NORTH PORT, Fla. - A nationwide manhunt remains underway for Brian Laundrie, who authorities say is a person of interest in the death of Gabby Petito.
The circumstances surrounding Laundrie's disappearance have prompted speculation about the alleged role his parents may or may or not have played in helping their son elude authorities.
Of particular interest is how Laundrie’s parents, Christopher Laundrie, 62, and Roberta Laundrie, 55, claim they picked up their son's Mustang car on Sept. 14 from the nature preserve that authorities are now sweeping for any trace of Brian Laundrie. Some have speculated as to why they would bring the car home, without their son, leaving him in a large nature reserve full of alligators and snakes.
The parents did not report their son missing until police showed up at their home on Friday, Sept. 17, three days later.
So far, Laundrie’s parents have not been charged with any crime, and experts say that could be a tall order under Florida law.
Per Florida Statute 777.03, a person commits a felony offense when they assist an individual to evade detection, arrest, trial or punishment after the fact. Relatives of the offender, however, are largely protected from being accessories. This would include the parents of Brian Laundrie, who now has a federal warrant out for his arrest for allegedly committing bank card fraud.
Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz told Fox News that many states have similar statutes because "there are a lot of people who think that parents' obligation to children comes first."
"For example, a woman or a man have a right not to testify against their spouse," Dershowitz said. "Now generally, that doesn’t apply to mother and child or father and child, but there are some people who think it should."
However, attorney Cory Baird told WESH-TV that while the parents are protected from any charges stemming from how they may have helped their son, "if they made misleading statements or lied to officers, obviously that’s a crime in Florida, and they’re not protected from that."
Baird said any such effort, if there were one, made by the parents to help their son could be a federal crime.
"Where you’re aware of a crime and you do your best to cover it up, or you don’t report it — that could be a federal crime in and of itself," he said.
Dershowitz cautioned against drawing any conclusions about Laundrie’s parents.
"We just don’t know what the parents did or didn’t do, what they knew, what they didn’t know," Dershowitz said. "We have to presume innocence."
Laundrie’s parents drove to Orlando on Thursday to meet with their attorney.
The FBI on Thursday said the U.S. District Court of Wyoming issued a federal arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie on allegations of debit card fraud between Aug. 30, 2021 and Sept. 1, 2021.
"While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito's homicide," FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a Thursday statement. "We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI."
Laundrie's attorney Steve Bertolino said it is his "understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise."
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