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Those close to Petito have been hoping Laundrie—who disappeared more than a month ago as the search for his missing girlfriend ramped up—would provide answers about what happened on the ill-fated cross-country trek to visit the nation’s national parks.
“If Brian is dead, the problem is that no one will ever really know what happened or why it happened,” Petito’s friend, Alyssa Chen, told People. “We’ll never have answers. That’s why I want him to be alive, because we won’t get answers otherwise.”
Petito’s body was found Sept. 19 in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, the last location where the couple was believed to have been together during the trip. A medical examiner would later determine that Petito had been strangled to death weeks before the grisly discovery.
Laundrie—who authorities named a person of interest in the disappearance—returned to Florida in the couple’s converted camper van on Sept. 1 without Petito, although he never reported her missing to police. Her mother made the official missing person’s report to police on Sept. 11 after she had become increasingly concerned that she couldn’t reach her daughter.
Chen said it would be a “double tragedy” if the remains found Wednesday in Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park are confirmed to be Laundrie.
Those sentiments were echoed by Ben Matula, a high school friend of the couple, who had been hoping that Laundrie would have to “answer for what happened” to Petito.
“If it’s him, he didn’t want to face the music,” he told the news outlet. “He had a lot of things he had to account for, and he can’t do that if he’s dead. Except to God. If he’s meeting his maker, I hope he got things right before he died. But death is the easy way out.”
Michael F. McPherson, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Tampa field office, said in a press conference Wednesday that the human remains had been found in the heavily wooded 160-acre nature park near a notebook and backpack that belonged to Laundrie, The New York Times reports.
Investigators had been searching the area—which connects to the nearly 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve wildlife refuge—for weeks, but discovered the remains in an area that had previously been submerged in water.
Investigators are now trying to positively identify the remains and use “all available forensic resources” to process the scene.
“I know you have a lot of questions, but we don’t have all the answers yet,” McPherson said.
The Laundrie’s family attorney, Steve Bertolino, told CNN that the “probability is strong” that the remains belong to Laundrie and said the 23-year-old’s parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie had been at the park searching for their missing son when the discovery was made.
“It’s quite sad, you can imagine as a parent, finding your son’s belongings alongside from the remains. That’s got to be heartbreaking. And I can tell you that they are heartbroken,” he said.
A medical examiner will now be tasked with identifying the remains discovered in the park.
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