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What if Brian Laundrie is never found? An uncomfortable truth begins to surface

Brian Laundrie never faced a court date or arrest, even though an arrest warrant is out in his name. As a result, he cannot be tried in absentia
Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie (Instagram/ @gabspetito)
Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie (Instagram/ @gabspetito)

North Port police and the FBI have been dedicatedly searching for murdered vlogger Gabby Petito's missing boyfriend Brian Laundrie for weeks but to no avail. They even invited his father, Christopher Laundrie, to join along in the search with the hopes that he will be found but have come up empty-handed so far. 

Petito and Laundrie had embarked on a cross-country trip back in July and on September 1, he returned home without her in the van they had traveled in together during the trip. He immediately lawyered up, refusing to cooperate with the investigators regarding the whereabouts of his girlfriend. Laundrie has reportedly not been seen since September 14 and was confirmed 'missing' on September 17. Since then, Gabby's body has been discovered in a Wyoming park by the authorities and her death was determined to be a homicide. 


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Laundrie, who has been named a person of interest in the case, disappeared after taking a hike into the Carlton Reserve, a couple of days after his fiancee Petito was reported missing. Although the FBI has scanned the alligator-infested swamps for days now, they have come up with little evidence of Laundrie camping out there. Tip-offs and possible sightings have been reported from all over the nation including Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and even neighboring nations like Mexico and Canada, but none of them have panned out yet. Both the Petito and the Laundrie families believe that the 23-year-old still alive wherever he might be hiding, but what will be the next course of action for law enforcement if he is never found?

Can Brian Laundrie be tried in absentia?


There remains the question of whether Laundrie can be tried in absentia for Petito's death if murder charges are brought against him and he is never located. When it comes to absentia trial in the US, Rule 43 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure dictates that if an accused flees during the course of a trial, they can be tried and convicted in absentia.

However, this particular rule does not apply to Laundrie as he never faced a court date or has been arrested, even though an arrest warrant is out in his name. As a result, he cannot be tried in absentia. Moreover, the 1993 Supreme Court ruling in Crosby v United States “prohibits the trial in absentia of a defendant who is not present at the beginning of trial”. This effectively means that Laundrie cannot be tried until he is found and brought in for a trial. 

Can Brian Laundrie's parents be charged?


Laundrie was charged on September 23 with unauthorized use of a debit card. At the time, Frank Figliuzzi, a former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI, speculated that Laundrie's parents would soon be summoned to a grand jury. "I would expect that to happen momentarily, see them in front of a grand jury, and then if they are not going to cooperate, they can get charged with contempt or obstruction," Figliuzzi told CNBC. "There is no parental-child privilege, and I actually thought, by now, we would see them summoned to the grand jury. We now have an indictment, it's a federal case."

There also seems to be a possibility that Laundrie’s parents may be arrested for abetting a fugitive if the authorities get evidence of that. Under both state and federal law, a person who knowingly hides a wanted criminal from law enforcement can be charged with harboring a fugitive. Harboring a fugitive occurs when an individual helps another person, who is suspected of or has been convicted of committing a crime, escape from being arrested or facing punishment. The law is also applicable when a person aids in hiding a person escaped from prison.

While the person who is accused of harboring a fugitive may not have been involved in committing the underlying crime, protecting those who have warrants for their arrest can result in serious consequences on both state and federal levels. But for one to be found guilty of this, prosecutors must show that the individual who was concealed had a federal arrest warrant issued against him or her and that the accused had knowledge of the fugitive’s warrant for his or her arrest.