Sheriff Says Laundrie Probably Died by Suicide

Police chief defends handling of case
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2021 4:48 PM CDT
Sheriff Says Laundrie Probably Died by Suicide
North Port, Fla., police officer block the entrance to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in North Port, Fla.   (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

North Port, Florida Police Chief Todd Garrison believes Brian Laundrie was probably dead before his officers started looking for him. Garrison, speaking on a panel with other law enforcement leaders Friday, acknowledged that his officers made a major error while watching the Laundrie home but defended the overall handling of the case, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports. The chief explained that his agency played a support role in the first few days after Gabby Petito, Laundrie's fiancee, was reported missing to authorities in New York. "Now, we know that, by the time we became the lead agency, Brian had already left the house and presumably had already been deceased out in the Carlton Reserve," Garrison said.

Officers, had, however, mistaken Laundrie's mother for Laundrie. Garrison said that when Laundrie's parents reported him missing, "there was nobody more surprised than me." The chief said that when his officers went to the home with the FBI, he was hoping "they would find Brian hiding in a back bedroom." "Yes, we made a mistake," Garrison said, per People. "It was human error, but I still stand behind my team." The chief said the "phenomenal" work from his team and the FBI led to Petito's remains being found, which was the main focus of the investigation in its early days.

The body of Laundrie, a person of interest in Petito's death, was found in a nature preserve near his parents' home on Oct. 20. Autopsy results were inconclusive. Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman, who was also on the panel Friday, praised Garrison and his department's handling of the case, noting that the chief was right when he said the search for Laundrie should focus on the nature reserve. "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." (A Laundrie family attorney says the 23-year-old was "extremely upset" when he left his parents' home.)

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