A New York man was ambushed by federal investigators in his hotel room in North Carolina after the feds mistook him for late travel vlogger Gabby Petito’s fiancé Brian Laundrie, The New Yorker reported Monday.
Severin Beckwith, of Ithaca, New York, has been hiking the Appalachian Trail with his girlfriend since late September, when the couple decided to take a break from the woods at stay at the Lodge at Fontana Village Resort in Fontana Dam in western North Carolina.
The couple settled into their hotel room for a midday nap when they were awoken by knocking before the door was burst open, according to The New Yorker report.
“Next thing I see is a bunch of guys with riot shields with ‘US Marshals’ written on them,” Beckwith said. “Handguns pointed at my face.”
He added that he still was in his underwear when he was handcuffed and taken into the hallway.
Beckwith recalled a moment when he asked an employee at the Fontana Lake marina to use a phone to call for a shuttle to take them to the retreat two miles off the trail. The marshal showed Beckwith a photo that the employee had taken of him on the phone, side-by-side with a photo of Laundrie, The New Yorker reported.
“They had a little side-by-side,” Beckwith said. “It was Brian and then me on the phone calling to get the shuttle.”
Insider could not immediately reach the US Marshals for comment on the report.
Beyond the uncanny resemblance, Beckwith said there were more details that convinced the marshals that he could be Laundrie. He said one marshal touched the side of his head and noted that he had “a notch in the upper part of my inner ear just like his.” Beckwith added that he and his girlfriend – both from New York, like Petito – booked their hotel with a credit card linked to their New York addresses, “which, I guess, was good enough motive to come in,” he said.
But Beckwith didn’t have Laundrie’s hand tattoos nor did his ID have Laundrie’s name on it. He said the marshals took his fingerprints and suggested he shave his beard to avoid future encounters like this one.
He told The New Yorker he “immediately regretted” doing so “because I have much less of a chin than Laundrie does.”
Petito had been traveling in a converted van with Laundrie and was reported missing by her family on September 11. Laundrie returned to North Port, Florida, without Petito on September 1. He has been named a person of interest in the case, and he was reported missing by his family in mid-September. He remains missing.
An autopsy report found that Petito, a 22-year-old travel vlogger who was reported missing last month, died of strangulation, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue told reporters via a Zoom press conference last week.
On September 23, a Wyoming court issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie related to the Petito case. Laundrie is accused of unauthorized use of a Capital One debit card for purchases valued at $1,000 or more from August 30 through September 1, according to a grand jury indictment.