Gabby Petito was strangled to death, a coroner said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“We hereby find the cause and manner of death to be: cause, death by strangulation, and the manner is homicide,” said Teton County coroner Dr Brent Blue said.
The coroner added that, under Wyoming state laws, no other information from the autopsy would be released other than the cause and manner of death.
The doctor said his office was “very exacting” in its examination and attributed the monthlong timeframe to waiting for help from specialists, including a toxicology report. The autopsy also included a whole-body CT scan, and examinations by a forensic pathologist and a forensic anthropologist.
Contrary to some speculation online, Petito was not pregnant.
While he declined repeatedly to describe any of the findings in detail, Blue did say that the body appeared to have been outside for “three to four weeks” prior to its discovery. “There will not be an exact date of death on the death certificate,” Blue said.
Petito’s remains have been transferred to a mortuary in Wyoming and the mortuary is coordinating to have them returned to her family.
The 22-year-old lifestyle blogger’s remains were found in Bridger-Teton National Forest on September 19. While Blue determined the manner of death to be homicide soon after, Petito’s cause of death wasn’t revealed pending the final results of the autopsy.
Petito and her 23-year-old fiancé, Brian Laundrie, had been on an extended cross-country road trip since July 2, embracing a camper van lifestyle popularised by social media.
Regular updates from the couple on Instagram and YouTube portrayed a relatively happy, carefree trip, but after Laundrie returned to his parents’ home in Florida on September 1 without Petito, that narrative quickly fell apart.
Petito’s parents reported her missing on September 11, more than two weeks after they last spoke to her on August 25.
After that last call, her family received two text messages from her phone they found suspicious: one on August 27 that refers to her grandfather by a name Petito never used, and a second on August 30 that said only: “No service in Yosemite.”
Body camera footage released by the Moab Police Department in Utah after she was reported missing shows the couple had been in a fight on August 12, during a visit to Arches National Park.
Officers declined to file any charges, instead separating the two for the night.
After his return, Laundrie refused to speak with authorities, then himself went missing after telling his parents on September 14 he was going on a hike at a wilderness preserve near their North Port, Florida, home. His whereabouts remain unknown and he’s considered a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance.
A federal grand jury indicted Laundrie for bank fraud in late September, linking Laundrie to the unauthorized use of a debit card, with withdrawals worth more than $1,000 during the period Petito went missing.
Petito’s case, and the intense media following it has generated, has prompted some to call out the massive disparity in how missing people are covered, particularly people of colour.
According to a report released in January by the state of Wyoming, where Petito’s remains were found, just 18% of missing Indigenous women over the last decade had any media coverage.
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