Officials said Thursday that Brian Laundry may have already died when police confused his mother with him and assumed he was at home while they monitored the house.
Police in Northport, Florida, admitted earlier this week that although detectives trained cameras at Laundry’s residence, they weren’t as aware of his coming and going as they thought.
Laundry left his family home in the Mustang on September 13. When the car returned on September 15, police believed that Laundry had entered the house. But North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor told WINK News in Fort Myers that the person driving the car was his mother, Roberta, who wore a baseball cap that was kind of “reciprocated.”
The report led to questions about how the investigation went differently, and whether taxpayer money was later wasted in what became a weeks-long search for Laundry, who was named a person important to his fiancée, the disappearance of Gabe Pettito.
“This misidentification has not had a significant impact on costs and the investigation,” Taylor said in a joint statement with NBC News Thursday.
“Other than the confusion, it probably didn’t change anything,” he said. “There is a very good possibility that Brian has already passed away.” “It still needed to be found.”
Taylor added: “We just wanted people to better understand why we thought we knew Brian was at his home. It was a direct result of the family’s lack of cooperation early on in this investigation.”
When asked if investigators believe Roberta intentionally disguised her to look like Brian, Taylor said, “I don’t have any information on that.”
Police realized their mistake when they informed the family on September 17 that Laundry was missing, according to police.
While authorities were searching for Laundry, 23, with a large focus on the extensive Carlton Preserve, a nationwide search was also underway for Pettito, 22.
Her body was found on September 19 in the spread camping area of Spread Creek in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. The coroner said Pettit had died at least three weeks ago, and her death was ruled a murder by “hand strangulation.”
Londry was not charged in Pettito’s death, but was chosen as the person concerned with her disappearance. The authorities also issued an arrest warrant for him after they said he used the Pettito debit card without permission.
Human remains found at Carleton Preserve, Florida, last Wednesday were confirmed to be from Laundry after reviewing dental records, officials said Thursday. His parents helped lead the FBI and North Port Police to Myakkhahatchee Creek Ecological Park, part of the Carleton Preserve.
According to the FBI, the remains were found along with Laundry’s personal items, such as a backpack and a laptop. The contents of those items were not disclosed.
The family’s attorney, Stephen Bertolino, said late last week that the remains had been sent to an anthropologist for “further evaluation” after autopsy results were inconclusive.
“The cause or method of death has not been determined,” he told NBC News.
Amid conspiracies on social media that the remains do not actually belong to Laundry, police released a statement from the Sarasota Medical Examiner’s office.
“The identity of the remains found at Carlton Reserve on October 20 has been confirmed by comparison with known dental records of Brian Laundry,” the statement read.
“No DNA analysis has yet been done on the remains,” officials said. Samples for DNA testing will be provided once the medical examiner’s office has completed its report.
Bertolino said Monday that he was not given a timetable for when the anthropologist would finish evaluating Laundry’s remains.
Pettito and Londry left for a cross-country trip from Blue Point, New York, in early July in a 2012 Ford Transit. The couple recorded their trip on their Instagram accounts and Youtube under the title Nomadic Statik. Pettito stopped communicating with her family in late August.
The case continues to generate tremendous public interest, but it has also raised questions about media inequality and law enforcement’s interest in missing white women compared to people of color.