Why cops are likely to find clues showing how Brian Laundrie died as ex-officer says they'll be looking for gun & pills

INVESTIGATORS hunting for clues in the mysterious death of Brian Laundrie may uncover new evidence as waters at the nature park where his remains were found have now receded to their lowest point for weeks.

Laundrie's skeletal remains were found inside a swampy stretch of land in Myakkahatchee Creek Park on October 20, more than five weeks after the 23-year-old vanished from his parents' home in North Port on September 13.

His disappearance came just two days after his fiance Gabby Petito – with whom he'd recently been on a cross-country road trip – was reported missing by her mother in New York.

Multiple law enforcement agencies spent weeks searching Myakkahatchee and the nearby Carlton Reserve for Brian but conditions inside the alligator-infested parks were incredibly treacherous following a series of storms in the region.

The location where Laundrie's remains were eventually found had previously been submerged in four feet of storm waters for more than a month. Also recovered was a notebook and backpack of Laundrie's.

The advanced state of decomposition that his remains were found in means that they were likely feasted on by gators and other local wildlife, as five weeks wouldn't be long enough for a body to decompose that much naturally, experts told The Sun.

A cause, manner, and date of death have not yet been determined for Laundrie after an autopsy came back inconclusive late last month.

While a forensic pathologist investigates further, police may be able to yield more clues from the scene after water levels inside Myakkahatchee receded to their lowest point for several weeks in recent days.

Tom Joyce, a retired homicide detective with the NYPD, told The Sun: "They definitely have a better likelihood of recovering a piece of evidence today than at that time because the water level being down gives them better access and better ability to recover. 

"It's still a very challenging situation," he said, "but better than it was if the water is four feet lower than it was just a few weeks ago."


When asked what detectives should specifically be looking for, Joyce said they may recover items potentially linked to Brian's cause of death.

"In my honest opinion, it’s most likely that Brian killed himself. But how did he?" he said.

"Did he take a bunch of pills with him? What was found in those bags? Was there any vessels that he carried the contraband with him to kill? Did he slice his throat? Did he slice his wrists and bleed out?

"Did he commit suicide via firearms? In which case you would have a gun on the scene and cartridge cases. 

"The water situation makes that problematic, so lower levels inside the park may help to uncover evidence that helps to answer one of the many questions still surrounding the case."

It's unclear if investigators are still searching Myakkahatchee. The Sun has contacted North Point PD for comment.

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The local police investigation into Brian's death has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after officials admitted to mistaking Brian for his mother, Roberta, during a surveillance stake-out – two days after he'd actually vanished.

Officials said the fact she was wearing a baseball cap and is "built similarly" to Brian was the cause of the confusion.

North Point Police Chief Todd Garrison put the mistake down to "human error", calling it a common mishap in surveillance operations while insisting it had no significant impact on the outcome of the case.

But another former NYPD homicide detective told The Sun that the misidentification amounts to "incompetence", adding that police should have tailed Laundrie when they saw him leave.


"Anything that Brian Laundrie would have been doing after he arrived at home would have probably been suspicious," the retired cop said, speaking on grounds of anonymity.

"He's not going to the local taqueria, and he's not going to the game room to play video games – anything he's doing this thing is probably working towards his defense and his protection."

He continued: "So if you're already doing surreptitious surveillance, why wouldn't you just follow them just to follow? So when you've got that first car and that car leaves on the 13th Why didn't you follow it? Who cares if they saw."

The retired cop said investigators could've either overtly or covertly followed Brian, explaining the advantages of each.

"It depends on what the objectives [of the investigation] are because sometimes when you follow people covertly, sometimes they make a mistake and trip themselves up.

"And so sometimes you want to be overt so that under pressure, they do something stupid.

"I would have covertly followed him in the hope that he would go back to the body or dump evidence into a trash bin or go connect with somebody who's helping him through things."

The ex-detective said surveillance operations can be difficult and "it's not like TV."

To comprehensively survey a suspect, investigators need a wealth of resources that may not have been available to North Port PD, he said.

"When you're really following somebody, you usually take multiple cars to do it so that you're not detected because let's face it for you to stay close enough to somebody to be able to actually track where they've gone is not going to take long for somebody who's paying attention to figure out they're being followed," the cop said.

"So surveillances are really hardly any less you're willing to say so since you want to follow people and you don't care if they know that you're following.

"The only legitimate excuse for that is to say, ‘but we just didn't have the resources, so we’re just tracking his comings and goings.’"


The cop added that under no circumstances should they have presumed it was Brian that they saw return home on Sept. 15. If they had even the slightest of doubts, they should've worked to "100 percent verify", he said.

"I'm sorry, but as a police officer, if I see a body get out of a car and walk into a house and it's got a hat on and it's kind of, you know, protected if I couldn't say 100% for sure that that was my subject. Then I would have to pivot on that and do something different [to verify their identity].

"You can’t just presume the operator of that car is Brian Laundrie, even though I can't really see him, I'm just going to assume it's him – that's so incompetent," he said.

The Sun's source said while it's unclear how much of an impact the misidentification of Brian may have had on the case, it definitely impacted the outcome in some way.

"That's two days, 48 hours of work that just wasn't happening," he said, adding that they may have recovered crucial items of evidence near to where Brian's body was found that may have since been destroyed by the elements.

"I would like to think that nobody is sitting around waiting for something to happen there," he added. "There are also multiple parallel strategies going on, towards trying to develop information intelligence and gather evidence."


Brian and Gabby Petito had been on a cross-country road trip touring the US national parks when Gabby vanished in late August, two weeks after the couple was involved in a domestic violence dispute in Moab, Utah.

Petito's family last heard from her on August 27, receiving a text they characterized as "strange" before Gabby's phone was switched off for good.

Her body was found at a dispersed campsite near Grand Teton National Park, in Wyoming, on September 19.

A coroner determined that she had been strangled to death by a "human force" some three to four weeks before she was found.

Brian has never been named a suspect in Gabby's death but is the sole person of interest in the case.

He was also wanted on bank fraud charges after allegedly racking up $1,000 in charges on a credit card belonging to Gabby in the days after she was killed.

An investigation into Brian's cause of death and Gabby's murder remains active and ongoing.

Brian Laundrie timeline

Brian Laundrie has not been seen since the morning of September 13. Here is a timeline of Laundrie’s latest whereabouts:

  • July 2021: Brian Laundrie and his fiancé Gabby Petito leave for a grip across the country. The couple visit numerous national parks across the way.
  • August 12: Police in Utah respond to an incident involving the couple. The bodycam footage is not released for another month but it shows a visibly upset Gabby talking to police after reports of a domestic violence incident outside a grocery store.
  • August 24: Gabby is seen leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Laundrie.
  • September 1: Laundrie returns to his home in North Port, Florida without Gabby.
  • September 6: Laundrie joins his family on a camping trip about 75 miles from their home in North Port.
  • September 11: Gabby's family reports her missing.
  • September 13: Laundrie leaves home to go hiking in Carlton Reserve, Florida. His family had initially said he departed on September 14, but revised their timeline weeks later.
  • September 15: Laundrie is named a person of interest in the case of Gabby.
  • September 16: Bodycam footage is released regarding the incident between Gabby and Laundrie.
  • September 19: The FBI announces a body found at a Wyoming national park is believed to be that of Gabby's.
  • September 23: The FBI issued a warrant for Laundrie's arrest claiming he "used unauthorized debit cards after Gabby Petito's death."
  • September 26: A funeral is held for Gabby in New York.
  • September 27: Dog the Bounty Hunter announces he will lend a hand and help search for Laundrie.
  • September 28: Gabby's family held an emotional press conference as the search for Laundrie continued.
  • October 5: Laundrie's sister, Cassie, appeared on Good Morning America and urged her brother to come forward.
  • October 7: Laundrie's father, Chris Laundrie, assisted law enforcement in the search to find his son.
  • October 12: Gabby's autopsy results were made public. Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue confirmed Gabby died by strangulation.  
  • October 20: Laundrie's personal items were found near the Myakkahatchee Creek Park trail in Florida. The medical examiner was called to the scene to investigate.
  • October 21: Reports stated the human remains found in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park were bones.
  • October 21: The FBI confirmed the remains found have been identified as Laundrie's.

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