Investigators have identified the remains of Brian Laundrie, whose fiancee Gabby Petito was found dead after he returned home alone from the couple’s cross-country trip.
Laundrie’s remains, found in a Florida wilderness area along with his belongings, were confirmed by the FBI Thursday following a comparison of dental records, the agency’s Denver office said. The announcement marks the end of a manhunt spanning weeks for Laundrie since the 23-year-old was reported missing by his family on Sept. 17. Authorities did not share what the cause of death was.
Steve Bertolino, an attorney for the Laundrie family, told The Washington Post that the family had been told the remains were his shortly after investigators were seen visiting Laundrie’s home in Sarasota.
“Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the remains found yesterday in the reserve are indeed Brian’s,” Bertolino wrote in a text message. “We have no further comment at this time and we ask that you respect the Laundrie’s privacy at this time.”
Laundrie, considered “a person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance, has been the subject of a massive manhunt by local, state and federal agencies, searching Carlton Reserve, a roughly 25,000-acre wetlands area in Sarasota County. When his family reported him missing, they told police he left his home for the park.
On Wednesday, authorities said they had found his backpack, notebook and other belongings near the entrance to the park, in an area that had previously been flooded.
Petito’s disappearance after the couple’s cross-country trip attracted national interest for more than a month and highlighted inequities in missing person cases. Internet sleuths tried to piece together clues from the “#vanlife” enthusiast’s social media posts. Petito and Laundrie were on a months-long cross-country road trip, and they were last known to be together in Grand Teton, Wyo., on Aug. 25, heading toward Yellowstone National Park.
The 22-year-old woman’s body was found Sept. 19 in a remote area of Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming, and her death was ruled a homicide by strangulation.
No one has been been charged in her death. A federal grand jury in Wyoming indicted him last month after determining that he used “one or more unauthorized devices” including a debit card and PIN numbers for two bank accounts, to fraudulently obtain more than $1,000.
An Afghan refugee has been charged with the rape of a woman in Missoula, Montana, the state’s governor said Thursday – and he called for the Biden administration to halt all refugee resettlements until assurances are made about the vetting process.
Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office said in a statement that an Afghan male placed in Montana by the U.S. State Department was charged with sexual assault.
The Missoula Police Department told Fox that Zabihullah Muhmand was arrested after they received a 911 call from the victim and a local motel about concerning behavior. Muhmand, 19, is now being held at the Missoula County Jail on charges of sexual intercourse without consent and the case is being investigated by detectives – but did not confirm his evacuee status. The local court told Fox News that there is a federal hold on Muhmand.
The victim says she met Muhmand, who asked her to go back to her hotel room, but she said she did not want anything to happen, court documents reviewed by Fox News show. The victim was later seen in the lobby visibly upset and called 911, according to those documents. Authorities found the victim’s bra and socks in Muhmand’s room. The man said the incident was consensual.
Zabihullah Muhmand is charged with sexual intercourse without consent. (Missoula Police Dept.)
The incident was first reported by local outlet KGVO.
In a statement, Gianforte said that while he welcomes “full-vetted Afghan allies to Montana, this situation and others across the country raise serious concerns about whether the Biden administration is meeting its obligations to fully vet Afghans prior to resettlement.”
“I’m calling on President Biden to immediately halt resettlements to Montana until federal agencies provide me with adequate assurance that Afghans coming to Montana are fully-vetted in accordance with federal law,” he said.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said the suspect was admitted to the United States and placed in Montana under humanitarian parole, and backed stopping resettlements.
“The fallout and consequences from President Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan continue,” he said in a statement. “While I support assisting our fully-vetted Afghan allies who served alongside our armed forces, President Biden has failed to provide answers as to who has come into the country or if they have been fully vetted according to what’s required by law. I’ve spoken to Gov. Gianforte about this situation, and I stand with him in calling on President Biden to stop all Afghan resettlements to Montana until we get answers.”
Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., who has expressed concerns about the vetting of nationals for weeks, and has introduced legislation on the matter, said the national was paroled into the country without proper screening. The Department of Homeland Security, which is overseeing Operation Allies Welcome, did not immediately return a Fox News request for comment.
“These unvetted Afghans do not share our culture and our values, and as this horrific incident shows they represent a serious risk to our communities,” said Rosendale. “We cannot allow this administration to continue to jeopardize the safety of our communities and the security of our nation in the name of empathy.”
He also urged a halt to the resettlement of nationals, and called on Biden to “begin to remove Afghan evacuees that have been resettled from the United States.”
The Biden administration has been bringing tens of thousands of Afghan nationals into the country in the wake of the U.S. drawdown. It has said the process is multilayered and officials say screening and security are conducted by intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism officials from multiple agencies.
“We screen and vet individuals before they board planes to travel to the United States and that screening and vetting process is an ongoing one and multilayered,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last month.
But Republicans have raised concerns about the vetting process, and pointed to a number of cases in which Afghans have been accused of serious crimes – although administration officials have noted that they are still relatively few considering the numbers that have come in.
A female soldier at Fort Bliss in New Mexico reported being assaulted on Sept. 19 by a group of male evacuees – an incident being investigated by the FBI. That was after Bahrullah Noori, a 20-year-old Afghan evacuee, was charged with attempting to engage in a sexual act with a minor using force against that person, along with three other counts of engaging in a sex act with a minor, at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
Another evacuee at Fort McCoy, 32-year-old Mohammad Haroon Imaad, was charged with assaulting his wife by choking and suffocating her on Sept. 17.
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