Brian Laundrie: When will we know cause and time of death?

Sarasota County

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NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) — Human remains found in Sarasota County’s Carlton Reserve this week were those of Brian Laundrie, the person of interest in the death of his fiancée Gabby Petito, federal investigators confirmed Thursday.

So now that Laundrie’s remains have been found and identified, when will we know the cause and time of death? 8 On Your Side’s Mahsa Saeidi spoke with forensics expert Joseph Scott Morgan to find out. Morgan currently works at the Jacksonville State University in Alabama, but was previously the senior investigator with the Fulton County Medical Examiner in Atlanta, Georgia.

Here’s what he told us:

Will we know the cause of death?

The remains found in the Carlton Reserve on Wednesday, Oct. 20 were skeletal, according to law enforcement officials. NBC News correspondent Sam Brock reported the remains included a badly-decomposed portion of a human skull.

Given the state of the remains that were found, Morgan said determining a cause of death will be hard.

“I think the cause of death, unless there is obvious, specific trauma – and I’m talking about trauma to the head or maybe a mark on the breastbone – it’s going to be very, very difficult to determine this since these are skeletal remains,” he said.

Will we know the time of death?

Morgan believes the state of the remains will also make it difficult for investigators to narrow down exactly when Laundrie died.

“Because the body is skeletonized, it’s my opinion you’re not going to be able to do any better than about a week,” he said. “Unless there’s more information they’re not telling us.”

How long does decomposition take?

As mentioned before, NBC News reported that the skeletal remains found this week included a badly-decomposed part of a human skull. According to Morgan, decomposition usually happens more quickly in Florida.

“[It] is a bit more rapid than it is in other locations because of increased heat and also relative humidity,” he explained. “The great thing about water relative to bodies, if it’s down in the silt, sometimes the silt – underlying that layer of water – can actually protect the body, almost cocoon it.”

How did they identify the remains?

According to the FBI, dental records were used to confirm that the remains were Laundrie. Morgan told us that implies the part of the skull that was recovered included the jaw.

“That would lead us to believe there’s another area of the skull missing,” he said. “But right now, we don’t know.”

Morgan explained that, even if skeletal remains are badly decomposed, there are still ways to identify them.

“With the bone marrow and also another robust area where you can go in, and we do know we have this sample, where you can go in… to the tooth and extract the pulp,” he said.

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