Investigators in Florida confused Brian Laundrie’s mother with her son while they were monitoring the family’s home in the days after Laundrie’s fiancée, Gabby Petito, was reported missing, a police spokesperson said.
“They are built kind of similarly,” North Port Police Department spokesperson Josh Taylor told CNN affiliate WINK on Monday in an exclusive interview. “No case is perfect”
The revelation of the surveillance mistake clarifies – at least a bit – at least one discrepancy between the versions of events laid out by authorities and by the Laundrie family attorney of what happened during a critical few days in September after Petito went missing while road-tripping with Laundrie but before her body was found in a Wyoming national forest. A coroner ruled Petito died by strangulation.
After Laundrie returned to Florida without Petito, police saw him drive away from his family home September 13 in his Ford Mustang, Taylor told WINK. Then, two days later, the Mustang returned.
“We thought that we had seen Brian come back into the home,” Taylor said.
Police now believe the car had actually been driven by Laundrie’s mother, Roberta Laundrie, Taylor said.
But for the next two days, police believed Brian Laundrie was at home.
Investigators realized the mistake September 17, when his parents told police they hadn’t seen their son since September 14, a Tuesday. They later changed their recollection, their attorney has said, to say they hadn’t seen him since September 13, after he said he was going to the Carlton Reserve, a nearby 25,000-acre nature park.
Remains found last week at the nature reserve were positively identified as Laundrie’s.
As to the Mustang’s driver on September 15, “I believe it was his mom, who was wearing a baseball cap,” Taylor said.
“They had returned from the park, with that Mustang,” the police spokesperson said. “So, the individual getting out with a baseball cap, we thought was Brian.”
North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison had held a news conference on September 16. During the briefing, a reporter asked Garrison if he knew where Laundrie was “right now.”
“Yes,” Garrison responded.
The Laundries later told police they had gone to the nature preserve on September 15 to retrieve the family vehicle.
“Let the record be clear, the Laundries reported Brian did not come home the night he went out for the hike,” the Laundrie family attorney, Steven Bertolino, told CNN Wednesday. “I actually reported that to the FBI, personally.”
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