Police may not name a suspect in the Gabby Petito case for awhile, as experts say they’ll face obstacles to finding and testing physical evidence

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito North Port Police Department
  • It could take a long time for police to name a person of interest in Gabby Petito’s murder.
  • Criminal justice experts said it may be difficult for police to collect evidence from her remains.
  • Joseph Giacalone, a CUNY professor, said police need to gather evidence from multiple crime scenes.
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Police may not name a suspect in Gabby Petito’s homicide case for a long time. Experts said investigators will face significant hurdles finding and testing physical evidence because it spanned across multiple states and her body was left in the wilderness for weeks.

Petito was reported missing by her mother on September 11 after her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, returned home to Florida from a cross-country road trip without her. Laundrie was named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance at the time, but her death has since been declared a homicide after Petito’s body was found in the Grand Teton National Park on September 19.

Laundrie himself has been missing since September 13 and has been charged with credit card fraud in relation to Petito’s disappearance, but he has not yet faced any additional charges in Petito’s death.

Criminal justice experts said it could take police a while to name a suspect in the murder case because gathering physical evidence will be difficult. Police have not yet released Petito’s official cause of death, and Joseph Giacalone, a criminal justice professor at the City University of New York, said he thinks they’re withholding it for a reason.

“If she’s strangled, the evidence is going to be limited,” Giacalone told Insider. “In the respect that you’re not going to have blood everywhere and you know, hair fibers, or all that other stuff.”

Giacalone said that once police find physical evidence, it could still be a long process to name a suspect because testing the evidence for DNA can take “a while to get back.”

Pulling physical evidence from Petito’s remains may also be difficult for investigators because it was left in Grand Teton for several weeks and may have become “very skeletonized,” according to George Kirkham, professor emeritus at Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“I don’t know what will be available in terms of forensic evidence after that stage of decomposition,” Kirkham said. Though Kirkham added police should be able to determine a cause of death.

Giacalone said police may face hurdles gathering evidence because they are dealing with multiple possible crime scenes including the area where Petito’s body was found and Petito and Laundrie’s van.

Police seized the van Petito and Laundrie traveled across the country in from Laundrie’s parent’s house earlier this month, and Giacalone said investigators will be “going over it with a fine-toothed comb.”

“Each scene will hold a significant piece of physical evidence that they will need to put this all together,” Giacalone said.