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INVESTIGATORS at the small Florida police department that led the five-week search for Brian Laundrie have admitted to making a series of mistakes that may have thwarted their probe into Gabby Petito's murder.
Laundrie, 23, was last seen alive on September 13 after telling his parents, Chris and Roberta, that he was going hiking in the Carlton Reserve, in Sarasota County, Florida but failed to return home.
Just over five weeks later, Brian's remains were found in a grassy stretch of land in Myakkahatchee Creek Park, which is adjacent to the Carlton Reserve, that had until recently been submerged in floodwaters.
During that time, police across the country were chasing leads and following up on potential sightings but failed to yield any concrete traces of him.
The breakthrough in the investigation only came when Brian's parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, agreed to join police in a search of Myakkahatchee on October 20.
Despite ground units, helicopters, cadaver dogs, and drones scouring the park for more than a month, it took Chris and Roberta less than 90 minutes to find a dry bag and another item belonging to Brian at the side of a trail.
Moments after, an officer was filmed telling the couple "I think we've found something" and advised them to return home.
It would later turn out that police had discovered skeletal remains belonging to Brian just yards away from where the couple had spotted the bag. A notebook and backpack were also recovered.
A cause and time of death have not yet been determined following an inconclusive autopsy last week. A forensic pathologist is now investigating Brian's remains, which are believed to consist only of a partial human skull and bones.
A spokesperson for the North Port Police Department, Josh Taylor, admitted to local media this week that officials made a series of potentially costly mistakes in the early days of their investigation into Brian.
One such misstep included investigators bizarrely mistaking Brian for his mother while they were surveilling the family home through secretly planted cameras.
According to Taylor, North Port Police began watching Brian after Gabby's family reported her missing on September 11 – ten days after he returned from their cross-country road trip without her.
On September 13, North Port Police watched Brian leave his parent's home in his grey Mustang, Taylor said.
Two days later, investigators thought they saw him return to the family home in the same car.
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