NORTH PORT, Fla. (WFLA) — Police in North Port, Florida, do not believe that the “misidentification” between Brian Laundrie and his mother Roberta the week he went missing had a major overall impact on the investigation, a spokesman for the department said Tuesday.
North Port Public Information Officer Josh Taylor admitted Monday that officers watching the Laundrie home believed they saw Brian Laundrie in the family’s gray Mustang on Sept. 15. They later realized it was actually Brian’s mother Roberta.
Taylor told WFLA on Tuesday that the misidentification didn’t have a big impact on costs and the investigation.
“Other than confusion, it likely changed nothing. There is a very good possibility that Brian was already deceased,” he said. “He still needed to be found.”
Attorney Steve Bertolino, who is representing the Laundrie family, responded to Taylor’s statement in a text message to WFLA.
“None of this may have made a difference with respect to Brian’s life but it certainly would have prevented all of the false accusations leveled by so many against Chris and Roberta with respect to ‘hiding’ Brian or otherwise financing an ‘escape,'” he said.
Taylor noted that the department admitted to the mix-up because police wanted the public to better understand why they thought Laundrie was home that week. North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said during a Sept. 16 news conference that officers knew where Laundrie was.
“[The mix-up] was a direct result of a lack of cooperation from the family early on in this investigation,” Taylor said.
The North Port spokesman previously told WFLA that the Laundrie family would not speak to police who visited their home on Sept. 11, the night Gabby Petito was reported missing. He said they only handed over information for their attorney that night.
“You can’t blame the family because the police didn’t know enough to follow someone they were obviously surveilling,” Bertolino said.
Police confused Roberta Laundrie for her son on Sept. 15, Taylor said — two days before the missing person report for Laundrie was filed but several days after he actually went missing, according to the family’s attorney. Sept. 15 is also the day Laundrie was named a person of interest in the disappearance of Petito.
When Laundrie was first publicly declared missing, police said his parents had last seen him leave home to go hiking in North Port’s Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on Sept. 14. The Laundrie family’s attorney, Steve Bertolino, provided an updated timeline at the beginning of October and said the family believed their son actually left one day earlier, on Sept. 13.
Bertolino said last week he notified the FBI the night Laundrie failed to return home. He also said the parents went to the park on Sept. 15 and brought the Mustang home so it wouldn’t get towed.
After more than a month of searching for Laundrie in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park and connected Carlton Reserve, authorities found human remains last week. The FBI confirmed the following day that the remains were Laundrie’s.
“This is a tragedy for two families and any mistakes made by anyone or any entity involved should be acknowledged and used to train or educate others so the mistakes are not repeated,” Bertolino said.
Bertolino said Monday that the Laundrie family was grieving privately in Florida with their daughter Cassie. The parents were seen returning to their North Port home Tuesday afternoon.