TAMPA, Fla. - It’s been nearly one month since Gabby Petito’s remains were found at a campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The initial autopsy confirmed her identity and ruled her death a homicide, and Tuesday, the coroner said she died by strangulation.
Teton County, Wyoming Coroner Dr. Brent Blue revealed Petito’s cause of death during a virtual press conference regarding the final autopsy report.
Dr. Blue said he was not able to reveal how he came to the conclusion that Gabby died by strangulation because Wyoming law prevented him from going into those details. He was not able to say if the method of strangulation was manual or if any item was involved.
In his statements, Dr. Blue was able to say Petito's remains were likely outside for three to four weeks before being found. He said an exact time of death will not be determined for this case.
"We are only tasked with cause and manner of death," the coroner said when asked by John Walsh if the cause of death could lead to an arrest in the case.
When asked about the length of time it took to release the conclusion of the autopsy, Dr. Blue said his office had to wait for test results before concluding the report, including a whole-body CAT scan, toxicology reports, and exams by a forensic pathologist and a forensic anthropologist.
Blue confirmed Gabby Petito was not pregnant at the time she was killed.
Petito family reaction
Gabby's parents have said they still believe Brian is alive during a recent interview where they detailed the day they learned of their daughter's death. Her father, Joe, said Brian "didn't tell us" that he returned home in North Port with her van, and without Gabby.
The parents began frantically texting and calling Brian's parents, even thinking early on that Brian was also missing, Joe said.
"One of the texts, I mean, I was going to call the police. You know, ‘Just letting you know because we have no idea, no responses,’" Joe Petito said. "A normal parent, when you text someone that they’re going to call the cops because you can’t find your child, they would reply."
When asked if they believed "100%" that Brian Laundrie is in hiding, Joe Petito responded: "I do."
"Because he’s a coward. Flat out. I could use some other words, but I can’t use them on your show. Coward," he said. "Anyone that lived in that house is a coward, and they don’t know how to stand up for their actions.
As of Friday, Petito's remains were still being held in Wyoming. Blue said the family was making arrangements for her return home to Long Island.
"Bringing her home is the family's top priority," the attorney for her parents, Richard Stafford, told Fox News.
Gabby Petito memorial
Meanwhile, in North Port, the city continues to plan a permanent memorial to honor Gabby. In the days since Gabby’s disappearance, the local community responded by bringing flowers, pictures, and other items to the City Center Front Green, creating a makeshift memorial.
Over the week, Gabby’s family came to collect most of the items. On Tuesday, the city will take down what’s left. Eventually, the city will replace those items with a steel bench in Gabby’s memory.
Monday marked one month since Gabby’s family reported her missing, saying they had not been able to get in contact with her for over a week while she was on her cross-country road trip with Brian. One week later, on September 19, her body was found.
Gabby’s parents said it’s been a heartbreaking month.
"It was the hardest phone call that I've ever made in my life," said Gabby’s stepfather, Jim Schmidt. "I knew what to expect when we went out and what the strong possibility was. But still, nothing could really prepare you for that, for that moment."
Brian Laundrie disappearance
The attorney for Brian Laundrie and his family released a statement after Tuesday's press conference with the Teton County Coroner, saying:
"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."
As for Brian, his family reported him missing on Friday, Sept. 17, saying they believed he left home on Tuesday, Sept. 14 in his silver Ford Mustang. However, last week, his parents backtracked, saying they now believe the day Brian left for his hike in the Carlton Reserve was Monday, Sept. 13.
Attorney Steven Bertolino, the Laundrie family attorney, said the Mustang was back at the Laundrie home Wednesday, Sept. 15.
"Upon further communication with the FBI and confirmation of the Mustang being at the Laundrie residence on Wednesday, September 15, we now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday, September 13," the statement said.
Since then, authorities requested Brian’s dad, Chris, to assist in their search efforts.Last Thursday, he spent three hours with investigators at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, where the family thinks Brian was heading before he disappeared.
Investigators are still asking the public for help in locating Brian. They say he is a white male, 5-foot-8 and weighing 160 pounds. He has brown eyes, very short brown hair, trimmed facial hair, and was last seen wearing a hiking bag with a waist strap.
Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.
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