Fact check: FBI confirms Brian Laundrie found dead, not arrested in Mexico

·5 min read

The claim: Brian Laundrie was arrested by authorities in Mexico

The remains of Brian Laundrie were found Oct. 20 at a Florida nature reserve, a month after he first disappeared after returning from a cross-country trip without his fiance, Gabby Petito.

Laundrie, 23, was identified by authorities as a person of interest in the death of 22-year-old travel vlogger Petito, who died by strangulation likely a month before her body was found Sept. 19 in Wyoming, according to her autopsy.

The FBI's discovery closes a case that has has generated widespread attention on social media. As law enforcement officials searched for Laundrie, conspiracy theories about his whereabouts regularly made the rounds online.

“Brian Laundrie found ALIVE in Mexico, according to US authorities,” read the headline of an Oct. 17 article from the Conservative Beaver. A day later, the site published another story titled, “Mexican Police confirm Brian Laundrie found in Cancun, Mexico.”

On the Facebook page Finding Brian Laundrie, one user wrote on Oct. 17, “He is in Mexico At Stan’s. Someone must be able to go there and check it out. Why is the FBI wasting so much time at the Carlton Reserve???!”

Meanwhile, other users shared photos that purportedly showed Laundrie dining at a restaurant with captions such as, “Supposedly Brian Laundrie is in Mexico! Blow this up!”

The FBI announced Oct. 21 that remains found in a Florida wilderness park were Laundrie's and that he had been identified with dental records.

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The Conservative Beaver and the social media users did not return requests for comment.

Laundrie confirmed dead

The search for Laundrie came to an end on Oct. 21 when the FBI confirmed his remains were discovered in the Carlton Reserve, nearly 25,000 acres of land in Florida's Sarasota County.

Claims that Laundrie was detained in Mexico were made ahead of the FBI's announcement. However, they were also inaccurate at the time they were shared and originated on a site that routinely publishes fabricated stories.

Florida's North Port Police Department, the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI never stated that Laundrie was detained.

Conservative Beaver claimed marshals announced Laundrie’s arrest on Oct. 17. However, marshals spokesman James Stossel told USA TODAY on Oct. 19 they are not aware of any such activity, and if Laundrie had been arrested, a public announcement would have been released.

North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor told the Sarasota Herald Tribune the human remains found in the park were likely Laundrie's, and the FBI later confirmed that.

Articles from the Conservative Beaver only cite anonymous “US authorities” and provide no evidence. The site has previously made fake arrest claims about former President Barack Obama, Pope Francis and billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, all of which have been debunked by USA TODAY.

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Unproven Laundrie sighting claims

Rumors that Laundrie was spotted alive in Mexico appeared online shortly after TV host John Walsh shared the theory during an interview, but there were no confirmed reports of him being spotted in Mexico, or anywhere else.

It is unclear when and where the image of the man eating at a restaurant was taken, and there is no evidence the photo actually shows Laundrie. Authorities have not confirmed any reported sitings of Laundrie, per NBC New York.

USA TODAY previously debunked claims that a Florida trail camera photo showed Laundrie.

Another man from New York who resembles Laundrie was recently held at gunpoint by marshals who mistook him for the fugitive, according to a report from The New Yorker. The man was later released.

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Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that authorities arrested Laundrie in Mexico. FBI officials said dental records confirmed the human remains found at Carlton Reserve were Laundrie's. Before Laundrie's remains were identified, no announcement of an arrest had been made by authorities. The claim originated on a site that has a history of publishing false information.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Brian Laundrie was not arrested by authorities in Mexico