If Brian Laundrie is charged can his parents be held for aiding and abetting a fugitive?
Law enforcement has been characterizing the disappearances of Petito and Laundrie as 'multiple missing person investigations', according to a statement Friday from North Port police
The FBI said on Sunday, September 19, that human remains discovered in Teton County, Wyoming, were "consistent with the description of" missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito. Charles Jones, FBI Denver's supervisory senior resident agent in Wyoming, said, "Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100 percent that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified of this discovery." He added that the cause of death has not been determined.
Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue told CNN that an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, September 21, adding that officials would confirm the identity through photographs, personal identification, or DNA. Petito was visiting the Grand Teton National Park with her fiancé Brian Laundrie when she disappeared. Laundrie was declared a "person of interest" in the case, but not charged with any crime. He declined to speak to the police and disappeared a few days later.
The attorney for Laundrie's family reportedly contacted the FBI on September 17 indicating they wanted to talk about their son's disappearance. They said they have not seen him since Tuesday, September 14, police in North Port, Florida, said.
"For six days, the North Port Police Department and the FBI have been pleading with the family to contact investigators regarding Brian's fiancee Gabby Petito," police said. "Friday is the first time they have spoken with investigators in detail." The statement added, "It is important to note that while Brian is a person of interest in Gabby's disappearance, he is not wanted for a crime. We are not currently working a crime investigation. We are now working a multiple missing person investigations."
On Saturday, September 18, police searched a vast Florida wildlife reserve for Laundrie. More than 50 North Port police officers, FBI agents, and members of other law enforcement agencies searched the 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve (also known as the T Mabry Carlton Jr Memorial Reserve) in the Sarasota area of the Gulf Coast. Authorities used drones, sniffer dogs, and all-terrain vehicles in the reserve, which has more than 100 miles of trails, as well as campgrounds.
Can Brain Laundrie’s parents be arrested for abetting a fugitive?
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 who 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 has knowledge of the fugitive’s warrant for his or her arrest.
In Laundrie’s case, this will not be the case. Because Laundrie is not wanted for a crime, officials have said. Law enforcement has been characterizing the disappearances of Petito and Laundrie as "multiple missing person investigations," according to a statement Friday from North Port police. Add to the fact that at this point, authorities can’t comment on whether or not a crime has been committed. All of this complicates matters.
In the eyes of the media court, both Laundrie and his parents may look guilty. The former of the disappearance and the possible death of Petito. And the latter of helping him avoid contact with law enforcement authorities. But, Laundrie’s refusal to speak with cops and lawyering, bad as it may look to the general public, was perfectly legal. At the same time, it was his family that notified the authorities of his supposed disappearance, which has led to the manhunt.