Four questions facing Brian Laundrie’s parents after discovery of his remains
The breakthrough discovery of Laundrie's body has raised questions about his parents' role in the tragic case
The search for Brian Laundrie has come to an end, but the focus has now shifted to his parents, who are yet to publicly address the deaths of their son and his fiancee Gabby Petito.
Steven Bertolino, the lawyer representing Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, told the New York Post how they led the authorities on Wednesday, October 20, to “a trail that Brian frequented” at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park. The FBI later revealed that they had found the fugitive's remains and belongings at the Carlton Reserve “in an area where (Laundrie’s parents) had initially advised law enforcement that Brian maybe," per the lawyer. However, the surreal discovery of Laundrie's body has raised questions about his parents' role in the tragic case.
The Post compiled a list of "lingering questions" that Chris, 62, and Roberta, 55, must answer.
Did the Laundries get along with Petito?
Petito's mother Nichole Schmidt said the 22-year-old vlogger met Laundrie while attending Bayport-Blue Point High School and became romantically involved with him shortly after. They got engaged last year while living at the Laundries' North Port, Florida residence. There has been speculation that Roberta was not so fond of Petito and instead wanted co-worker Brittany Coleman for her son. While the claim may have no basis, the Laundries and Coleman have not addressed the question, per the Post.
What do Chris and Roberta know about Gabby’s death?
To date, the Laundries have only communicated via Bertolino, who has insisted his clients have coordinated with the authorities from the get-go. The family, including Brian’s sister, Cassie, went camping at the Fort De Soto Park campground on September 6 and 7 after Brian returned home by himself in Gabby's converted van on September 1. On October 4, Cassie told protesters outside her home that the subject of Gabby did not come up during the trip, which was allegedly the last time she saw her brother.
Chris and Roberta told police that their son left for a hike at the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve on September 13 and never returned. They reported him missing three days later on September 17. Last month, the FBI made several visits to the Laundries' residence and collected potential evidence from the property. However, the Laundries have not been officially implicated in the disappearance and death of their son.
Did they help their son evade the authorities?
Protesters camped outside the Laundrie residence for more than a month, demanding that the family come clean about what they knew regarding Brian's flight. Meanwhile, police highlighted the "oddness" of the case, pointing to the family's two-week silence after Brian's return to Florida as well as the four-day gap between his alleged disappearance and his missing person report on September 17, which may have given their son a headstart, according to the Post.
Bertolino confirmed that Brian flew from Salt Lake City to spend time with his family in North Port from August 17 to 23 before rejoining Gabby, who was last seen alive four days later in a Wyoming restaurant. Since the discovery of Brian's remains on Thursday, critics baselessly accused the Laundries of planting his personal belongings next to the human remains in a bid to confuse the investigators. “It’s nonsense,” Bertolino retorted in a text message, the Post reported. “People with nothing else to do are afraid this case will go away and they will have to go back to following celebrities and others in the fake world of the Internet. Aaron Rodgers got it right!”
Speaking to Fox News, Bertolino said his clients notified the feds they would be at the park in advance and were reportedly there only in the presence of law enforcement. Furthermore, there has been no incriminating evidence or official allegations that the parents aided their son after he mysteriously disappeared.
Can the Laundries be charged?
Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor who is now president of the West Coast Trial Lawyers, told The Sun that it was rather unlikely Chris and Roberta Laundrie would be charged, considering they may have dodged jail time by helping the feds find their son's remains and belongings. “The fact they may have led investigators to their son’s possessions and possibly his remains — that all undercuts the argument that they were aiding and abetting his escape. That leads me to believe they were cooperative and not the other way around," Rahmani told the newspaper before Brian's remains were identified. “I’m sure Gabby Petito’s family wants some closure, but if Brian Laundrie is dead, this is as good as it’s going to get,” Rahmani added.
The remains were located early Wednesday near a bridge connecting the Carlton Reserve with the Myakkahatchee Environmental Park. Chris Laundrie had reportedly traveled to the area in the days leading up to the discovery and told authorities it was among several spots and trails his son liked to hike in, the New York Post reported.