Severin Beckwith looks like an average man. He is of generally average height and build, with a mid-length beard and a bald head – a perfectly normal looking guy.
That is why US Marshals pointed guns in his face when they raided a hotel he was visiting in Western North Carolina.
Mr Beckwith was traveling with his partner, Anna Brettmann, along the Appalachian Trial, aiming to hike from George to Virginia.
According to The New Yorker, the couple was battered by rainy days and sleepless nights, so they sought shelter off the trail. The pair shuttled to the Lodge at Fontana Village Resort where they planned to catch up on sleep and restore their energy before heading back to the trial.
That plan was disrupted when the couple was awoken by a knock on their resort door. Before Mr Beckwith could even unlock the door, US Marshals, guns drawn and riot shields brandished, burst into his room, taking him into custody and rousing his partner from their bed. While another Marshal helped her get dressed, Mr Beckwith – with only his underwear to protect him – was led into the resort's hallway.
“Next thing I see is a bunch of guys with riot shields with ‘US Marshals’ written on them,” Mr Beckwith said. “Handguns pointed at my face.”
Mr Beckwith was fairly certain he was not a wanted criminal, but he did have a hunch as to why federal agents had stormed his room and taken him into custody; he looks a lot like Brian Laundrie.
Mr Laundrie has been missing for more than a month, disappearing just days after his girlfriend, Gabby Petito, was reported missing. Ms Petito's remains were found on 19 September in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
While Mr Laundrie has not been charged with Ms Petito's death – only for using her credit card fraudulently after she died – law enforcement is desperately searching for him, as he is the only person of interest named in Ms Petito's death.
Theories on Mr Laundrie's whereabouts have placed him everywhere from Canada to Mexico, the Appalachian Trail to a bunker beneath his parents’ backyard flower beds. Clearly someone had reported another sighting – Brian Laundrie just checked in to the Lodge at Fontana Village Resort.
Mr Beckwith's lack of knuckle tattoos and his personal ID papers eventually cleared him from further scrutiny from the US Marshals. One federal agent suggested he shave his beard to avoid further confusion or false sightings as he continued his hike along the Appalachian Trail.
The man did so reluctantly, noting he had less of a chin than Mr Laundrie.
Mr Beckwith believes that someone mistook him for Mr Laundrie and alerted the federal agents. The marshals showed him a photo that the witness discreetly took, showing him on his cell phone calling for a shuttle to the resort.
Maria Guzman, who met Mr Beckwith and his partner while hiking, said that does look like Mr Laundrie, but “so do thousands of people”. Apparently, his appearance became such a talking point during his hike that a fellow hiker wanted to give him “The Fugitive” as a trail name. Mr Beckwith apparently felt that was a little too obvious, and settled on “Not Brian” instead.
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