Police Tried to Surveil Brian Laundrie — Then Lost Track of Him When They Confused Him for His Mom: Report

"They're kind of built similarly," North Port police spokesperson Josh Taylor said

A North Port Police spokesman is acknowledging that the department made mistakes in its handling of the Brian Laundrie investigation, according to new report.

Josh Taylor, the public information officer for the department, told WINK that police began tracking the 23-year-old's movements soon after his fiancée, Gabby Petito, was reported missing.

Taylor said police had surveillance cameras set up around the Laundries' home, intent on keeping a close eye on Brian, who returned home on Sept. 1 from a road trip with Petito, alone.

However, that plan failed.

Investigators tasked with keeping tabs on Laundrie apparently saw him leave his parents' house in his grey Mustang on Sept. 13. Two days later, when the car returned, they mistook Laundrie's mother for him.

"They're kind of built similarly," Taylor said.

At a press conference on Sept. 16, officials told reporters they knew where Laundrie was, and that they were confident he was in his parents' home.

Brian Laundrie
Brian Laundrie. Instagram

On Sept. 17, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie reported Brian missing.

"That was certainly news to us that they had not seen him," Taylor said. "We thought that we [had] seen Brian initially come back into that home on that Wednesday. But, we now know that that wasn't true."

Taylor alleges that Roberta drove Brian's car back, and was wearing a baseball hat at the time.

"They had returned from the park with that Mustang," Taylor says. "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. So the individual getting out with a baseball cap we thought was Brian."

What followed was a weeks-long search across a 25,000-acre nature preserve filled with snake- and alligator-infested swamps — a search on the dime of taxpayers.

"No case is perfect," Taylor says.

According to authorities, Petito died from strangulation while on a two-month-long, cross-country road trip with Laundrie, who was named a person of interest in Petito's disappearance on Sept. 15 — two weeks after he returned home alone.

The 22-year-old Long Island, N.Y., woman's remains were found in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park on Sept. 19.

Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie
Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie. Find Gabby/Facebook

The couple had spent the summer traveling across the country in a white van together, documenting their adventures on YouTube along the way.

Laundrie's family refused to meet with the FBI to discuss Petito's missing persons case, referring them instead to their attorney, Steven Bertolino, a longtime family friend.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie
Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito. North Port Police Department/Facebook

The Laundries told the FBI they last saw Brian on Sept. 13, after allegedly leaving their home to hike near where his body was ultimately found.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

Dental records were used to confirm that human remains found last week in Florida's Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park were Laundrie's.

The body was found next to a notebook and backpack he owned.

Laundrie was never charged with Petito's death or disappearance.

Related Articles