Speculation is mounting that police obtained a specific piece of crucial evidence when they visited Brian Laundrie’s family home – possibly in the form of a note – that led them to rapidly locate the body of Gabby Petito.
Last Friday evening, FBI agents and police in North Port, Florida, spent more than two hours at the home of Mr Laundrie’s parents, Christopher and Roberta, having been invited by the couple for a “conversation”.
During the meeting, after which police could be seen leaving with evidence bags and the family lawyer said they had taken with them “property to assist in locating Brian”, it emerged the parents claimed not to have seen their son since last Tuesday.
However, within 12 hours of that meeting, the FBI had assembled a team of dozens or even scores of agents, park rangers and police officers to conduct a very thorough search of the spread creek dispersed camping area, located about 20 miles north of Jackson.
Until that point, a handful of officers had been searching various other campsites that Ms Petito and Mr Laundrie were believed to have made use of, including one in West Yellowstone.
Autopsy on Body Found in Gabby Petito Case Conducted This Week
On Sunday afternoon, FBI senior supervisory agent Charles Jones confirmed officers had found the remains of someone who matched the description of Ms Petito at the spread creek site.
“The cause of death has not been determined at this time. We appreciate your continued support and patience as we work through this process,” he said.
“The facility around spread creek campsite will remain closed to the public until further notice. This is an active and ongoing investigation.”
The officer did not take questions from the media, but The Independent tried to ask what had led the FBI to that specific campsite.
“We cannot answer those unfortunately, at this time,” he said.
Frank Montoya Jr, a retired FBI special agent, said it appeared the police had obtained some crucial lead late last Friday that enabled them to scramble the large-scale search operation at spread creek.
“[The search process] starts with an analysis of her social media and not just the things that are being posted, but just the electronic trail that ensues when you’re communicating online or via Wi-Fi. And it may be that the trail ended in the area of Grand Teton,” he said, speaking from Providence, Utah.
“It’s also important to note, this really picked up steam in terms of what they were calling a ground survey.”
He said it was possible that while Mr Laundrie’s parents did not know where their son was, they passed onto officers something that helped find the remains.
“Perhaps they gave even more specific information about where a body might be, or where she was last seen,” he said.
Mr Montoya Jr, who previously also served as the director of the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive from 2012-2014, said the type of search carried out from Saturday morning onwards, suggested police had “some pretty specific information”.
“The question then becomes, how did they know to go to that spot. And there could have been some technical data from tracking their phones,” he said.
“It could have also been some more specific information coming from a human source, whether it was a note that he left behind that they’ve discovered.”
He said it may be the parents were being more “proactive” in providing information.
“The family did, in fact, call the FBI to their home on Friday evening,” he said.
“And it could be that they finally had information they needed to share because it is no longer about protecting your son against allegations but rather, something more specific that they didn’t want to get caught up in themselves.”
On Sunday, after news emerged the remains had been found, the Laundrie family issued a statement that said: “The news about Gabby Petito is heartbreaking. The Laundrie family prays for Gabby and her family.”
The demand for answers comes as officers in Florida carry out a search of Mr Laundrie’s house, and continue to try and locate him.
His family said the last time they saw him was on Tuesday before he went for a hike in the 24,565-acre Carlton Reserve that has 80 miles of hiking, equestrian, and biking trails.
On Monday, the FBI said it “did not have any additional comment at this time”, other than that posted on its Twitter feed.
North Port police did not immediately responded to questions.
Lawyers for both the Laundrie family and the family of Ms Petito also did not respond to inquiries.
Meanwhile, in Jackson, Wyoming, officials are preparing to carry out a post-mortem examination of the remains believed to be those of Ms Petito, to both officially identify them and to try and determine a cause of death.
Teton County Coroner Brent Blue has said he will carry out the examination on Tuesday, but there is speculation he could bring forward the process.
The Independent understands that the remains were discovered at around 11am on Sunday morning, in a location up to one mile from the spot the couple’s van had been filmed by Jenn and Kyle Bethune, who are traveling across America in a van, and filmed the white Transit van in that park on the evening of August 27.
The Bethunes posted their video on Saturday evening, about 12 hours after FBI searching the campsite where the remains were eventually found.