- Gabby Petito’s cause of death was strangulation, a Wyoming coroner announced Tuesday.
- Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said her body was likely in the wilderness for 3-4 weeks before it was found.
- Petito had gone missing during a cross-country road trip with her now-missing fiancé Brian Laundrie.
Gabby Petito was strangled to death, a Wyoming coroner revealed Tuesday.
An autopsy report found that the 22-year-old woman’s cause of death was strangulation, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue told reporters via Zoom press conference.
Petito had gone missing during a summer cross-country road trip that the New York native took with her now-missing fiancé Brian Laundrie, who remains the subject of an FBI-led manhunt.
Her body was discovered on September 19 at a remote, undeveloped campground in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest nearby Grand Teton National Park.
Blue, who previously initially determined Petito’s manner of death to be a homicide and confirmed Tuesday that her death is classified as a homicide, said the “initial determination was the body was in the wilderness for 3 to 4 weeks” before it was found.
The coroner could not clarify whether Petito died of manual strangulation or not, saying “in the state of Wyoming, the autopsy results are not public knowledge.”
Blue would not comment on the toxicology report from the autopsy and confirmed that Petito was not pregnant.
The latest autopsy results were released a month after Petito’s mother reported her daughter missing to New York police on September 11. Her family lost communication with her in late August while she was on the “van life” road trip out West with Laundrie.
Petito and Laundrie, 23, set out from Petito’s hometown in Long Island, New York, on the road trip to national and state parks in a white 2012 Ford Transit converted camper van on July 2.
The pair heavily documented their travels on social media along the way, often using the hashtag #vanlife.
Authorities have said that Laundrie returned home to North Port, Florida – where he lived with his parents and Petito – on September 1 with the van the couple had been traveling in but without his fiancée.
Laundrie – the sole person of interest publicly named in connection to Petito’s disappearance and death – quickly retained a lawyer and refused to speak with authorities.
Petito’s family has said that Laundrie and his parents did not answer their calls and text messages in the days before they reported her missing.
Laundrie has been missing since September 13
Laundrie’s parents reported him missing to Florida police on September 17, first telling investigators that he went out for a hike with only a backpack at the nearby Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County on September 14 and never returned home.
His parents, Chris and Roberta, recently changed their story, and claimed that their missing son vanished a day earlier than they previously told police, the family’s lawyer, Steven Bertolino, had told Insider.
Authorities, including the FBI, have been searching for Laundrie at the 25,000-acre, alligator-infested nature preserve where his parents say he went for weeks, but have found no signs of him.
Last week, Laundrie’s father even joined authorities in the search at the reserve.
A federal grand jury in the US District Court of Wyoming indicted Laundrie on September 22 on a bank card fraud-related charge.
The single-count indictment against Laundrie alleges that he “knowingly and with intent to defraud, used one or more unauthorized access devices,” including a Capital One debit card, to spend at least $US1,000 ($AU1,362) from August 30 to September 1 following the death of Petito.
A lawyer for Petito’s family, Richard Stafford, has said that the bank card belonged to Petito.
“He ran, he stole her credit card, he used her credit card to get home, and then ran from the police. That’s going to show a lot what he was thinking back then,” Stafford had said during an interview on the “Dr. Phil” show.
Laundrie currently does not face any other charges.
In a statement Tuesday to Insider, Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino said Petito’s death “at such a young age is a tragedy.”
“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,” Bertolino said. “At this time Brian is still missing and when he is located we will address the pending fraud charge against him.”
Police bodycam footage showed her distraught on August 12
The first known signs of trouble on Petito and Laundrie’s trip came on August 12 in Utah when officers with the Moab Police Department responded to the report of a domestic dispute involving the couple, pulling them over near Arches National Park.
A visibly distraught Petito and an seemingly calm Laundrie told cops they had gotten into an argument in Moab that resulted in Petito slapping Laundrie, according to a police report and the initial police body camera footage the department released.
In the footage, officers can be seen considering whether to charge Petito with domestic violence. But they opted not to when she told them she didn’t intend to hurt Laundrie, who police said in their report had minor scratches on his face and right arm.
But in a 911 call about the same incident, a witness can be heard telling dispatchers with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office that he saw a man “slapping the girl.”
And according to a second police body camera video released by the Moab Police Department, Petito claimed that Laundrie had grabbed and scratched her face.
Ultimately no charges were filed, and police recommended that the couple spend the night apart.
The city of Moab, Utah, has launched an investigation into the police department’s handling of the incident.