NORTH PORT, Fla — North Port police admitted to making some mistakes during their early investigation into Brian Laundrie.
According to WINK News, police saw Laundrie leave in his grey Mustang and believed they saw him return home days later. However, they now say they mixed up Brian Laundrie with his mother, Roberta Laundrie.
Josh Taylor, a spokesperson for the North Port Police Department, told WINK the department had already begun tracking Brian Laundrie back on Sept. 11 when Gabby Petito's family reported her missing. This included setting up cameras around the Laundrie home, according to the news station.
Police previously believed they saw Brian Laundrie leave his home in his Mustang on Monday, Sept. 13, then return on Sept. 15.
But on Friday, Sept. 17, Brian Laundrie's parents reported their son missing, claiming he had never returned from his hike.
So, who did investigators see step out of Brian Laundrie's car?
"I believe it was his mom who was wearing a baseball cap," Taylor said. "They’re kind of built similarly."
Taylor later explained that the mixup probably did not make much of a difference in the outcome of the case, as "there is a very good possibility that Brian was already deceased."
"This misidentification did not have a big impact on costs and the investigation. Other than confusion, it likely changed nothing," he said in a statement.
Taylor added that the department just wanted people to better understand why investigators thought they knew Brian Laundrie was in the home.
"It was a direct result of a lack of cooperation from the family early on in this investigation," he continued.
In response, the Laundrie family attorney, Steven Bertolino stated that "everyone makes mistakes. But Brian and Roberta are not 'built' the same" before adding that while the mixup may not have "made a difference with respect to Brian's life," it could have helped with the backlash his family faced.
"... 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,'" Bertolino wrote in a text to 10 Tampa Bay.
Bertolino also wrote that he agrees that Brian Laundrie may have already been dead when police realized they "lost track" of the 23-year-old. He added that law enforcement did their best to locate Brian and that their "efforts are appreciated."
"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 wrote.
The FBI confirmed last week skeletal human remains found in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park belonged to Brian Laundrie.
The remains were found near his belongings which included a backpack and notebook. The area where the remains and belongings were found had previously been underwater, authorities say.
Brian Laundrie was the only person of interest in the homicide case of his fiancée, Gabby Petito.
Detectives and FBI agents searched the vast Carlton Reserve area for more than a month, looking in the only place they had seen a sign of Brian Laundrie.
His parents helped search the reserve twice, each time with North Port officers. On their second attempt on Oct., 20, Brian Laundrie's father found a drybag and brought it to the officers. Authorities say the skeletal remains were found nearby a short time later.
The FBI positively identified Brian Laundrie's remains a day after on Oct. 21. His notebook is now a key piece of evidence in his death investigation.