A retired police officer is raising questions about how law enforcement handled the search for Brian Laundrie and the role that his parents played in locating evidence, The Sun reports.
In an interview with The Sun newspaper, retired NYPD Lieutenant Commander Tom Joyce blasted Florida authorities for not keeping a closer eye on Laundrie’s parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, where the 23-year-old’s skeletal remains were found on Wednesday.
That morning, Chris found a white bag belonging to Brian in a patch of grass by a park trail and an object near the bag, according to Fox News. Chris is said to have picked up the bag and object and put the object in the bag. He was then seen talking with Roberta before seeking the attention of police officers, who had been following the pair but were not immediately near them, according to the Sun.
Joyce told the newspaper that the notion of allowing Chris to go “walking off by himself during such a high stakes investigation is beyond me.”
“If this was my case and I walked in there with the suspect’s parents, I would never let them out of my sight,” Joyce told the newspaper. “Rule number one is that you do not let that person go until you know exactly what you’re dealing with.
“Because we know that when bodies or articles of evidence are waiting there, usually when the person who put it down or is responsible for it being there, or who knows it’s there, will find it when things aren’t moving quickly enough. It’s their way of accelerating the case.”
Joyce continued: “The whole thing is a mess. It’s a sh**show. The fact the parents found this article is so disturbing to me.”
Further in the interview, Joyce said that in his experience working hundreds of NYPD homicide cases, he has found that asserted coincidences are often not coincidences at all.
In the Laundrie search, police had already scoured the park for more than a month without identifying any solid leads before the discoveries on Wednesday.
“In my experience, every time an investigation came up, and there was like one thing happened, and another thing happened and someone said, ‘Wow, what a coincidence,’ nine times out of 10, coincidences were not coincidences.
“If I was leading the investigation as a supervisor to the agents, detectives, I would not let them dismiss that as a coincidence, unless they went through that 1000 times over,” Joyce told the newspaper.
Joyce further said that Chris Laundrie should not have been allowed to pick up or even touch the evidence that he is said to have found.
“He was supposed to secure the bag but not touch it. The law enforcement who went in with him should’ve specifically told him ‘if you see anything suspicious, do not touch it,'” Joyce told The Sun. “You’re supposed to just guard it and stand there so nothing happens to it. Then call out, whistle, shout or however they were supposed to stay in contact.”
Joyce added: “The fact he touched it means the evidence has already been interfered with. It’s now contaminated with his DNA.
“If law enforcement did instruct him to do that, and he still disregarded that and still touched it. I mean, he’s got a lot of explaining to do. And he’s gonna have to lawyer up.”
Steve Bertolino, the attorney for the Laundrie family, has vehemently denied that Chris and Roberta did anything improper.
Bertolino noted that the area where Brian’s remains and belongings were located was the same place the parents had suggested investigators look last month. The site had been difficult to search, however, because much of it was underwater from flooding.
“Indeed, this is the very area of the park that we initially informed law enforcement, on I believe it was September 17th, that Brian would be most likely in the preserve,” Bertolino told The Sun.
“Mr. Laundrie informed me that it was quite near the entrance . . . He put a time frame of about 30 minutes in . . . A mile or two into the reserve.”
Bertolino added that Chris Laundrie picked up the bag he found because he didn’t want to leave it with a news reporter trailing nearby.
“Chris didn’t want to pick the bag up because he wanted law enforcement to see it. This was caught on camera,” Bertolino told the newspaper.
“Chris couldn’t find the law enforcement because they were then out of sight, because Chris had been in the woods, so he didn’t want to leave the bag there with the news reporter standing nearby, so he picked it up.”
Bertolino acknowledged that Chris and Roberta “looked at the contents of the bag. At that time, law enforcement officers showed him a picture on the phone of a backpack that law enforcement had located also nearby, and also some distance off the trail.
“At that point, the Laundries were notified that there was also remains near the backpack and they were asked to leave the reserve,” Bertolino told the newspaper.
As for what happened to Brian, Joyce suggested that he could have died by accident or natural causes, such as from running out of food or being attacked by an animal. Suicide or homicide could be the cause. Or it’s possible that Laundrie died by toxic substance abuse or an internal injury.
“Considering the latest developments, the investigators have a lot of work still to do in this case,” Joyce told the newspaper.
As CrimeOnline reported previously, an autopsy on the skeletal remains was inclusive. The remains will be sent to an anthropologist for further analysis.
“Sometimes, the medical examiner can’t make a ruling. It’s just something that might happen. And so in that case they can’t say it’s a homicide. They can’t say it’s a suicide. They can’t say it’s accidental. They can’t say it was an animal attack. They might not be able to,” Joyce told The Sun.
It is also possible that alligators or other animals ate some of Laundrie’s remains. Joyce told The Sun that Laundrie’s body should not have decomposed so quickly under normal circumstances.
“If the remains are skeletal, that means the tissue has been pulled away from the bones,” Joyce told the newspaper. “Most likely by alligators, crabs, fish and stuff like that.
“That’s what it sounds like to me because it’s definitely not long enough time for it to go naturally.”
Joyce continued: “If it’s only a three to four week period and there are only skeletal remains and very limited tissue remaining, I would have to say there’s a lot a lot of activity that pulls all the skin and flesh and muscle and stuff away.”
Laundrie is a person of interest in the death of his fiancée, 22-year-old Gabby Petito, whose body was found September 19 in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. She died from strangulation and had been deceased for several weeks before being located, according to an autopsy.
Petito and Laundrie had been on a road trip over the summer in a camper van, but Laundrie returned to his parents’ house in North Port, Florida, on September 1 alone. At the time, he had refused to speak with police about what happened to Petito.
Authorities named Laundrie a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance. His parents reported him missing September 17 after they told police that he had gone for a hike several days earlier but had not returned. Police later named Laundrie a person of interest in Petito’s murder.
Laundrie was also wanted on charges of bank card fraud after he allegedly used Petito’s debit card after she died.
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Image: FILE – This Aug. 12, 2021 file photo from video provided by The Moab Police Department shows Brian Laundrie talking to a police officer after police pulled over the van he was traveling in with his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, near the entrance to Arches National Park. Laundrie, the boyfriend of Gabby Petito, whose body was found at a national park in Wyoming after a cross-country trip with him, has been charged with unauthorized use of a debit card as searchers continue looking for him in Florida swampland, federal authorities announced Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021. (The Moab Police Department via AP, File)