The North Port Police Department made a big mistake.
NPPD Chief Todd Garrison said on Sept. 16 that he and his officers knew where Brian Laundrie was, but they were mistaking the fugitive for his mother, Roberta Laundrie.
On Monday, NPPD spokesperson Josh Taylor admitted that the investigators who were tasked with watching the Laundries' house from the surveillance system they had set up saw 23-year-old Brian leave the Florida home and drive off in his gray Mustang on Monday, Sept. 13.
They thought they saw him return in the same car on Wednesday, Sept. 15, but according to Taylor, that person was "his mom who was wearing a baseball cap."
"They're kind of built similarly," he told Wink News.
Garrison was confident that Brian was inside his home when he spoke to reporters on that Thursday. That all changed the following day on Sept. 17.
"When the family reported him [missing] on Friday," Taylor explained, "that was certainly news to us that they had not seen him. We thought that we seen Brian initially come back into that home on that Wednesday. But we now know that that wasn't true."
Brian's parents, Chris and Roberta, initially told investigators they had not seen their son since Tuesday after he left for a solo hike at the nearby Carlton Reserve. Later, the family changed that date to Monday.
They drove Brian's car back from the nature preserve to their home on Wednesday.
"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."
He added, "No case is perfect."
Taylor had previously come out swinging against Chris and Roberta's attorney, Steven Bertolino, calling BS on the lawyer's claim that the FBI knew about Brian's missing status "from day one" and that there was "no discrepancy between the FBI and the Laundries."
Bertolino said there was "never any communication between myself and law enforcement" after that, but one could argue there would be no need for that since the NPPD was working so closely with the FBI on the case.
In response to Bertolino's claim, Taylor previously said that in "no way was any of the NPPD's actions, comments, or reporting reflective of the NPPD having information that Brian Laundrie was missing on that Monday the 13th."
"Please keep in mind that NPPD was an assisting agency until Tuesday night September 14th," he insisted. "I'm confident that if that were true, the information would have been relayed."
Bertolino said he realized there was confusion after authorities told him and the Laundrie parents on Sept. 17 that they had received a tip that Brian was in Tampa.
"They wanted to meet with us on Friday. I was shocked and said, 'That's good. You found him in Tampa,' and they said, 'What do you mean? I thought he's at the house,'" Bertolino recalled. "I said, 'No, I told you the other day he never came home.' And that's how it played out."
Brian's skeletal remains (and two of his personal belongings) were discovered at Carlton Reserve's Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park on Oct. 20, mere hours after Chris and Roberta decided to join the five-week search for their son.
He was positively identified, and an initial autopsy was conducted; however, the Sarasota County medical examiner did not uncover a cause or manner of death.
"I was told that the manner and cause of death were not determined and the remains were sent to an anthropologist for further evaluation," Bertolino said Monday.
He claims Chris and Roberta have not contacted or been contacted by either the NPPD or FBI since authorities informed Chris that a medical examiner had used a comparison of dental records to positively identify his son's remains.