Will Brian Laundrie, Missing for Almost a Month, Ever Be Found?

Brian Laundrie has been missing for almost a month, as of Monday, and many questions surrounding his disappearance remain unanswered, including if he will ever be found.

Laundrie's parents told law enforcement officials that they last saw their son on September 13 and that they believed he went for a hike in Florida's Carlton Reserve. Following their statement, the reserve has become the focus of the search for Laundrie, a person of interest in the Gabby Petito homicide case. But a spokesperson for the North Port, Florida, Police Department recently told Brian Entin of NewsNation Now that police have not found anything connected to Laundrie in the huge, swamp-filled reserve.

Speaking to Newsweek Monday, Michelle Jeanis, a professor at the University of Louisiana at Layette's Department of Criminal Justice, said that while there are a lot of unknowns surrounding Laundrie's disappearance, in a traditional missing person case it is "incredibly unlikely" that the individual would be found alive after missing for a month.

"It's hard to say the likelihoods, but generally speaking, we know that the likelihood that a traditional missing person is recovered safe after this period of time, a month, it's unlikely," said Jeanis, whose research focuses on missing persons and youth runaways.

She added, "Most people who go missing either return quickly or are found deceased."

Jeanis also said there is no standardized method for investigating the disappearance of a missing adult, which makes it more difficult. While the North Port police said no evidence of Laundrie has been found in the reserve, it remains the only location where search missions have been conducted by law enforcement.

"Each individual agency can investigate those cases differently, and it is up to that jurisdiction's discretion to decide whether or not an area has been searched sufficiently. And they get to define what sufficiently is," Jeanis said.

Bryanna Fox, a former FBI agent and associate professor in the Department of Criminology at the University of South Florida, agreed that the longer someone is missing, the likelihood of finding that person alive decreases "substantially."

"So quickly now, people can move, and the ability to try and cooperate with different state agencies, international agencies—it makes finding somebody that much more difficult," Fox told Newsweek.

"The second problem is that every day that somebody is out, not in their home, their risk of victimization and death goes up very much," Fox went on. "Even if the person was running away—let's say they are not evading law enforcement—they still need to do things to survive, and all of those things put them at risk of harm and victimization.... So all of these things just increase the risk that we're not gonna find [Laundrie] in a good state because it's been so long."

Fox also explained that people who are the most successful in evading law enforcement for an extended period usually "commit a really premeditated crime and spend a lot of time studying and preparing for what it would look like after they commit the crime, so they know how to get away with it."

Fox continued, "For somebody that allegedly was engaged in an offense that was heat of the moment, not necessarily premeditated, that it was their first offense, that they didn't have a lot of experience with the criminal justice system...the idea that that person would then make no mistakes and leave no trace behind, it's possible but it's very unlikely."

While Fox and Jeanis both pointed out that the odds of finding a missing person decrease as time goes on, Fox said she does not believe that law enforcement will never find Petito's fiancé.

"I cannot imagine a universe that he is alive and well and law enforcement never finds him. For that to happen, he has to be absolutely perfect, make no mistakes, and law enforcement never gets lucky," Fox said. "It's so off-balanced that he would have to get lucky 100 percent of the time, versus law enforcement having to get lucky once."

She continued, "If he is alive, I think that they eventually will find him."

Survival expert Dave Canterbury told Newsweek that there are a lot of different aspects to look at in Laundrie's disappearance, such as the speculation that he has survival skills and may have brought supplies with him.

"Without knowing exactly what his skill level is, without knowing exactly what equipment he had in that Carlton Reserve, or if he's in the Carlton Reserve, it would be difficult to give a good estimate of how long he could survive," Canterbury said. "But the properly prepared person could survive quite a while. Much longer than just the time it's been so far."

Mark DeJong, a survival expert and instructor at the Survival University, made a similar observation, telling Newsweek that if Laundrie has no survival experience, he would estimate that the 23-year-old would be able to survive about a week.

"With experience, and again we're talking about professional-level experience here, I would say that he could probably go up to a couple of years," DeJong said.

DeJong also said if Laundrie is still in the Carlton Reserve, he believes that "it's gonna be a recovery and not a capture."

Newsweek reached out to the FBI in Denver for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Carlton Reserve
Gabby Petito's boyfriend Brian Laundrie has been missing for almost a month, and law enforcement officers continue to search Florida's Carlton Reserve, where he is believed to have gone in September. Octavio Jones/Getty