Brian Laundrie likely killed himself as cops searched relentlessly for his missing fiancee, Gabby Petito, a Florida sheriff has revealed.

Laundrie, 23, had been the main suspect in Petito’s disappearance and murder after he arrived back home, alone, in North Port, Florida on September 1 from a cross-country road trip he embarked on with Gabby in her white 2012 Ford Transit van.

As cops searched for the missing 22-year-old – who was eventually found dead at the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming – Laundrie’s parents reported him missing on September 17.

They said he had gone to take a walk at a local nature preserve, where his remains were found on October 20 after an extensive search of the Carlton Preserve.

An autopsy was inconclusive, but according to the Herald Tribune, Sarasota County Kurt Hoffman has revealed that Laundrie went out to the preserve ‘and by all accounts probably committed suicide.’

The admission came at a community meeting in which North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison also defended his officers, who mistook Laundrie’s mother for the suspect before he was reported missing, saying it was ‘human error.’

Officers said last week Roberta Laundrie, Brian’s mother, had been wearing a baseball cap when cops mistook her for her son on September 15, two days before Brian was reported missing but two days after he actually disappeared from his parents’ home.

They noted that Roberta and her son were ‘kind of built similarly’, and said both issues were to blame for the mix-up.

At the meeting on Friday, Garrison said that once he learned that his surveillance team made a mistake, it was important for the agency to admit it.

‘As a leader what do I do?’ Garrison asked the members of the South County Tiger Bay, rhetorically. ‘Do I not tell the public what’s going on, do we conceal it, cover it up?’

‘No, people want transparency and honesty from their law enforcement officials,’ he said, according to the Herald Tribune. ‘Yes, we made a mistake. It was human error, but I still stand behind my team.’

Garrison reportedly also noted at the meeting that during the first three and a half days of the investigation, the North Port Police Department only played a supporting role, as cops throughout the country searched for Petito.

It wasn’t until that Wednesday, September 15, he said, that North Port became the lead agency in the investigation – which at the time was still considered a missing persons case.

‘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.

But, he said, ‘the surveillance team told me “Chief, Brian was seen going inside the house.'”

So when he spoke to the media the next day, he claimed he was aware of Brian’s whereabouts.

‘All I’m going to say is I know where Brian’s at,’ Garrison told reporters at the time. 

‘It was 100 percent in my belief that what the team told me was accurate and Brian was inside the house,’ he said at the community meeting on Friday.

‘Later on, we found out that Brian had left the house and now the parents on Friday wanted to report him missing.

‘There was nobody more surprised about that than me,’ he said. ‘In fact, when my officers went out to the house to do the report with the FBI, I sat with the deputy chief in my office hoping that they would find Brian hiding in a back bedroom.

‘I was hoping maybe it was a ploy,’ Garrison explained. ‘It wasn’t.’

Still, he stood by the efforts of the team.

‘As a 30-year [law enforcement] veteran, doing surveillance, this is not uncommon and if any expert out there says it is, they’re lying to you,’ Garrison told the crowd, according to the Herald Tribune.

‘I can tell you one thing,’ he continued, ‘the amount of work that was done behind the scenes 24 hours a day, from our team and the FBI working on the second floor of the police department was phenomenal work. 

‘The work led the search teams to locate Gabby Petito deceased,’ he noted, adding: ‘I want to remind everyone: our primary focus the first couple of days was to find Gabby.’

He said that he was ‘confident’ Laundrie would be found if he went running during the course of the investigation, noting: ‘People are making judgments on things that were discovered or learned over the last five weeks.

‘We didn’t know a lot of this information over the first four days.’ 

The extensive manhunt for Brian went on for almost five weeks, with a particular focus on the Carlton Reserve because his Ford Mustang had been parked there and it was an area he was known to go hiking.

But the search was incredibly difficult due to the swampy conditions, with the park full of alligators and snakes, and much of it underwater. 

Laundrie’s skeletal remains – said to include part of a skull – were eventually found on October 20 in an area of the swamp that, until recently, was under several feet of water.

His autopsy was inconclusive and cause of death remains unknown. A water-damaged notebook was found close to his body, whose contents investigators say may be salvageable, and which they hope could offer clues to Gabby’s killing.  

Experts say it had been expected that pinpointing his cause of death would be complicated because his body had reportedly lain in the water for some time. 

‘Forensic anthropologists are called upon when the environment has ravaged or removed the soft tissue,’ said Dr Heather Walsh-Haney, speaking to WPBF News. Is the most visited news, Trending Topics and current affairs website. All rights reserved to Maria Memon Media Group for all content published on this website.