Police confused Brian Laundrie’s mother for him in search: Spokesman

“They’re kind of built similarly,” Josh Taylor said, adding, “No case is perfect.”

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Police in Florida mistook Brian Laundrie’s mother for him while surveilling the family’s home after the disappearance of his fiancee, Gabby Petito, an agency spokesman said Monday, acknowledging a misstep in the investigation days after Laundrie’s remains were found.


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Josh Taylor, a spokesman for the police department in North Port, Fla., told WINK News that investigators monitoring the home confused a baseball cap-wearing Roberta Laundrie for her 23-year-old son, he said.

“They’re kind of built similarly,” Taylor told the television station. He added: “No case is perfect.”

Skeletal remains identified as Laundrie’s were found Oct. 20 in Florida’s Carlton Reserve, marking the end of a month-long manhunt. His parents reported him missing Sept. 17, after he was named a person of interest in his fiancee’s disappearance but before her body was found last month.

No one has been charged in Petito’s death, which was ruled a homicide by strangulation. Laundrie was separately indicted by a grand jury on charges related to his activities following his fiancee’s death. It is unclear how the investigation will proceed after his remains were found at Carlton Reserve, a roughly 25,000-acre wetlands area in Sarasota County.


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Taylor did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The mid-September revelation that Laundrie was also missing added another twist to a case that captured widespread public interest – and raised questions about how he slipped away on law enforcement’s watch.

Taylor told WINK that North Port police began watching the Laundrie home after Petito’s family reported her missing Sept. 11. Days earlier, Laundrie had returned from the couple’s cross-country road trip without her.

Laundrie refused to speak to police, but authorities kept watch via cameras, according to WINK. On Sept. 13, investigators saw him drive away in his Mustang, the station reported. Two days later, the Mustang returned, and police “thought that we had seen Brian come back into the home,” Taylor said.


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With public pressure mounting, North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison insisted during a Sept. 16 news conference that officers knew Laundrie’s whereabouts.

“All I’m going to say is we know where Brian Laundrie is at,” he said.

When his parents reported him missing the next day, Taylor said, “that was certainly news to us.” He said he now believes the person they saw leaving the car in a baseball cap was Roberta Laundrie.

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito on first date.
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito on first date. Photo by Gabby Petito /Instagram

“They had returned from the park with that Mustang,” Taylor told WINK. “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.”


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The couple had embarked on a trip through national parks in a converted van, documenting their travels through rosy photos posted to social media. But a different side of the relationship emerged during the investigation into Petito’s disappearance, including an Aug. 12 encounter with police following an altercation between the two in Moab, Utah. Two weeks later, Laundrie returned to his parents’ home alone.

Laundrie was the lone person of interest in the killing of 22-year-old Petito, whose body was discovered Sept. 19 in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.

After skeletal remains were discovered in Carlton Reserve, investigators confirmed to Laundrie’s parents that they belonged to their son, Steve Bertolino, the family’s attorney, told The Washington Post shortly after investigators were seen visiting their home in Sarasota, Fla.

“We have no further comment at this time, and we ask that you respect the Laundries’ privacy at this time,” Bertolino said last week.

An initial autopsy of Laundrie’s remains did not uncover his cause of death, the Associated Press reported Monday. Further examinations are expected to be conducted. Authorities have not released details about what was inside a notebook and backpack found with the remains.



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