The missing-person-turned-homicide-turned-missing-person case that's captivated the nation since last month reached a pivotal moment this week when human remains believed to belong to Brian Laundrie as well as two of the 23-year-old fugitive's personal belongings were discovered in the nature preserve he was allegedly last known to be.
But the timing of and circumstances surrounding said discovery sparked many a question from skeptical media reporters and the invested public.
After numerous FBI agents and state/local law enforcement officers had been on a massive, five-week manhunt across Florida's vast Carlton Reserve, the area was reopened to the public on Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, Brian's parents – Christopher and Roberta Laundrie of North Port – showed up to the reserve, specifically the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, apparently to help the FBI and the North Port Police Department look for their missing son.
Within hours, Brian's backpack, notebook and maybe even remains were discovered.
But according to the Laundries' attorney, Steve Bertolino – who believes "the probability is strong" that the remains found are those of Brian – any speculation that Chris and Roberta planted the evidence is nonsense.
"In nice terms, it's hogwash," he told CNN's Chris Cuomo Wednesday night. "Chris and Roberta went to this area first and, as happenstance was, they stumbled upon these items."
On Thursday morning, he added to The Daily Mail, "Speculation is just that."
Despite his inclination that the remains are Brian's, Bertolino said he and the family would wait for formal identification to take place before commenting on the matter any further.
According to the Sarasota County medical examiner on the case, that could happen as soon as today.
When Cuomo asked why Chris and Roberta waited so long to join the search for their son at the park, Bertolino pointed out that it had not been open to the public before Tuesday.
"The parents had assumed that the experts – the FBI and all the tracking teams they had – would be able to locate Brian based upon the information that we had provided them to the specific areas and trails in the park that Brian liked to visit," he said.
According to Bertolino, Chris discovered a white plastic dry bag that was determined to belong to Brian, which he found about 20 feet off the trail, in the presence of a reporter. Bertolino said police were the ones who discovered the backpack and human remains nearby at similar times.
"Chris didn't want to pick the bag up because he wanted law enforcement to see it," he told Cuomo. "This was caught on camera. Chris couldn't find the law enforcement because they were then out of sight, because Chris had been in the woods, so he didn't want to leave the bag there with the news reporter standing nearby, so he picked it up."
"He did meet up shortly with law enforcement. They looked at the contents of the bag," Bertolino went on. "At that time, law enforcement officers showed him a picture on the phone of a backpack that law enforcement had located also nearby, and also some distance off the trail. At that point, the Laundries were notified that there was also remains near the backpack and they were asked to leave the preserve."
Bertolino also said that Chris and Roberta's tight-lipped approach to the situation with both Gabby Petito's family and investigators has been a matter of them simply heeding his advice.
"Now is not the right time to talk about the situation with Gabby," he said. "The family was following my directions. I told them not to talk with anybody, not to say a word. I was the intermediary between the family and law enforcement. Everybody has the right to remain silent, and that's what I told my clients and that's what they did."
"They know it's been hard. But ultimately, you know, this is the advice I gave them," he continued. "This is the advice they're taking, and that's on me. I'm the one who told them not to talk. That's been on me from day one. That's not on the family."
He went on to say that Brian's parents were "heartbroken" over the discovery of his personal items and possibly even his remains. Photographers captured Roberta seemingly wiping a tear from Chris' face on Wednesday while they were at the reserve.
Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park is where Brian's Ford Mustang that he drove to the wilderness before embarking on his Sept 13 solo hike was found.
Chris and Roberta initially said that the last time they saw their son was Sept. 14, but they did not report him missing until Sept. 17. Weeks later, Bertolino released a statement correcting the initial date.
During a press conference Tuesday, FBI agents confirmed the discovery of human remains as well as Brian's belongings. They did not answer questions about the condition of the remains or how long they believed they had been there.