Coroner says Gabby Petito was strangled to death; Laundrie lawyer releases comment

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed Gabby Petito’s cause of death Tuesday to be strangulation with the manner of death being ruled a homicide.

Petito was reported missing by her family on Sept. 11 after she did not return from a months-long cross-country trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie. Her remains were found Sept. 19 at a campground in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.

Dr. Blue stated Petito’s body “was outside for three to four weeks” before her body was found. The report released by the Teton County coroner specified the cause of death be manual strangulation/throttling, meaning someone strangled the young woman with their hands or another body part.

He did not comment on Petito’s condition at the time of discovery. While Blue did say her body was outside, he could not say if her remains were buried or exposed, explaining that the FBI would have to give the answer.

The coroner said DNA samples were taken by law enforcement. Forensic pathologists and anthropologists assisted in the examination in Teton County, Wyoming, according to Blue.

For the past month, Laundrie, a person of interest in the case, has been missing since Sept. 13 after going on a hike in the Carlton Reserve . A warrant for his arrest does not explicitly link Laundrie to Petito’s death, but alleges he committed debit card fraud between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1, around the time she was last seen alive.

“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,” Laundrie attorney Steve Bertolino said to 8 On Your Side Tuesday. “At this time Brian is still missing and when he is located we will address the pending fraud charge against him.” 

Blue said Wyoming state law does not allow any other information regarding her body’s trauma to be released. A death certificate is not being completed at this time, according to Blue.

Dr. Shelly Wagers is a former police officer and is now an Assistant Professor at USF’s Department of Criminology.

“I think myself, everybody’s been a bit anxious to hear what was the final ruling,” said Dr. Wagers.

Dr. Wagers explained why authorities may want to withhold key pieces of the investigation.

“In a high-profile case, the media is constantly looking for information, writing stories, and you don’t want to send information out there ..you wouldn’t want people to know, that could hinder that investigation or prevent you from having a strong prosecution later,” said Dr. Wagers.

Ex-FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer previously told News Nation Now that authorities will typically withhold autopsy findings so they can be used to corroborate confessions in murder cases.

“That is an ongoing investigation and those details are so crucial for the investigation,” Coffindaffer said. “Moreover, say that specific details are released —as an example, that she was strangled—and later, there are witnesses that say they thought they observed something perhaps, a strangulation. Did that come from this coroner’s report and specifics of that, or was it something they really saw? It is really important that those types of details are concealed in this type of case.”

One thing Blue did say was that Petito was not pregnant at the time of her death.

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