Florida cops who publicly insisted they had eyes on Brian Laundrie amid the Gabby Petito investigation have admitted they actually mistook him — for his mother.
“They are built kind of similarly,” North Port Police Department spokesperson Josh Taylor told WINK on Monday regarding the huge blunder in a case that sparked national attention.
Police had set up around-the-clock surveillance last month outside the North Port home where Laundrie lived with his parents after the 23-year-old was named the sole person of interest in his girlfriend’s disappearance.
Cops, however, were heavily scrutinized after it emerged that Laundrie had slipped through their fingers when his own parents reported him suddenly missing — sparking a weeks-long manhunt that only ended last week when his remains were found in the sprawling Carlton Reserve.
Addressing the grave and costly mistake on Monday, a red-faced Taylor said “no case is perfect.”
Taylor said police had been tracking Laundrie ever since Petito’s parents reported her missing on Sept. 11 — more than a week after her boyfriend returned to Florida alone from their road trip.
Police said they watched him leave his home in his Mustang on Sept. 13 and claimed he returned two days later.
North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison insisted at a news conference on Sept. 16 that “we know where Brian Laundrie is at.”
But that all came crashing down the following day when Laundrie’s parents reported him missing, saying he’d set off on a hike on Sept. 14 and failed to return. His parents later said he had actually left the home Sept. 13.
Taylor has since admitted they were convinced they had witnessed Laundrie return to the home in the Mustang, “but we now know that wasn’t true.”
“I believe it was his mom who was wearing a baseball cap,” Taylor said of the person they saw.
The Mustang was later seized by authorities as evidence after the Laundries told police they’d gone to the nature reserve to collect the vehicle.
“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,” Taylor said.
“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.”
The attorney for the Laundrie family said Chris and Roberta are currently grieving their late son in an undisclosed location.
Laundrie’s remains — which were mostly bones following weeks of decay — were found in the nature reserve near his parents’ home on Wednesday.
Petito’s strangled body was found at a remote Wyoming campground on Sept. 19 and her death was ruled a homicide.
Laundrie was not charged in Petito’s death but had been named on a federal fraud warrant out of Wyoming for allegedly using her debit card to charge more than $1,000 during his drive back to Florida.