Gabby Petito autopsy: Cause of death was strangulation, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue says
Gabby Petito died from strangulation, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue revealed during a Tuesday news briefing, weeks after the FBI uncovered her remains at Bridger-Teton National Forest north of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Blue gave the manner of death last month as homicide. Brian Laundrie, her former fiance and the only person of interest publicly identified in connection with her death, hasn’t been seen since Sept. 13 and is the subject of a federal warrant for alleged bank card fraud.
The 22-year-old Petito’s remains were out in the Wyoming wilderness for three to four weeks, Brent said, without going into detail about the potential impact that had on the autopsy.
“We hereby find the cause and manner of death to be, the cause, death by strangulation, and manner is homicide,” Blue said. “By Wyoming state statute, no other information will be released about the autopsy.”
He did rule out rumors that Petito had been pregnant at the time of her death and stressed that information about a potential suspect would have to come from law enforcement.
The FBI’s Denver Field Office is leading the investigation into Petito’s slaying.
Blue declined to go into greater detail about the autopsy findings, citing Wyoming law.
Pat Diaz, a longtime Miami-Dade homicide detective, said the examiner likely reached the strangulation conclusion due to a broken hyoid, which he said could only be seen through an X-ray due to the body’s expected state of decomposition.
As of Friday, Petito’s remains were still being held in Wyoming, and Dr. Blue said the family was making arrangements for her return home.
“Bringing her home is the family’s top priority,” the attorney for her parents, Richard Stafford.
Authorities found Petito’s body near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on Sept. 19, near where a travel-blogging couple saw the Petito’s 2012 Ford Transit van parked in late August.
The discovery came eight days after her mother reported her missing on Long Island, New York, and 18 days after her fiance, Brian Laundrie, returned home to Florida without her.
“Gabby Petito’s death at such a young age is a tragedy,” Laundrie’s attorney, Steve Bertolino, said in a statement Tuesday. “While Brian Laundrie is currently charged with the unauthorized use of a debit card belonging to Gabby, Brian is only considered a person of interest in relation to Gabby Petito’s demise. At this time Brian is still missing and when he is located we will address the pending fraud charge against him.”
The couple grew up on Long Island and began dating after attending high school together. They later moved to North Port, Florida., where they lived with Laundrie’s parents. In June, they embarked on a cross-country journey in a converted white Ford Transit with the plan to visit national parks along the way.
But despite idyllic imagery shared to Petito’s social media accounts, the trip saw a number of TKTKs along the way.
On Aug. 12, witnesses called police on the couple in Moab, Utah, after allegedly seeing Laundrie slapping and hitting Petito outside an organic grocer just off Main Street. No charges were filed, but police told them to split up overnight and drove Laundrie to a hotel.
However it’s unclear whether he checked in. The owner told Fox News the room had been booked through a nonprofit for domestic violence victims and was not in his name.
Then in late August, in what was possibly the last public sighting of Petito before her death, eyewitnesses said they saw her crying as Laundrie fought with restaurant staff at Merry Piglets, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
On Sept. 1, months after they began their trip, Laundrie returned to the North Port home in the couple’s van, but without Petito, officials said. The young woman was not reported missing until 10 days later, on Sept. 11, when her mother notified police in Suffolk County, New York. Authorities later seized the van from the Laundries’ home.
Laundrie was subsequently named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance. His whereabouts remained unknown as of Tuesday afternoon. He has not been charged in her death.