Gabby Petito autopsy: Coroner identifies body as hers, calls death a homicide

·Senior Writer
·4-min read

A coroner in Wyoming confirmed Tuesday that the body found near Grand Teton National Park was that of Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old who was reported missing after her fiancé returned home from a cross-country road trip without her. 

The FBI initially ruled her death a homicide.

Teton County Coroner Brent Blue, who conducted a preliminary autopsy on Petito's body, said that his “initial determination” is that the manner of death was homicide.

The official cause of death is “pending final autopsy results,” the FBI said in a statement.

Brian Laundrie, Petito’s 23-year-old fiancé, was called a person of interest by police in North Port, Fla., where he and Petito lived with Laundrie’s parents before embarking on their trip. Laundrie was last seen on Sept. 14, when he told his parents he was going to a nearby nature reserve to meditate. His parents reported him missing three days later.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie. (via Facebook)
Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie. (Via Facebook)

The FBI executed a search warrant at their home Monday, a day after a body matching Petito’s description was found in the Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Authorities resumed their search for Laundrie in the 24,565-acre Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County on Tuesday.

Petito and Laundrie had spent months visiting national parks in their converted 2012 Ford Transit van, documenting the trip on social media.

Petito’s family, which lives on Long Island, said they lost contact with her in late August and reported her missing on Sept. 11 — 10 days after Laundrie returned home to Florida in the van without her.

Police seized the van and named Laundrie a person of interest after he declined to share “any helpful details.”

Petito’s parents have issued pleas for the Laundrie family to cooperate with authorities.

“We understand that you are going through a difficult time and that your instinct is strong to protect your son,” the Petito family said in a letter to the Laundries last week. “We ask you to put yourself in our shoes. We haven’t been able to sleep or eat and our lives are falling apart.”

FBI agents remove evidence from the family home of Brian Laundrie in North Port, Fla., on Monday. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)
FBI agents remove evidence from the family home of Brian Laundrie in North Port, Fla., on Monday. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

Steven Bertolino, a lawyer for the Laundrie family, had scheduled a press conference for Tuesday afternoon but canceled it after speaking to the FBI, he said.

Last week, police in Moab, Utah, released body camera footage of officers pulling the young couple’s van over near Arches National Park on Aug. 12 following a report of a “domestic problem” between the pair outside a natural food store.

The video showed Laundrie with scratches on his face and a visibly distraught Petito wiping away tears while telling one officer that the couple had been fighting and were struggling with “personal issues.”

“I’m sorry,” Petito told the officer. “We’ve just been fighting this morning. Some personal issues.”

After questioning the couple separately for more than an hour, officers concluded that Petito had been the aggressor in the incident, but neither Laundrie nor Petito wanted to press charges.

“I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis,” the officers concluded in their report.

They instead decided to separate the couple for the night. Laundrie was taken to a motel and Petito was allowed to stay in the van. The pair reunited soon after and continued on their trip.

According to audio from a 911 call released Monday, a witness told police that he saw Laundrie slap Petito multiple times in the parking lot of the natural food store. But the information was reportedly not shared with the officers who pulled the van over.

The case has garnered widespread national media attention — as well as criticism of news outlets for not covering similar cases involving people of color.

Gabby Petito (via Facebook)
Gabby Petito. (Via Facebook)

It has also drawn intense interest on social media, with online sleuths scouring the couple’s posts on Instagram for potential clues.

Before her body was found, Petito’s Instagram posts had been filled with comments hoping she would be found safe. 

And the most recent post on Laundrie’s Instagram account page — which remains active — was flooded with thousands of comments, many with a similar question: “Where’s Gabby?”

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