How were Brian Laundrie’s remains missed for 33 days but then found by his parents in a few hours?
Wednesday, 20 October, began like every other in the 33 days since Brian Laundrie was reported missing .
Then, around midday, came a flurry of news. Chris and Roberta Laundrie were at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park and had contacted law enforcement the night before to ask them to accompany them to the site.
Within minutes, a “dry bag” containing personal items belonging to Mr Laundrie had been recovered .
Almost as soon as the discovery hit the internet, attorney Steve Bertolino released a statement that changed everything.
“After a brief search off a trail that Brian frequented some articles belonging to Brian were found. As of now law enforcement is conducting a more thorough investigation of that area.”
The FBI confirmed on Thursday they had confirmed the remains were Mr Laundrie’s after matching them through dental records.
To seasoned observers of the case, this all seemed a little convenient. The same location where the items were found had been pored over by highly-trained FBI, police and sheriff’s search teams with cadaver dogs just a month earlier.
Day after day, teams from local, state and national law enforcement headed to the reserve, as the flooding made their task more difficult.
“Rough is an understatement,” Tweeted North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor as he rode along on a swamp buggy on 23 September.
Law enforcement had used all of the sophisticated search tools at their disposal, including sonar, drones, swamp buggies and fixed wing aircraft to seek out any trace of Mr Laundrie in this vast and uncompromising landscape, even employing a local rancher who had spent every day of the last 30 years in this terrain.
It had been under water at the time they were looking, but canine experts believe the cadaver dogs still would have sniffed it out.
And then on Wednesday, here were two Florida grandparents in T-shirts and hiking boots having seemingly outwitted them all in a matter of hours.
Later in the afternoon came confirmation that remains had been found nearby.
So how did law enforcement miss this crucial discovery, that has since been confirmed by the FBI as belonging to Laundrie?
‘They should have been able to locate that body’
Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park is described as a “tranquil nature park featuring hiking trails and local wildlife”.
It sits on the eastern edge of the much larger Carlton Reserve, roughly five miles from the Laundrie family home in North Port.
Like most of Florida’s wilderness, it is home to alligators, bears, venomous snakes and other dangerous wildlife.
The location where the remains were found had been under a foot of water at the time of the search, FBI special agent Michael McPherson told a news conference on Tuesday.
But a K-9 handler and former police officer says it is “highly suspicious” that cadaver dogs missed the remains, even if they were located underwater.
“If the body had been there, when they went by with cadaver dogs, and the body had been there for more than two or three minutes, the odor would have come through the water,” Kyle Heyen told NewsNation’s Dan Abrams Live.
“They should have been able to locate that body.”
The Laundries have been vilified for their apparent lack of cooperation with authorities, but they have always maintained that their son would be found somewhere in the hiking trails near their home.
Authorities knew Mr Laundrie had travelled to this area as they found his silver Mustang there on 14 September.
“It’s highly suspicious,” Mr Heyen told NewsNation. “If the body was there at that time, x weeks ago, and if it’s the same dog and the same quality of dog or same quality of training, they should have found him. They would have detected Laundrie’s body.”
‘Accessory after the fact’
The Laundries have gone from complete obscurity to potentially become America’s most hated family in the past five weeks.
Their apparent lack of cooperation in helping find their son, and seeming lack of empathy for the Petitos, has made them the target of daily verbal abuse, both in person and online.
Mr Bertolino alluded to the pressure they were under this week when he told media they were being “tortured” by the daily barrage of criticism directed at them over protesters’ loudhailers.
They also may have been concerned about their own legal exposure.
Speaking on NewsNation on Tuesday night, Florida state attorney Florida state attorney Dave Aronberg said the parents would have been motivated to help find their son to build up some goodwill with law enforcement.
“If the Laundrie parents went to the reserve by themselves and discovered evidence, law enforcement would never believe them,” he said.
“The Laundrie family don’t want to be an accessory after the fact … it may help them avoid a criminal charge down the line.”
A former NYPD chief also questioned the events leading up to the discovery of human remains in the Florida reserve, as well as the items themselves were “quite strange”.
Former Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce for NYPD told ABC 7’s eyewitness news that he thought something about the case was “amiss”.
He said: “There are just too many strange turns that Chris and Roberta Laundrie haven’t been involved in it to not believe that something is amiss here.”
In reference to Mr Laundrie’s parents being at the scene when human remains were discovered, Mr Boyce commented: “The day the park reopens, they go into this specific area ... They go to this exact spot and they find the backpack and they identify the backpack from what I understand and the notebook in this particular area, so it’s quite strange.”
Adding: “So, they go to this one location, this remote location where it’s a path where people go by and they’re being told by the FBI agent that all of a sudden we found something, we found the remains ... So there’s a lot of things here that don’t add up to coincidence, so you wonder how they got there and what they knew all along.”
The harsh Florida wilderness
Much was made of Brian Laundrie’s skill as an outdoorsman and survivalist.
He’d walked the Appalachian Trail for weeks alone, his friends said. He liked to walk barefoot when hiking on trails in national parks, and would have been familiar with the hundreds of miles of trails in the vast Carlton Reserve.
But those familiar with the landscape there always doubted he could have survived for long .
Alan McEwen spent 30 years exploring the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida, and believed it contained so many treacherous threats to human life that make it all but impossible to survive in.
Ultimately, he was proven right.