Brian Laundrie died by suicide before search for him began, Florida sheriff suggests

North Port police chief Todd Garrison had earlier claimed Laundrie was at his parent's home when he was named "person of interest" in Gabby Petito's case


                            Brian Laundrie died by suicide before search for him began, Florida sheriff suggests
Police gave a new timeline for Brian Laundrie's death by suicide, acknowledging errors made during the Gabby Petito case investigation (Instagram/ @gabspetito)

Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman told reporters at a panel in the South County Tiger Bay Club that Brian Laundrie took his own life at Carlton Reserve in North Port, Florida, from where his skeletal remains were discovered last month. His comment came in spite of the 23-year-old autopsy results turning up as inconclusive when it came to determining a cause of death. 

Laundrie, the boyfriend of 22-year-old vlogger Petito, had reportedly not been seen since September 14 and was confirmed 'missing' on September 17. This led police to search the nearby Carlton Reserve for Laundrie, the person of interest in Petito's death case, whose remains were found at a Wyoming Park by the authorities. The case began drawing national interest after Brian returned home to Florida on September 1 without his girlfriend after a cross-country road trip. On October 21, the FBI confirmed that the partial skeletal remains recovered from the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Florida a day earlier were Laundrie's after comparing his dental records. 

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Brian Laundrie 'probably committed suicide'

“That guy went out there and by all accounts probably committed suicide and he was right out there where we thought he was,” Hoffman said. “There was four feet of water out there at the time.” MEAWW previously reported that the attorney for Brian Laundrie's parents said an autopsy on their son's remains did not reveal a cause or manner of his death. The remains were then reportedly sent to an anthropologist to try and determine how he died. “I can confirm that the remains were being sent to an anthropologist for further evaluation,” lawyer Steve Bertolino said.



 

 

North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison also told members of the club that when he learned his department became the lead agency, working in concert with the FBI, to crack the Gabby Petito disappearance, their main focus was not Brian. “I want to remind everyone: our primary focus the first couple of days was to find Gabby. If Brian did go on the run, he would be found; I was confident of that,” he continued. “People are making judgments on things that were discovered or learned over the last five weeks. We didn’t know a lot of this information over the first four days.” 

He then addressed the controversy of the press conference he held five days after Petito had been reported missing, on September 16. In that conference, Garrison told reporters that he knew where Brian was, believing that he was still at his parent's house. However, in reality, according to family attorney Steven Bertolino, Brian left his home on 12 September, "visibly upset."

North Port Police Chief addresses 'human error'

When the timeline of events became clear, the obvious question arose as to why Garrison claimed he knew where Laundrie was located when he had been missing for a few days. North Port police spokesman Josh Taylor previously revealed that Garrison drew the conclusion based on reports from police officers who claimed they saw Laundrie drive home in his silver Mustang. However, it was later revealed that the person officers saw was actually his mother wearing a baseball cap.



 

On Friday, Garrison gave a first-hand account of the error, taking responsibility for the same. "Brian had already left the house and presumably had already been deceased out in the Carlton Reserve,” Garrison said. “We are out there in the public for making a human error; the surveillance team told me 'Chief, Brian was seen going inside the house,'” he added. So when Garrison told media that he knew where Laundrie was, “It was 100% in my belief that what the team told me was accurate and Brian was outside the house."

"Later on, we found out that Brian had left the house and now the parents on Friday wanted to report him missing,” Garrison said. “There was nobody more surprised about that than me. In fact, when my officers went out to the house to do the report with the FBI, I sat with the deputy chief in my office, hoping that they would find Brian hiding in a back bedroom. I was hoping, maybe it was a ploy. It wasn't.” 

He defended his actions taken at the time. “As a leader, what do I do?” Garrison said. “Do I not tell the public what’s going on, do we conceal it, cover it up? No, people want open, transparency and honesty from their law enforcement officials,” he added. “Yes, we made a mistake it was human error but I still stand behind my team.”

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