North Port Police Department officials on Monday, Oct. 25, publicly admitted they made a critical mistake when monitoring Brian Laundrie which resulted in the costly five-week-long manhunt for the 23-year-old. 

Public Information Officer Josh Taylor told WINK that Laundrie was being watched by surveillance cameras set around his house, where he lived with parents in North Port, Florida. 

The devices opened a major flaw to the law enforcement as they mistook Laundrie for his mother by watching their recorded figures.

“They’re kind of built similarly,” Taylor said.

Gabby Petito, 22, fiancee of Laundrie who did not return to Florida with him on Sept. 1 from a cross country trip together was reported missing on Sept. 11. Laundrie headed to the Carlton Reserve two days later in his Ford Mustang and never came back. 

Because of the tragic mistake, the North Port police were confident Laundrie was still home even until Sept. 16 when they observed Mrs. Laundrie, inaccurately perceived as her son, driving the vehicle back home on Sept. 15.

“All I’m going to say is we know where Brian Laundrie is at,” said North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison. Garrison on Thursday, Sept. 16. They were certain Laundrie was inside his home. Everything changed the next day, Friday, Sept. 17.

“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 seen Brian initially come back into that home on that Wednesday. But we now know that that wasn’t true.”

Chris and Roberta Laundrie told the officials their son left for a hike in the reserve on Sept. 13. They came to look for him later in the day and found his abandoned Mustang. The pair drove it back home the following morning.

“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,” Taylor explained. 

He surmised the investigators may have picked up Mrs. Laundrie as her son when she came out with a baseball cap.

“I believe it was his mom who was wearing a baseball cap,” Taylor said, acknowledging no investigation could be as perfect as expected.

The skeletal remains of Laundrie were uncovered on Oct. 20 in the area where his parents initially scoured for their son on Sept. 14. His backpack and notebook were also found.

The place was submerged in deep-waist water during the early days when he disappeared, which had only started to recently recede. 

Since Laundrie’s remains had been underwater for a period of time, the authorities have not been able to identify the cause, manner, and time of his death yet. 

Laundrie was the only person of interest in the case of deceased Petito, who officials confirmed died of manual strangulation three to four weeks before they could locate her body in the wilderness of a Wyoming park.

He had not been charged for her death, which was ruled a homicide by a coroner.

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