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A man from New York who bears a striking resemblance to wanted fugitive Brian Laundrie told the New Yorker that U.S. Marshals busted into a cabin he was staying in, aimed their guns at him, and briefly detained him before letting him go.
Laundrie is wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for fraud-related charges and is a person of interest in the homicide of his fiancée, 22-year-old Gabby Petito. Petito’s death has attracted international attention, partially owing to the confusing circumstances of her disappearance and because, before her disappearance, she and Laundrie were posting about their “van life” cross-country trip on social media.
Severin Beckwith and his partner were recently staying in a cabin in western North Carolina while hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Virginia, he told the New Yorker. The New York resident heard a knock at the door before U.S. Marshals burst into his room, he said.
“Next thing I see is a bunch of guys with riot shields with ‘U.S. Marshals’ written on them,” Beckwith told the New Yorker. “Handguns pointed at my face.”
A spokesperson from the U.S. Marshals told VICE News in a statement that the Marshals were acting in support of a tip received by the Graham County (North Carolina) Sheriff’s Office.
“In this instance, the Graham County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) in North Carolina had received a tip that the fugitive Brian Laundrie had been sighted in their jurisdiction,” the Marshals said. “GCSO asked the USMS task force to support them in making contact with the subject. The USMS was not the lead investigative agency in this matter and was acting in support of the GCSO.”
Law enforcement had been tipped off by an employee of the lakeside marina the couple visited earlier in the day on the spotting of a man who resembled Laundrie, Beckwith told the New Yorker. Earlier this month, a man in Haywood County, North Carolina, called 911 to say he had encountered a man in a white pickup truck that he was “99.99 percent sure” was Laundrie.
Beckwith was handcuffed before marshals were able to determine he was not, in fact, the 23-year-old wanted fugitive from Florida.
Petito was last seen alive checking out of a hotel in Salt Lake City on August 24. Laundrie arrived back in North Port, Florida, where he and Petito lived, on Sept. 1, and it wasn’t until Sept. 11 that Petito’s family in New York first reported her missing. Her body was discovered on Sept. 17 in Grand Teton National Park, but at that point Laundrie’s family had also reported him missing, less than a week after they had gone camping together at a beach near Tampa.
On Sunday, Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, told 60 Minutes Australia that she “thought Brian would take care of” her daughter during the couple’s cross-country road trip.
Asked what justice looked like for the family, Schmidt responded: "I want to get him in a cell for the rest of his life.”
In addition to possible sightings of Laundrie on and around the Appalachian Trail, authorities have been searching for weeks near Carlton Memorial Reserve near Venice, Florida. On Friday, local news reporters spotted law enforcement officials investigating the area and carrying large rifles into the woods.
On Monday, however, there appeared to be no police presence at the reserve. “This is an active and ongoing case headed by the FBI,” a spokesperson for the North Port Police Department told WFLA Monday.