Earlier this week, the North Port Police Department admitted that it had mistakenly believed that Brian Laundrie had returned to his parents’ home in mid-September while police were investigating the disappearance of his fiancée, Gabby Petito.
Police had told media outlets that they knew where Laundrie was, after mistaking his mother, Roberta — who is reportedly about the same build and was wearing a baseball cap — for the 23-year-old. The police had installed surveillance cameras prior to Laundrie’s own disappearance. On September 15, four days after Petito’s parents reported her missing, police saw Laundrie’s mother return to their home in his Ford Mustang after driving to Florida’s Carlton Reserve. Brian Laundrie had gone to the reserve on September 13 and is said to never have returned.
“I believe it was it was his mom who was wearing a baseball cap,” North Port Police Department Public Information Officer Josh Taylor told WINK News. “They had returned from the park with that Mustang. So who does that? Right? Like, if you think your son’s missing since Tuesday, you’re going to bring his car back to the home. So it didn’t make sense that anyone would do that if he wasn’t there. So the individual getting out with a baseball cap we thought was Brian.”
Police now say Laundrie may have already been dead when police mistakenly believed he had returned home, Newsweek reported.
Taylor told WFLA that the misidentification had no impact on the investigation.
“Other than confusion, it likely changed nothing. There is a very good possibility that Brian was already deceased,” Taylor told the outlet. “He still needed to be found.”
Stever Bertolino, the attorney representing the Laundrie family, told the outlet that the mistaken identity did cause issues for the family.
“None of this may have made a difference with respect to Brian’s life but it certainly would have prevented all of the false accusations leveled by so many against Chris and Roberta with respect to ‘hiding’ Brian or otherwise financing an ‘escape,’” Bertolino said.
Taylor insisted the misidentification “was a direct result of a lack of cooperation from the family early on in this investigation.”
Bertolino disagreed, however, saying, “You can’t blame the family because the police didn’t know enough to follow someone they were obviously surveilling.”
Bertolino said last week that he notified the FBI when Laundrie didn’t return home after traveling to the reserve. He also said Laundrie’s parents retrieved his vehicle so it wouldn’t get towed.
“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,” Bertolino said after remains were found in the Carlton Reserve last week. The remains were identified as Laundries. No cause of death has been determined.
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