Sarasota sheriff says he believes Brian Laundrie died by suicide

Did Brian Laundrie die by suicide?

For the first time, a sheriff who helped search for 23-year-old Brian Laundrie suggested that is what happened.

Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman made the comments during a South County Tiger Bay Club meeting on Friday, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 

“That guy went out there and by all accounts probably committed suicide and he was right out there where we thought he was,” Hoffman said. “There was four feet of water out there at the time.”

Hoffman’s agency was part of the ongoing weeks-long search to find Laundrie, a person of interest in the death of his fiancee 22-year-old Gabby Petito.

Laundrie’s remains were found on Oct. 20 in the nature park in North Port where authorities spent most of their time looking for him.

Hoffman was joined by North Port Police Department Chief Todd Garrison during the meeting.

Garrison once again defended his department’s work, which was the lead agency at the time that Laundrie disappeared. Laundrie was reported missing by his parents on Sept. 17, who said they had last seen him on Sept. 14, before revising the date to Sept. 13.

But on Sept. 16, Garrison told the media he knew where Laundrie was.

“It was 100% in my belief that what the team told me was accurate and Brian was outside the house,” Garrison told the audience at the meeting.

Ultimately, it was Laundrie’s mother, who drove his vehicle home from the Carlton Reserve after Laundrie failed to return.

“There was nobody more surprised about that than me,” Garrison said about Chris and Roberta Laundrie reporting their son missing.

Garrison emphasized the department’s priority at the time was finding Petito.

Petito’s remains were found on Sept. 19 at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, more than two weeks after her parents reported her missing after she failed to contact them. Petito and Laundrie were on a cross-country trip together in a converted camper van.

Laundrie returned to his North Port home, with the van, but without Petito.

“Now, we know that, by the time we became the lead agency, Brian had already left the house and presumably had already been deceased out in the Carlton Reserve,” Garrison said.

Garrison said it was important for the department to admit the error.

“People want open transparency and honesty from their law enforcement officials,” Garrison said.

While Sheriff Hoffman said it could be suicide, the FBI has not determined a cause of death.


Warning signs to look out for in your child:

  • Isolation or refusal to attend school;
  • Changes in eating habits;
  • Withdrawal from peers or social activities;
  • Withdrawal from extracurricular activities at school or in the community; and/or
  • Reports of bullying, harassment, or intimidation in school, the community, or on social media.

Kids’ Minds Matter:

SalusCare has a weekly zoom support group for parents. It’s free and you do not need to be a client. It’s Monday nights at 7. Zoom ID: 975 9545 3712 Password: 488302

SalusCare Emergency Services: 239-275-4242

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255​

Disaster Distress Helpline:​

Parent/Caregiver Guide for Helping Families Cope with COVID-19:​​

Smart Social: Monitor your kids online​

National Association of School Psychologists: School safety and crisis

David Lawrence Center website for children

If you or a loved one are struggling, you can find support by visiting resources on the NAMI website.

For a comprehensive list of resources and organizations, you can visit This is My Brave.

For additional tools, including a treatment locator, you can visit the CDC’s mental health web page.


FGCU Community Counseling Center

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Collier County

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry counties

Lee Health – Behavioral Health

Lee Health Foundation’s – ‘Kids Minds Matter’

The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a free handbook
Circle of Care: A Guidebook for Mental Health Caregivers

Collier County Mental Health Court

Lee County Mental Health Court

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Local Support Groups: Anxiety and Depression Association of America

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help)

Southwest Florida Resource Link

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Talking to kids about suicide

Reporter:Erika Jackson
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