Brian Laundrie could face the death penalty if he winds up charged with murder in the death of Gabby Petito, experts say
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito. North Harbor Police Station
Gabby Petito's body was identified on Tuesday and her death was initially classified as murder.
Criminal justice experts said her fiancé Brian Laundrie faces the death penalty if charged and convicted of murder.
While several states have banned the death penalty, it's still legal in Wyoming and Florida, where police are looking for laundry.
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Brian Laundrie could face harsh sentences if authorities indict him in connection with the death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito, criminal justice experts and private investigators told Insider.
The FBI confirmed Tuesday that a body found in Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming, on Sunday was Petitos and that a coroner initially determined the death to be murder.
Petito was first reported missing on September 11th after disappearing while on a road trip with Laundrie, her fiancé. Laundrie returned home without Petito on September 1 and, despite desperate requests from Petito's family, refused to cooperate with the authorities.
Laundrie herself has been missing since September 14th. North Port, Florida police have stated that the Petito case is now a criminal investigation despite not having charged Laundrie with a crime.
If the authorities find Laundrie and indict him with Petito's murder, he could "potentially face the death penalty," said Alfredo Garcia, a professor at St. Thomas University College of Law and former assistant prosecutor in Florida.
About half of all US states have abolished the death penalty, but it remains legal in both Wyoming and Florida. Garcia said authorities must first determine where the crime was committed in order for Laundrie to be given the death penalty.
"If it happened in Wyoming, for example," he said, "they are responsible" to enforce the death penalty there.
Harvey Morse, a private investigator with Locators International in Florida, speculates that Laundrie faces either the death penalty or life imprisonment if arrested in the Sunshine State and charged with murder. Morse pointed out that more than 300 people are waiting to be executed in Florida to show that the death penalty is a real possibility for Laundrie.
But his disappearance makes things difficult. Florida police said they had "exhausted all avenues" in a large-scale search for Laundrie in the state's "vast" Carlton reservation.
Morse told Insiders that he believes Laundrie is hiding and that the likelihood that he will attempt a suicide is "above average," given the scale of criminal penalties he faces and the high profile the Petitos case has received .
"I hope this person is found and if he is the culprit he pleads guilty and does not pull out this case, which would cause so much harm to so many people," said Morse.
Neighbors to Laundrie in North Port, Florida find his disappearance suspicious, a resident told Insider.
"You have this beautiful young lady who is simply missing. And she has become America's daughter," said Lisa Correll, who organized a vigil for Petito over the weekend. "It's like your neighbor's daughter."
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