Police say they mixed up Roberta and Brian Laundrie

Gabby Petito Case

NORTH PORT, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — North Port police told NewsNation that officers mixed up Brian Laundrie and his mother Roberta Laundrie in the days after his girlfriend Gabby Petito was reported missing.

Brian Laundrie’s parents say they last saw him Sept. 13, when they said he drove to the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve. At first, his parents said they last saw him Sept. 14. He was later reported missing Sept. 17.

North Port police PIO Josh Taylor told NewsNation’s Brian Entin that officers thought they saw Brian Laundrie coming home in a Mustang on Wednesday, Sept. 15, but it was actually his mother Roberta Laundrie. Taylor told Entin that Roberta Laundrie was wearing a baseball cap, which confused officers.

Taylor said this is why the North Port police chief said on Thursday, Sept. 16, he knew where Brain Laundrie was.

A reporter asked Chief Todd Garrison at the Sept. 16 news conference, “Do you know where Brian Laundrie is right now?” Garrison responded, “yes.”

NewsNation previously reported that police had kept tabs on Brian Laundrie before he disappeared by placing surveillance cameras around his family’s home. Authorities said the lack of charges against Laundrie prevented them from taking more drastic measures.

Brian Laundrie’s remains were found last week after more than a month of searching a 24,000-acre Florida reserve. Personal items, including a backpack and a notebook believed to belong to Laundrie, were also found.

The items and remains were found in a swampy area — home to alligators, snakes, coyotes and other wildlife — that had previously been underwater, according to Michael McPherson, chief of the Tampa FBI office. His cause of death is still under investigation as anthropologists examine his remains.

It had been weeks since any firm new details emerged in the case as authorities searched for the boyfriend of Gabby Petito. 

Petito, 22, vanished while on a cross-country road trip with Brian Laundrie in a converted camper van. The trip was well-documented on social media until it abruptly ceased, allegedly somewhere in Wyoming.

Petito was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days. Petito’s body was found Sept. 19 just outside Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. A Teton County coroner said earlier this month that Petito died by strangulation three to four weeks before her body was found.

Brian Laundrie was a person of interest in Petito’s death.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.

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