The remains were found in Florida’s Carlton Reserve on Wednesday after more than a month of searching for Laundrie, who was declared a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance before her body was found in Wyoming. The FBI field office in Denver announced that the remains were positively identified Thursday.
A spokesperson for the North Port Police told NBC News earlier Thursday that the remains were “skeletal.”
According to the FBI, the remains were found alongside personal items, such as a backpack and a notebook, belonging to Laundrie.
“These items were found in an area that up until recently had been under water,” Michael McPherson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Tampa office, said Wednesday.
Laundrie’s parents helped lead the FBI and North Port police to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, according to Steven Bertolino, an attorney for the Laundrie family.
Bertolino spoke to NBC News Now’s “Top Story with Tom Llamas” following the identification of the remains, saying the family wanted to search for their son on their own after the reserve reopened to the public.
“My understanding was it either open to the public on Tuesday or Wednesday, and Chris and Roberta decided that since it was open … they wanted to go and look for Brian by themselves,” Bertolino said. “After speaking with me, I told him that I wanted to notify law enforcement so that we would have no issue.”
The Carlton Reserve and neighboring Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park are short drives north of the Laundrie family home.
Though the area had been searched extensively, the attorney said it had been underwater and the evidence was only found because the water had receded.
Bertolino rejected the notion that the Laundrie family knew their son might disappear or that they struck a deal with prosecutors to help in the search. He added that, as their lawyer, he personally advised the parents not to speak with law enforcement.
“There are two young people that have now lost their lives,” the attorney said. “There are parents that are suffering. Now, I understand that whatever happened or whatever didn’t happen … this is tragic for two families. And anybody with a child, and anybody with a sense of humanity can understand the frustration that both families feel on that point.”
Petito and Laundrie were traveling across the country, chronicling their journey in their van on social media, before Laundrie returned to his parents’ North Port home without her Sept. 1, authorities have said.
Laundrie has been missing since mid-September when his parents said he went hiking in the Carlton Reserve and never returned. The 25,000-acre wildlife refuge was closed for extensive searches of the area and only reopened Tuesday.