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 WINK on Monday. “No case is perfect.”
The revelation of the surveillance mistake clarifies 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.
Laundrie’s remains were found last week at a nature reserve near his family home, and his parents could be key to understanding what happened to Petito and later to him.
After Laundrie returned to Florida without Petito, police saw him drive away from his family home September 13 in his Ford Mustang, Taylor said. 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 back to the home 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, the nearby 25,000-acre nature park.