Wyoming coroner: Gabby Petito’s cause of death was strangulation
JACKSON, Wyo. — Teton County Coroner Brent Blue announced 22-year-old Gabby Petito was strangled to death, following an investigation and autopsy.
“We hereby find the cause and manner of death to be the cause of death by strangulation and manner is homicide,” the coroner said in a press conference Tuesday.
Under Wyoming law, only the cause and manner of death will be released. Other portions of the autopsy, including photographs, will not be released.
Blue said investigators believe Petito was killed three-to-four weeks before her body was discovered on Sept. 19 near Grand Teton National Park.
When KSL’s Chopper 5 flew over the crime scene that day, a photographer spotted the remains above ground, but covered, possibly by a blanket.
Hiking shoes were on the ground next to the body.
While KSL has elected not to make that particular part of the video public, we did show it to someone who had worked numerous homicides.
“Oh, dozens,” said Kurt Morgan, a longtime Salt Lake County prosecutor. “Virtually every murder that I prosecuted, I went to the crime scene.”
Morgan came away with distinct impressions from this scene.
“This was quick. This was not sitting here for five or six hours, trying to figure out how to conceal a crime,” he said.
He also didn’t notice any obvious signs of a struggle on the ground.
“One of the things I’ve been seeing in this story is a history of these individuals getting into fights and she attacked him,” said Morgan. “I don’t see that here. All I see is one individual who suffered the damage and no evidence of injury created by her.”
Petito’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, is considered a person of interest in her disappearance and remains unaccounted for.
Morgan said it will ultimately take forensic evidence to place Laundrie at the scene.
With Petito strangled to death, he said that evidence could be any possible fingerprints or DNA left behind.
“And those things I would have to look at very, very carefully as a prosecutor,” he said.
The Teton County Coroner said DNA samples were taken from the body by law enforcement, but he would not comment on any suspects in the case.
Among the questions Morgan hopes can be answered eventually by evidence on the ground: Why there is no sign of conflict at the scene?
Was the body moved? In which case, he asks, why were there no signs of, say, dragging?
Why were hiking shoes just left there and not buried or disposed of?
Still, many more answers left to come out at some point.
Read more on the investigation here.
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