A look at the significance of Gabby Petito’s cause of death

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

Gabby Petito’s cause of death was determined to be by manual strangulation Tuesday, said the Teton County Coroner in Wyoming.

“That cause of death that will go on the death record is needed to upgrade this case from what’s basically a wire fraud case or illegally using a debit card to now potentially a murder charge,” explained Rich Kolko, WINK News Safety and Security Specialist.

The coroner’s report called Petito’s death by manual strangulation.

“You would have had a fracture of the hyoid bone or fractures and or fractures of the thyroid cartilage,” Dr. Cyril Wecht explained.

Wecht, who is a pathologist, says that is an important distinction for investigators. There would be a difference if, for example, it was determined to be ligature strangulation.

“Changes you can see… with the naked eye as well as microscopically,” Wecht said. “Those would be gone from three four weeks of exposure to the elements.”

The new timeline brings more attention to where Laundrie was after Gabby’s death.

“The FBI wants to know every place he was, every person he talked to and every place he stopped,” Kolko said. “And this helps build that timeline together. Now, they have to figure out what happened in that three to four week period.”

Kolko says, if the FBI gets that warrant, there will be even more fugitive publicity in this search. That means anyone who saw Brian Laundrie, even for a brief moment, will be asked to speak with investigators. It will all be in effort to build a timeline.

The coroner said law enforcement took DNA samples of Gabby. Kolko says those tests are critical, especially if Gabby fought back.

“That may show who the last person was that she was next to and who she fought with while she was being strangled, and if that’s Brian, that even seals the case more,” Kolko said. “It’s likely that they have enough information to now, once the DNA is analyzed as well as the rest of the information from the coroner’s report, to likely get a murder warrant on Brian Laundrie.”

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