Search for Brian Laundrie Leads to Confusion on the Appalachian Trail

Mistaken identity abounds

Appalachian Trail
A scenic view on the Appalachian Trail.
Josiah Gascho/Unsplash

What happens when a search for a fugitive becomes so wide-ranging in its scope that it ends up accidentally ensnaring a sizable number of entirely unrelated people? On and around the Appalachian Trail, that’s precisely what’s taking place.

Brian Laundrie, fiancé of the late Gabby Petito, has been sought by law enforcement for questioning regarding her murder for weeks now. There’s also a reward for information leading to his capture — and it’s been growing over time. As of this writing, the bounty in question might earn someone $200,000.

Some reports have suggested that Laundrie is hiding out along the Appalachian Trail. That, in turn, has led many hikers and others working in the area to keep an eye out for someone matching his description. The problem with that, as Charles Bethea observed in a new article for The New Yorker, is that many hikers on the trail match the same general description as Laundrie. (This includes a bounty hunter on Laundrie’s trail.)

The article brings up the experience of Severin Beckwith, who — Bethea writes — looks like Laundrie “in the way that most white male long-distance hikers resemble Laundrie: skinny and pale, with a shaved head and a beard.” The resemblance was close enough that an employee at the retreat where Beckwith was staying surreptitiously took a photo of him and sent it to the U.S. Marshals.

The marshals were able to determine fairly quickly that Beckwith was not Laundrie — though the process did involve Beckwith shaving his beard — and the retreat gave him a free night’s stay for his trouble. But based on the situation outlined in the article, it seems likely that he won’t be the last person incorrectly mistaken for Laundrie — which could take an alarming turn in the future.

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