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Brian Laundrie shot himself in the head, medical examiners find

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 11/24/2021 María Paúl
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Brian Laundrie — whose remains were found Oct. 20 in a Florida nature preserve about a week after his fiancee Gabby Petito’s death was ruled a homicide — died by suicide, his final autopsy revealed.

“The cause of death has been determined to be a gunshot wound of the head,” Florida’s District 12 Medical Examiners Office, the agency that conducted Laundrie’s autopsy, said in a news release. “The manner of death has been determined to be suicide.”

No one has been charged in Petito’s death, which was ruled a homicide on Sept. 21. The FBI declared Laundrie a “person of interest” in that case. A grand jury later indicted him on charges related to allegedly fraudulent activities after Petito’s death, the investigation of which Laundrie was not cooperating. Then he disappeared.

The FBI is leading the investigation of a case that has captured international attention since the couple’s months-long cross-country road trip went awry publicly. It has brought to light the inequities in missing people cases, the complexity of domestic violence and the frenzy of social media sleuths.

When skeletal remains were found last month in a Florida wilderness area, dental records and DNA analysis confirmed they belonged to Laundrie. The Florida medical examiner’s office consulted with a forensic odontologist and a forensic anthropologist — who aided with a skeletal reconstruction — to determine the results, the medical examiners said in a report.

Remains of Gabby Petito’s fiance Brian Laundrie found at Florida park, FBI says

The office redirected The Washington Post’s questions to the FBI, which declined to provide further comment. Josh Taylor, a spokesperson for North Port, Fla., where Laundrie’s parents lived, told The Post that the medical examiners consulted other experts in their assessment because they “wanted more clarification in their initial autopsy.”

Laundrie’s parents were told that their son’s death was ruled a suicide, Steve Bertolino, the family’s attorney, told The Post. They reported him missing on Sept. 17 and told police that he left his home for the Carlton Reserve. For weeks, local, state and federal agencies combed through the 25,000-acre wetlands in Sarasota County.

Police search for Brian Laundrie at the Carlton Reserve in the Sarasota, Fla., area on Sept. 18. (North Port Police Department/AP) © AP/AP Police search for Brian Laundrie at the Carlton Reserve in the Sarasota, Fla., area on Sept. 18. (North Port Police Department/AP)

The Laundries visited the park to assist with the search on Oct. 20 — finding his backpack, notebook and other belongings near the entrance to the park, in an area that had previously been inaccessible because of flooding. Their son’s remains were discovered in an area officials described as “treacherous.”

It remains unclear what the notebook contained. Officials have not yet said whether they have gained any information from it.

The massive search for Laundrie attracted attention on an international scale, from amateur detectives to law enforcement. Bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman launched his own search while a slew of purported sightings across the country were reported to police.

As the Petito case grips the nation, families of color say their missing loved ones matter, too

A federal grand jury in Wyoming indicted Laundrie in September — while he was missing — after determining that he used “one or more unauthorized devices,” including a debit card and PINs for two bank accounts, to fraudulently obtain more than $1,000.

Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, were last known to be together in Grand Teton, Wyo., on Aug. 25, heading toward Yellowstone National Park. Her body was found Sept. 19 in a remote area of Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming, and her death was ruled a homicide by strangulation.

Police stopped the pair Aug. 12 in Moab, Utah, after callers reported a fight between two people. Footage shows officers asking the woman whether she had been hit by Laundrie — with a distraught Petito replying she had, but telling police she hit him first.

Police mishandled ‘red flag’ of domestic violence in Gabby Petito confrontation, experts say

Laundrie returned home alone three weeks later in the white van belonging to Petito that the couple took on their trip. Ten days later, Petito’s family reported her missing.

According to Bertolino, the Laundrie attorney, the parents had discussed the possibility of their son dying by suicide “several times,” he said during an interview last month with “Good Morning America.”

Laundrie’s remains will be cremated, and his family planned no funeral. With Tuesday’s news, Bertolino told The Post, Laundrie’s parents are “hoping for closure” for both families.

Petito’s family and police had pleaded with Laundrie to cooperate with authorities, but he refused to do so on his lawyer’s advice. He did not speak to police before he left for the Carlton Reserve — the place where his remains were eventually found.

While Laundrie remained missing, Petito’s family members said in interviews that they hoped finding him would shed light on what happened to her. But with Laundrie having been found dead, it remains unclear how — or whether — those answers will come.

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