The human remains found in a swampy Florida reserve have been positively identified as Brian Laundrie, the "person of interest" in the strangulation homicide of his fiancee, Gabrielle Petito, the FBI said Thursday.
"A comparison of dental records confirmed that the human remains found at the T. Marbry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park are those of Brian Laundrie," the FBI in Denver, the lead investigators in the case, announced Thursday.
The identification of Laundrie's skeletal remains came just a day after they were found, along with Laundrie's backpack and a notebook, off of a reserve trail that Laundrie liked to hike along.
The positive identification of Laundrie solves the mystery of his whereabouts, but questions remain about the circumstances of Petito's death and what Laundrie knew about her murder.
Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino confirmed Thursday that North Port, Florida, police officers had gone to the parents' home and notified them of their son's death. He said the cause and manner of death were not provided.
Bertolino said the Laundries have been grieving since the remains were found.
"My clients are extremely upset, as anyone can imagine, getting the news that their child is deceased," he said.
Bertolino added: "Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the remains found yesterday in the reserve are indeed Brian’s. We have no further comment at this time, and we ask that you respect the Laundries' privacy at this time."
Richard Stafford, the Bohemia attorney for the family of Petito, said in a statement: "Gabby's family is not doing interviews or making a statement at this time. They are grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter. Gabby's family will make a statement at the appropriate time and when they are emotionally ready."
The confirmation of Laundrie's death brings to close the national search for Laundrie, 23, of North Port. Laundrie disappeared Sept. 13, two days after Petito was reported missing to Suffolk County police by her mother, Nichole Schmidt, of Blue Point.
Laundrie, who refused to speak to police about Petito's whereabouts and was quickly labeled a person of interest in her disappearance, told his parents he was going hiking at the reserve but never returned home.
Authorities have been searching the nearly 25,000-square-acre reserve since his parents reported him missing. Law enforcement remained at the reserve Thursday as they continued to process the scene.
The break in the case came early Wednesday morning when Laundrie's parents went to the park and reserve to search for their son. It was the first day that the area near the park entrance, where Laundrie's silver Ford Mustang convertible was found on the night he went missing, was reopened to the public after being closed for much of the time when the search was being conducted.
Chris Laundrie, who zigzagged off and on the trail and into the thick brush, found a white dry bag in bramble about 20 feet off the trail. Minutes later, according to Bertolino, a member of law enforcement who accompanied the parents inside the reserve found the remains and Laundrie's backpack.
The FBI said the area where the remains and other items were found Wednesday had until recently been flooded. North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor described them as skeletal remains.
Petito and Laundrie, who both graduated from Bayport-Blue Point High School, went on a cross-country road trip together, leaving Long Island in July.
Petito, who was described as artistic and adventurous, saved up for the trip and converted her van into a camper, according to her parents.
"She loved that van life. She was about that life," said her father, Joe Petito, in a previous interview. "Clothes didn't impress her. Cars didn't impress her. Experiences — that's what impressed her."
But Petito, who went by "Gabby," stopped communicating by phone with her family in late August. Laundrie returned alone in her van to the North Port home where he had lived with his parents and Petito. The family retained Bertolino, who said he advised Laundrie not to speak to investigators.
The night Petito was reported missing, North Port police executed a search warrant and seized the van from the home.
Petito's parents have been critical of the Laundrie family, alleging in interviews and through their attorney that calls and texts to the Laundries asking about their daughter went unanswered. Bertolino has said he advised the Laundries not to answer.
Six days after Laundrie returned from the trip without Petito, he and his family went on a camping trip about 75 miles from their Florida home, the attorney has said. His sister, Cassie Laundrie, told reporters later they didn't discuss Petito as the family had dinner and s'mores.
Cassie Laundrie also said the couple would sometimes fight but "they would take a little break, come back and be fine."
The Carlton Reserve, not far from the Laundrie family home, was the subject of an extensive search over several weeks using a police dive team, drones and police K-9s after the Laundrie parents filed the missing persons report for their son on Sept. 17.
Laundrie's father searched the reserve the night he went missing, and the following day both parents spent four to five hours looking in the reserve for their son, their attorney has said.
The FBI also fielded scores of reported sightings of Laundrie, including along the Appalachian Trail, a place he had visited in the past.
Laundrie was not charged in Petito's homicide, but was the subject of a federal arrest warrant alleging he stole Petito's debit card after her death.
The body of Petito, 22, a native of Blue Point, was found Sept. 19 in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. She died three to four weeks before her body was found and as a result of manual strangulation, according to Teton County, Wyoming, Coroner Dr. Brent Blue.
The day after Petito's body was found, the FBI executed a search warrant at the Laundrie home, removing several boxes and the Mustang. The FBI has not commented on what, if any evidence, it culled from that search or from Petito's van.
Petito and Laundrie had documented their cross-country road trip, which included several stops at national parks, with smiling photographs from scenic locales on social media. The couple was also the subject of a police investigation in Utah, when a witness told police he saw Laundrie "slapping" Petito on the afternoon of Aug. 12.
Police, who spoke to a crying Petito in conversations captured on police body camera footage, did not press charges. Petito told police Laundrie had grabbed her face and left a scratch on her cheek that burned, but also said that she had slapped Laundrie as well.
Five days later, according to Bertolino, Laundrie took a commercial airline flight from Salt Lake City to Tampa. He then took a return flight to Salt Lake City on Aug. 23 "to rejoin Gabby" on the trip, Bertolino said.
The lawyer added that he flew home to pick up some unspecified items and to close a storage unit the pair shared "as they contemplated extending the road trip."
With Cecilia Dowd