“Van lifer” Brian Laundrie killed himself while on the run from authorities, family lawyer Steve Bertolino said Tuesday.
“Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head and the manner of death was suicide,” Bertolino said in an emailed statement to The Daily Beast. “Chris and Roberta are still mourning the loss of their son and are hopeful that these findings bring closure to both families.”
Laundrie—whose remains were found in a Florida nature preserve in October—was the lone suspect in the disappearance and death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito. The engaged couple were in the midst of a cross-country road trip when Petito vanished.
On Sept. 1, Laundrie, 23, returned to the North Port, Florida, home he and Petito had been sharing with Laundrie’s parents, but Petito, inexplicably, wasn’t with him, and 10 days later, her parents reported her missing.
Petito’s father told The Daily Beast in September that he sensed something was wrong when his daughter stopped checking in regularly from the road. “We had been in touch with her as she traveled,” Joe Petito said. “I’d speak to her once a week or so, her mom spoke to her two or three times a week. My son would talk to her often on Snapchat, FaceTime; my niece would be in constant contact with her.”
After Laundrie reappeared by himself in Florida, he refused to speak to detectives searching for Gabby. He then dropped out of sight shortly after being named a person of interest in the case. Laundrie’s parents reported him missing on Sept. 17, but later told investigators that their son informed them four days earlier that he was going hiking in a local nature preserve.
When cops homed in on Laundrie, Bertolino told The Daily Beast that he had advised his client not to cooperate since “the warning that ‘any statement made will be used against you’ is true, regardless of whether my client had anything to do with Ms. Petito’s disappearance.”
While the pair’s social media posts made their travels appear idyllic, the reality was far different. Spending long stretches of time alone together had created a strain in their relationship, and the two were stopped and questioned by police in Moab, Utah in the aftermath of a physical altercation they had. Witnesses told cops they had seen Laundrie hit Petito, and Petito also found herself accused of striking Laundrie. The pair told officers that “they are in love and engaged to be married and desperately didn’t wish to see anyone charged with a crime,” according to a police report filed by the responding officers. In the end, the cops separated the two for the night without filing charges against either.
On Sept. 19, Petito’s body was found near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Her death was ruled a homicide by strangulation. The feds issued a warrant for Laundrie’s arrest, charging him with unlawful use of a debit card following Petito’s death.
North Port police and the FBI searched for Laundrie for more than a month before finally discovering his remains and some personal belongings in the Myakkahatchee Creek near the Carlton Reserve on Oct. 20. Authorities the next day confirmed the body was indeed Laundrie’s.