The department said they thought they were keeping a close eye on Laundrie before he went missing, but actually confused him for his mother.
According to the North Port Police Department, police started watching the Laundrie family home after Petito was reported missing. Officers reported seeing Brian Laundrie leave in a gray Mustang Sept. 13, but spokesperson Josh Taylor said he thinks they mistook Brian’s mother for her son when the Mustang returned on Sept. 15.
“When the family reported him [missing] on Friday that was certainly news to us that they had not seen him,” Taylor said. “We thought that we’d seen Brian initially come back into that home on that Wednesday.”
The Laundries initially said that they hadn’t seen Brian since Tuesday, but later changed their statement to Monday.
How the mixup happened is not entirely clear. Taylor said that Roberta Laundrie was wearing a baseball cap and that the two are “kind of built similarly.”
“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,” said Taylor.
During a North Port police news conference on Sept. 16, Chief Todd Garrison voiced his frustration with the lack of answers on Gabby Petito’s disappearance.
Garrison added that there was no criminality suspected in the case at the time, and police were only investigating a missing person case with the sole focus of finding Petito.
A reporter asked Chief Garrison at the news conference, “Do you know where Brian Laundrie is right now?” Garrison responded, “yes,” apparently thinking he was inside the family home.
The Laundries’ family attorney Steve Bertolino confirmed the next day that the whereabouts of their son were unknown.
That statement came after police spent more than two hours at the Laundrie family home, at the family’s request.
NewsNation’s Brian Entin reported that police had kept tabs on Laundrie before he disappeared by placing surveillance cameras around his family’s home, but they missed him leaving to go to the reserve. Authorities said the lack of charges against Laundrie prevented them from taking more drastic measures.
“What I’ll say is that we were the ones doing everything in our power to get answers on this. If mistakes were made, there’s human error involved in every investigation. It certainly wasn’t from a lack of taking it seriously or hustle or knowledge. Sometimes things happen,” Taylor said.
According to Bertolino, Brian’s parents are “grieving privately in Florida,” with their daughter Cassie. So far, they don’t have a formal funeral plan for Brian.