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Human remains found in Wyoming are ‘consistent’ with description of Gabby Petito, FBI says

<i>Moab Police Department</i><br/>Bodycam footage from the Moab Police Department from August shows them talking with Brian Laundrie.
Moab Police Department
Bodycam footage from the Moab Police Department from August shows them talking with Brian Laundrie.

By Dakin Andone and Joe Sutton, CNN

Human remains discovered in Teton County, Wyoming, on Sunday are “consistent with the description of” missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito, FBI officials said in a news conference.

“Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100% that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified of this discovery,” said Charles Jones, FBI Denver’s supervisory senior resident agent in Wyoming.

The cause of death has not been determined, he said.

Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue told CNN an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, saying officials would confirm the identity through photographs, personal identification or DNA.

Authorities this weekend conducted a search around the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area in Bridger-Teton National Forest on the eastern edge of Grand Teton National Park for any sign of Petito, whose family reported her missing September 11.

At the same time, authorities in Florida were looking for Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie. His family told police Friday they had not seen Laundrie since last Tuesday, prompting a search of a local nature reserve that has so far yielded no results.

Prior to Petito’s disappearance, the couple had been traveling on a road trip through several Western states.

Laundrie returned to North Port, Florida, without Petito on September 1, according to police. Officials later found the van the couple had been traveling in at the home Petito shared with Laundrie and his parents in North Port, a city in Sarasota County some 80 miles south of Tampa.

Laundrie is not wanted for a crime, officials have said. This weekend, dozens of officers and FBI agents combed an area that stretches out to roughly 25,000 acres, according to the North Port Police Department. But the search was suspended for a second time Sunday evening, police said on Twitter, adding, “Nothing to report.”

Laundrie’s family told police he left home with his backpack Tuesday and told them he was going to the reserve, North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor said Saturday.

Police visited the Laundrie family home after Petito was reported missing, but Laundrie’s family refused to talk, Taylor said last week, and instead gave authorities the information for their attorney.

The home was searched Friday evening after Laundrie’s family told police they had not seen him for days. Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino said Friday that Laundrie’s whereabouts “are currently unknown.”

But Richard Stafford, an attorney for the Petito family, said in a brief statement to CNN, “All of Gabby’s family want the world to know that Brian is not missing, he is hiding. Gabby is missing.”

FBI continues to ask for tips

Jones, the FBI agent, opened Sunday’s news conference at Grand Teton National Park by extending condolences to Petito’s family.

“As every parent can imagine, this is an incredibly difficult time for the family and friends,” Jones said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

The campsite authorities searched this weekend will remain closed to the public, Jones said.

“This is an active and ongoing investigation,” the FBI said in a news release, “so we ask the public to maintain distance from any law enforcement personnel, equipment, vehicles, and their related activity for the safety of the public in these remote areas, to respect the privacy of Gabby’s family, and to protect the integrity of our work.”

Officials are still asking for tips from anyone who might have seen Petito, Laundrie, or their vehicle — a 2012 Ford Transit van with a Florida plate and stickers on the back, according to the FBI’s Missing Person poster for Petito.

“We continue to seek information from anyone who utilized the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area between the dates of August 27th and August 30th,” Jones said.

The public’s response to officials’ requests for tips has been “remarkable,” Jones said.

Search for Laundrie focuses on ‘vast’ nature reserve

In a statement Sunday night, Bertolino, the Laundrie family attorney, said the news about Petito “is heartbreaking.”

“The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family,” the statement said.

This weekend, federal and local authorities conducted their search for Laundrie in the “vast” Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida, police said.

The search effort included the use of drones and bloodhounds who used articles of Laundrie’s clothing taken from his home to get his scent, Taylor said in a news conference at the scene of the search Saturday. Police initially focused their search on a nearby park about 200 acres large before expanding to the rest of the reserve.

Police believe the vehicle Laundrie was driving may have been at the reserve, too, but has since been returned to the Laundries’ home, Taylor said.

Laundrie has an “enormous amount of pressure” on him to provide answers to what’s going on, Taylor said.

Asked why Laundrie’s family didn’t tell police of his whereabouts until Friday, Taylor said, “that’s a great question.”

“You know we’ve obviously been trying to reach the family to get answers in this case since (last) Saturday,” Taylor said. “The first time that we’ve had any in-depth conversation with them was (Friday) when their attorney called and said the family was concerned about Brian’s whereabouts.”

Law enforcement has been characterizing the disappearances of Petito and Laundrie as “multiple missing person investigations,” according to a statement Friday from North Port police.

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CNN’s Travis Caldwell, Andy Rose, Jenn Selva, Alta Spells, Shawn Nottingham, Christina Maxouris, Aya Elamroussi, Rob Frehse, MiSeon Lee and Deanna Hackney contributed to this report.

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