Sheriff Gives Update on Brian Laundrie Death, Reveals How He 'Probably' Died


The Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito case has enthralled Americans for nearly two months and inspired many a far-flung conspiracy theory fomented in the minds of the thousands of internet sleuths who combed the couple’s social media accounts and dissected every piece of news for clues as to what really happened.

Now, in a rather humbling turn of events, it appears that Laundrie was likely already deceased by the time his fiance’s body was found in the Wyoming wilderness as well as the vast majority of the time that the high-profile manhunt to determine his whereabouts was underway.

On Friday, Sarasota County, Florida, Sheriff Kurt Hoffman revealed that it is most likely that Laundrie took his own life while police still believed that he was at home with his parents, days before Petito’s body was found and before Laundrie himself was reported missing.

The 23-year-old’s skeletal remains were found on Oct. 20 at the Carlton Reserve near his parents’ home in North Port, Florida, in an area that had been underwater until recently as authorities combed the park for any trace of the missing man.

“That guy went out there and by all accounts probably committed suicide and he was right out there where we thought he was. There was four feet of water out there at the time,” Hoffman said during a law enforcement panel at the South County Tiger Bay Club in Venice, Florida, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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Laundrie and Petito, who had been dating since high school and were engaged, had been taking a lengthy tour of national parks in their refurbished van when Petito’s family last heard from her on Aug. 25.

Although they did not report her missing until Sept. 11, Laundrie returned home alone on Sept. 1, and the Petitos have said they were initially stonewalled by his family.

Chris and Roberta Laundrie reported their son missing on Sept. 17, although he left their house to take a walk on the reserve on Sept. 13 and never came home.

The public did not know that Brian was missing as the Laundrie family released a statement saying that at the advice of counsel he would be remaining in the “background” of the search for Petito, whose remains had not yet been found.

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In the days between when Laundrie’s parents say he initially went missing and when they told police that he’d never come home, the Petitos also released an open letter to the family begging them to cooperate with police.

“Please, if you or your family has any decency left, please tell us where Gabby is located. Tell us if we are even looking in the right place,” the letter urged, according to ABC News. “All we want is Gabby to come home. Please help us make that happen.”

Sadly, it appears that as the Petitos made this heartbreaking plea, both their daughter and Laundrie were already gone.

“Now, we know that, by the time we became the lead agency, Brian had already left the house and presumably had already been deceased out in the Carlton Reserve,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said during Friday’s event alongside Hoffman.

The North Point police initially only became involved as a supportive agency as Petito’s parents had filed their missing person report in New York.

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On Sep. 16, the department told reporters it knew where Brian Laundrie was, but it revealed last week that its surveillance team had mistaken Roberta Laundrie for her son when she drove to the reserve to retrieve his vehicle.

“As a leader, what do I do?” Garrison said, according to the Herald-Tribune. “Do I not tell the public what’s going on, do we conceal it, cover it up?

“No, people want open, transparency and honesty from their law enforcement officials,” he explained. “Yes, we made a mistake it was human error, but I still stand behind my team.”

“Later on, we found out that Brian had left the house and now the parents on Friday wanted to report him missing,” Garrison said. “There was nobody more surprised about that than me.”

“In fact, when my officers went out to the house to do the report with the FBI, I sat with the deputy chief in my office, hoping that they would find Brian hiding in a back bedroom,” he added. “I was hoping, maybe it was a ploy. It wasn’t.”

He went on to underscore that to his team at the time, their top priority was to find Petito, and he stood behind the work of his officers that ultimately led to her remains being located in the wilderness of the Bridger-Teton National Park in Wyoming on Sep. 19. A coroner later determined the cause of death had been strangulation.

Laundrie was never formally charged in Petito’s death, although he remained the primary person of interest and a warrant was eventually issued for his arrest over his alleged unauthorized use of her debit card.

Authorities initiated an exhaustive search of the Carlton reserve after Laundrie was reported missing, one that would go on for weeks.

On Friday, Hoffman stood by his police counterparts as well.

“We talked probably 20 times during that situation and obviously we supported them out in the preserve looking for Brian Laundrie,” he said. “I told them; you guys were right – he and deputy chief were right.”

The sheriff then noted that it is most likely that all along, Laundrie was likely already deceased and that he’d probably taken his own life.

Laundrie’s remains, which are believed to have been underwater for weeks, were identified via dental records by the Sarasota County coroner, who was unable to determine a cause of death. They have been sent to a forensic anthropologist for further examination.

This is a sobering reminder that sometimes things might be just what they seem at face value — in this case, while we may never know the full truth, it seems most likely that Laundrie strangled his girlfriend to death in a rage, returned to Florida without her, and, fraught with the realization that he must face what he did sooner or later as her family reported her missing, took his own life.

If something else happened to Petito and Laundrie knew about it, we will likely never know now.

It may not be the neat, revelatory conclusion that many were hoping for, but it is a conclusion to this very sad story all the same.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the city of North Port, Florida. We regret the error.

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Isa is a homemaker, homeschooler, and writer who lives in the Ozarks with her husband and two children. After being raised with a progressive atheist worldview, she came to the Lord as a young woman and now has a heart to restore the classical Christian view of femininity.
Isa is a homemaker, homeschooler, and writer who lives in the Ozarks with her husband and two children. After being raised with a progressive atheist worldview, she came to the Lord as a young woman and now has a heart to restore the classical Christian view of femininity.