After the discovery of Brian Laundrie’s remains near the Carlton Reserve nature park in Florida Thursday brought a grim resolution to the Gabby Petito saga, investigators are wondering how much they will be able to determine from an autopsy and toxicology report. According to FBI, the remains were skeletal. Without soft tissue it is far more difficult to gather key information.
On Friday morning, Laundrie family lawyer Steven Bertolino told ABC’s George Stephanopolous that the medical examiner may release preliminary autopsy results by the afternoon.
Asked what new information law enforcement gave Brian’s parents Chris and Roberta Laundrie since the dramatic discovery of his remains, Bertolino said “none at all.”
Brian Laundrie’s Remains Raise Questions
Brian Laundrie’s remains were found in a “skeletal” state when investigators came across them at Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, a nature area that borders the Carlton Reserve, some four miles from the Laundrie family’s North Port home.
But a cause of death and a toxicology report will be difficult to determine if no soft tissue remains on the bones.
Famed forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden — noted for investigating the deaths of President John F. Kennedy, Jeffrey Epstein, and George Floyd — told Fox News Digital that even in cases where remains are “skeletonized […] still, usually there’s enough soft tissue remaining” to allow further investigation.
However, Dr. Baden said, the advanced state of decomposition that Brian Laundrie’s remains were found in could make it “more difficult to determine” what killed him, and possibly “interfere” with establishing a timeline of his death.
Dr. Baden also said that, absent outside factors, a human body submerged in a swamp “would not skeletonize that quickly.”
“In order to be skeletonized in this short period — that’s within five weeks under these circumstances — it is largely secondary to animal activity,” he told Fox News, suggesting that the many insects, rodents and reptiles in the Reserve may have sped up Brian Laundrie’s decomposition.
“If it were just left out in the open in the worst conditions, the body might bloat up and there’d be a lot of destruction of soft tissues … [but] the body wouldn’t be skeletonized,” Dr. Baden said.
Others fear that the condition of Brian Laundrie’s remains would make determining a cause of death impossible.
“There might not be a way to determine how he died,” Jim Clemente, a former FBI profiler, told CNN. “If he drowned, for example, there wouldn’t be any evidence of that on his skeleton.”
A toxicology report — that is, a test for the presence of drugs or alcohol in the system —- may also shed light on Brian Laundrie’s final moments.
Even in absence of soft tissue on the remains, it’s possible to use bone marrow for a toxicology test, though the “condition of bones in skeletal remains may limit their usefulness,” according to one source.
A Brian Laundrie Autopsy is the Next Big Step
The cause of death will remain officially unknown pending an autopsy and further investigation of the remains, but speculation abounds that Brian Laundrie committed suicide.
“I think we have to look at the possibility that really what happened was, he went in [to the nature park] after he returned from this trip, after he committed this horrible crime, he went there, and he committed suicide very early on,” Former FBI Special Agent Jennifer Coffindaffer raised that NewsNation Now on Thursday.
Dr. Cyril Wecht, another famed forensic pathologist who worked with Dr. Baden on the Kennedy autopsy, said a suicide could be determined from Brian Laundrie’s remains, if that’s what happened.
“If he shot himself, that will still be evident,” Dr. Wecht told USA Today. “It would not have been obliterated or changed to any significant degree by virtue of submersion. If he stabbed himself, that could be obliterated or markedly obscured by virtue of the post-mortem period and submersion in water.”
Brian Laundrie’s remains were discovered Thursday in an area of the Carlton and Myakkahatchee parks that was previously underwater due to seasonal flooding. The remains were reportedly in the same location that the Laundrie parents had originally told investigators that Brian liked visiting.
Laundrie was the subject of a nationwide manhunt when he disappeared after returning home from a road trip without his girlfriend, 22-year-old Gabby Petito, who was later found strangled to death in Wyoming.
Law enforcement officially named him as a person of interest in her murder on Thursday, the same day his death was confirmed.