(CNN) — The apparent human remains authorities found Wednesday in a Florida park likely belong to Brian Laundrie, the family’s attorney told CNN.
Authorities found a backpack and notebook they believe belong to Laundrie, 23, near the apparent remains while searching the Carlton Reservation in North Port, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson.
More than a month since her disappearance, McPherson said Laundrie was “a person of interest in the Gabby Petito murder.”
Laundrie has not been charged in the death of his fiancee, although he was charged with allegedly using two financial accounts that did not belong to him in the days following her murder.
Laundrie’s family attorney, Steven Bertolino, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that “the probability is high, that they are Brian’s remains” found by the FBI.
“It’s quite sad, you can imagine yourself as a parent, finding your son’s belongings next to the remains. That has to be heartbreaking. And I can tell you they are heartbroken,” he said Wednesday.
The discovery comes amid an exhaustive search for Laundrie as authorities try to piece together what happened to 22-year-old Petito, who was found strangled to death after traveling through the western United States in a white eastern van. summer and then was reported missing.
A medical examiner arrived on the scene Wednesday and a formal identification could take a while. A source close to the investigation told CNN that the alleged human remains “appear to have been there for a while.”
“Based on the status of the remains, it may take some time to officially identify them. It is going to be a very thorough process with the forensic doctor,” the source said.
The apparent remains were found in an area that has been underwater until recently, McPherson said, which could make the identification process take longer.
It was “the same area of the park that we initially reported to the police about,” Bertolino said, referring to a meeting with police on Sept. 17.
Brian Laundrie’s parents were at the scene when the remains were found
Bertolino told CNN that Laundrie’s parents Chris and Roberta Laundrie helped law enforcement find some items in the park, which he described as “coincidence.”
According to the attorney, Laundrie’s parents informed the FBI and North Port Police Department Tuesday night that they wanted to visit the park Wednesday morning to search for their son.
Police met them there and accompanied them closely as they entered the park, Bertolino said.
“As they went, Chris ventured off the trail into the woods. He was zigzagging in different areas, the police were doing the same thing. And Roberta Laundrie was walking down the trail,” Bertolino said.
“At some point, Chris locates what is called a dry bag. The dry bag is a white bag, lying in the woods, say 20 feet or so out of the way.”
Bertolino said, according to Chris Laundrie, that the dry bag was in some brambles and that he didn’t want to pick it up because he wanted the police to see it. However, Bertolino said Laundrie “couldn’t find the police” because at the time they were out of sight and he didn’t want to leave the bag there with a news reporter nearby, so he picked it up.
“He met briefly with the police, they looked at the contents of the bag. At that moment, the law enforcement officers showed him a photo on the phone of a backpack that the police had also located near and also some distance from the road,” Bertolino told CNN.
“At that time, the Laundries were notified that there were also remains near the backpack, and they were asked to leave the reservation.”
The apparent remains were found “about 3 to 5 km within the Carlton Preserve, or about a 45-minute walk” from the entrance to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor said.
When asked why the parents decided to go to the park on Wednesday, Bertolino said it was the first day it reopened to the public.
“The parents had assumed that the experts, the FBI and all the tracking teams they had could locate Brian based on the information we had provided to the specific areas and trails in the park that Brian liked to visit,” Bertolino said. “The park had been closed to the public. There really was no other reason for the Laundries to go looking anywhere else.”
The young couple traveled together before disappearing
Laundrie has come under public scrutiny in recent months since Petito went missing in September and was later found dead. The family had refused to speak publicly on legal advice, their attorney said.
The young couple regularly posted to their social media accounts while traveling through the western states. But those posts ended at the end of August, and Laundrie returned only on September 1 to her home in North Port, where they lived with her parents.
The national search for Petito came after her family reported her missing on September 11 after being unable to contact her.
Petito’s remains were found in a National Forest in Wyoming on Sept. 19 near where the couple had last been seen together. Teton County Medical Examiner Dr. Brent Blue ruled his death a homicide and said he died from manual strangulation.
During the search for Petito, Laundrie refused to cooperate with the investigation into his whereabouts, and shortly after, he, too, disappeared. His family told investigators they believed he had gone to a nearby extensive nature reserve.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism