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Coroner says Gabby Petito's cause of death was strangulation

Gabby Petito
Posted at 9:32 AM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-12 15:57:27-04

The coroner who conducted the autopsy on the remains of Gabby Petito said Tuesday that he had determined her cause of death to be a homicide by strangulation.

Dr. Brent Blue, the coroner for Teton County, Wyoming, announced his findings in a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

Blue added that he believed Petito had died between three and four weeks before her body was found on Sept. 19, placing Petito's time of death between Aug. 22 or Aug. 29. He also confirmed that law enforcement had collected DNA samples from Petito's body.

Blue noted that Petito's remains had been returned to a local mortuary, which was in contact with Petito's family.

The coroner did not release any other findings from the report — including a toxicology report — citing state statutes that prevented him from doing so.

Search teams discovered Petito's body near Grand Teton National Park on Sept. 19. Two days later, Blue's office confirmed the remains to be Petito's and classified her death as a homicide.

On Aug. 12, the Moab Police Department said officers encountered Laundrie and Petito near Arches National Park after receiving reports that the two had been in a physical altercation. Petito told officers that she had been "fighting all morning" with Laundrie, and Laundrie had visible scratches on his face. Officers chose not to file charges after the couple agreed to spend the night in separate places.

Petito's parents say the last time they heard from her daughter was on Aug. 25, when she said she was at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to the couple's Florida home in the van without Petito. After Petito's family filed a missing person report, Laundrie chose not to speak with authorities.

Days before search teams discovered Petito's body, police in Florida said they no longer knew where Laundrie was. Authorities initially centered a search for Laundrie at a Florida nature reserve but have since scaled back that search in favor of an intelligence-based approach.

Federal authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie, alleging he illegally used a bank card between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1. He has not been charged in connection with Petito's death, though he remains a "person of interest."

When asked directly Tuesday if he thought Laundrie was responsible for Petito's death, Blue noted that determining blame was not part of his job.

"Who committed the homicide is up to law enforcement," he said.

Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino provided the following statement to both ABC News and NBC News:

“Gabby Petito’s death at such a young age is a tragedy. 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."