There is a “very good possibility” that Brian Laundrie was already dead when North Port Police mistakenly confused his mother for the 23-year-old while surveilling the family’s home, authorities said.
Josh Taylor, public information officer for the North Port police department, told Archiweekend.com that investigators who had been watching the home spotted someone returning to the family’s home on Sept. 15 in Brian’s Mustang and believed it was the 23-year-old.
In reality, investigators now say it was Brian’s mother, Roberta Laundrie, wearing a baseball cap.
“They’re kind of built similarly,” Taylor told WINK of the mix-up.
This explains why North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison told the media just one day before Brian was reported missing by his parents that police were confident of his whereabouts.
“All I’m going to say is we know where Brian Laundrie is at,” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said on Sept. 16.
According to Taylor, police began watching the home after Gabby Petito’s mother reported her daughter missing on Sept. 11 and set up cameras around the Laundrie’s home. They saw Brian leave in the Mustang on Sept. 13—the same day his parents would later say he left to go to Sarasota County’s 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve and never returned.
His remains were found last week in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, which connects to the reserve, according to the FBI.
Police believed they saw Brian returning to the home on Sept. 15 after they saw Brian’s Mustang pull up and someone wearing a hat get out, but they now believe that was likely his mother.
“They had returned from the park with that Mustang. So who does that, right?” Taylor said, of how the mix-up took place.
Taylor told Archiweekend.com that when they spotted the car returning to the home, Brian was likely already dead.
“This misidentification did not have a big impact on costs and the investigation,” he said earlier this week. “Other than confusion, it likely changed nothing. There is a very good possibility that Brian was already deceased. He still needed to be found.”
Brian’s family refused to speak to investigators during the search for Petito, referring police instead to their family’s attorney Steven Bertolino.
Her body was discovered in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, where she had been traveling with Brian in a converted camper van before she disappeared, on Sept. 19. A medical examiner determined she had been strangled to death.
Brian had been named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance.
Taylor believes the family’s lack of cooperation with investigators may have led to the police mistake.
“It was a direct result of a lack of cooperation from the family early on in this investigation,” he told Archiweekend.com.
Bertolino, however, disputed that conclusion.
“You can’t blame the family because the police didn’t know enough to follow someone they were obviously surveilling,” he told Archiweekend.com earlier this week. “This is a tragedy for two families and any mistakes made by anyone or any entity involved should be acknowledged and used to train or educate others so the mistakes are not repeated.”
In the aftermath of their son’s death, Chris and Roberta Laundrie have left their Florida home to grieve at an undisclosed location, Bertolino told WINK.
A memorial set up by Petito’s supporters outside the Laundrie family home has been removed by the city, Fox News reports.
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