Cross-country traveler Gabby Petito was strangled to death, a Wyoming coroner announced Tuesday.
Petito, 22, died three to four weeks before her body was found Sept. 19 near an undeveloped camping area along the border of Grand Teton National Park in remote northern Wyoming, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said in a news conference.
This would put the time of death around the end of August, according to this timeline.
It wasn’t clear if the determination might lead to additional charges against Petito’s boyfriend and traveling partner, Brian Laundrie, who is considered a person of interest in her disappearance and remains unaccounted for.
You can watch the press conference in the player below or by following this link:
Blue declined to say more about the autopsy or the case overall, saying he was prevented by Wyoming law that limits what coroners can release.
Petito had been on a cross-country trip with Laundrie, visiting Colorado, Utah and other states. She was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days while the couple visited national parks in the West.
Petito’s mother last FaceTimed her daughter on August 24. And, Gabby was last seen with her fiance Brian Laundrie on August 27.
Blue previously classified Petito’s death as a homicide — meaning her death was caused by another person — but had not disclosed how she was killed pending further autopsy results.
A “detailed analysis” led to his conclusion Petito was strangled, Blue said. A group of medical experts took more than three weeks to confirm what happened to Gabby Petito at her time of death.
“This autopsy included a whole body CT scan, a examination by forensic pathologist, and examination by forensic anthropologist, and a toxicology evaluation. So it pretty much covered all the bases,” said Blue.
“Nothing is obvious in a case like this,” he said.
Blue said little more about Petito’s physical condition — including whether she may have been strangled directly by somebody’s hands, a rope or some other item — but noted when asked that she wasn’t pregnant.
“We hereby find the cause and manner of death to be, the cause of death by strangulation and manner is homicide,” Dr. Blue said.
WINK News anchor Lois Thome spoke to forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht about what Blue found during Petio’s autopsy.
Coroner Blue released Gabby’s remains to a funeral home. They will soon be returned to her family in New York. The family plans to host a private funeral for her once this happens.
Phone and email messages left with attorneys representing the Petito and Laundrie families seeking comment on the cause of death weren’t immediately returned Tuesday.
Petito’s case has led to renewed calls for people to pay greater attention to cases involving missing Indigenous women and other people of color, with some commentators describing the intense coverage of her disappearance as “missing white woman syndrome.”
The search for Laundrie has generated a frenzy, with TV personalities like Duane Chapman — known as Dog the Bounty Hunter — and longtime “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh working to track him down.
Petito and Laundrie posted online about their trip in a white Ford Transit van converted into a camper. They got into a physical altercation Aug. 12 in Moab, Utah, that led to a police stop, which ended with police deciding to separate the quarreling couple for the night. No charges were filed, and no serious injuries were reported.
Investigators have searched for Laundrie in Florida and also searched his parents’ home in North Port, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Sarasota.
Federal officials in Wyoming last month charged Laundrie with unauthorized use of a debit card, alleging he used a Capital One Bank card and someone’s personal identification number to make unauthorized withdrawals or charges worth more than $1,000 during the period in which Petito went missing.
Officials did not say to whom the card belonged, however, Laundrie’s lawyer did in a statement, “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.”
And, the FBI and US Attorney’s Office have the next move in the homicide investigation. As of Tuesday, Brian Laundrie has not been indicted in Gabby Petito’s murder and remains a person of interest.
Strangulation is what Linda Angelino believed would likely be Gabby’s cause of death from the beginning of the investigation.
“Not surprised,” Angelino said. “Being a nurse, I follow a lot of those shows and things like that, and for them to come out with homicide so quick, I knew she either had to be shot, stabbed or strangled.”
It’s something Angelino didn’t want to be right about, but she’s tied to Gabby’s story. Angelino is also a parent who has lost a child.
“I lost my own son at nine years old to an illness, and there’s nothing worse than losing a child ever, ever, ever,” Angelino said. “I think that’s why the community is so involved in this. I think a lot of people have their own children. They have daughters her age. They could be in the same predicament.”
It’s Wyoming state statute that the coroner does not have to release more information than that what was shared Tuesday, but as we get more information, more questions grow.
“The family needs closure, and I think the community needs closure,” Angelino said. “I think once he’s put where he belongs, people will be able to get on with their life.”
In Florida, FBI-led search teams have been looking in a vast nature preserve for any sign of Laundrie. Weeks of searching in the swampy Carlton Reserve south of Sarasota — where Laundrie’s parents say he went after returning home from the West — have turned up nothing.
There has been no sighting of the Laundrie family since Gabby’s autopsy results were released. The Attorney for the Laundrie family calls Petito’s death a “tragedy.”