesday.

Law enforcement said they were “advised” on the search by Chris and Roberta Laundrie, who led them to Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, which borders the Reserve.

The Laundries had told investigators last month that Brian said he was going to Carlton Reserve just before he disappeared. Bertolino has since said that they mentioned Myakkahatchee Creek to investigators as an area that Brian enjoyed visiting. 

Dental records have identified Brian Laundrie as the skeletal remains found in Carlton Reserve on Wednesday, the FBI has announced.
Dental records have identified Brian Laundrie as the skeletal remains found in Carlton Reserve on Wednesday, the FBI has announced. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Questions About the Cause of Death Remain

That the human remains were discovered in a “skeletal” state suggests that Laundrie had been dead for some time before his discovery on Wednesday. 

Various sources report that a human body will “skeletonize” between three weeks and one month after death, though the presence of water can complicate that timeline. Survival experts have noted that wildlife in the Carlton Reserve could also speed the decomposition process. 

The cause of death may also be hard to determine in absence of soft tissue. Forensic investigators are continuing to work the scene and the remains for clues, but it’s possible that the exact manner in which Brian Laundrie died will never be clear. 

Investigators also finally named Laundrie as a person of interest in Gabby Petito’s murder — he had previously only been a person of interest in her disappearance. That distinction isnow merely symbolic, with Brian Laundrie identified as the skeleton in Carlton Reserve. 

For weeks, survivalists have been speculating that Brian Laundrie was dead. Many noted that even well-trained experts would have difficulty surviving in Carlton Reserve for weeks on end without assistance, and investigators had never spotted the tell-tale signs of human life in the park, like smoke from a campfire.

Petito Saga Ends With Brian Laundrie Identified

Laundrie had been traveling with his girlfriend Gabby Petito across the American west over the summer. He returned without her on Sept. 1, and she was declared missing on Sept. 11. Days later, Brian Laundrie told his parents he was going to the Carlton Reserve, and was never seen alive again. 

The remains of Gabby Petito were discovered, much like Laundrie’s, in Bridger-Teton National Forest following an exhaustive search. 

With Brian Laundrie identified, the investigative trail into Gabby Petito’s final moments has gone cold.