Gabby Petito's Autopsy Finally Reveals Cause Of Death

Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito was reported missing on September 11, 2021, 10 days after her fiancé and traveling companion, Brian Laundrie, returned home to Florida from the couple's road trip — alone. On September 19, her remains were found in a Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.

The story garnered national media attention in part because Laundrie — who quickly became the top suspect — refused to talk to investigators about his missing fiancée's whereabouts, then went missing himself, which set off the case's second search. Another compelling aspect of the story is that it had an almost made-for-TV component. The couple had been documenting their trip on social media, selling themselves as a young couple in love with nature, each other, and travel. Then, something went terribly wrong.

As the case unfolded, it was YouTubers whose tip led to the discovery of the missing woman's body, per The New York Post. Kyle and Jenn Bethune were filming as they were driving through the Spread Creek dispersed camping area looking for a spot to settle and happened to capture video of Petito's parked van and its location on August 27, 2021. Three and a half weeks later, Petito's remains were discovered on those same campgrounds.

Gabby Petito's death was ruled a homicide

When Brian Laundrie first refused to talk to investigators, there was much speculation about what happened to Gabby Petito, and many who followed the case quickly began to think that he must have killed her. After all, Laundrie was the only person known to be with her, and his elusive behavior in the aftermath further cast suspicion on him. And an autopsy on September 21 confirmed that Petito's death was a homicide, according to the FBI Denver.

One clue that all was not as perfect as portrayed on the couple's social media accounts was a Moab Police body cam video. The couple was pulled over for erratic driving in Utah, and it turned out that they were not intoxicated but rather having a physical domestic dispute while Laundrie was driving the van. Petito said she was the one hitting Laundrie, but a 911 caller who reported a couple in a white van with Florida plates said otherwise. "We drove by, and the gentleman was slapping the girl," he said in audio posted by Fox News on Twitter.

The caller said he stopped his car and watched as the couple got out of the van. He said, "They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her. Hopped in the car, and they drove off." On August 12, Moab police drove to the area to look for the couple in the white van with Florida plates.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

The coroner took weeks to release more information

On September 20 — the day After Gabby Petito's remains were found — the FBI searched Brian Laundrie's parents' home in North Port, Florida, where the couple had been living prior to their trip. Laundrie's parents and other family were reportedly being evasive with Petito's family after Laundrie returned without her and her parents tried to get information about their daughter's whereabouts, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Yet weeks went by with no more information from the Teton County coroner on how Gabby Petito was murdered. Renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden told Fox News that the fact that no new information about the cause of death was being released was "unusual," per The U.S. Sun. Baden speculated it could be because they wanted to make sure they weren't missing anything or making any mistakes.

The amount of time that passed before any official word on Petito's cause of death led to speculation. Some sought out clues on the couple's social media pages, which led to the theory that Petito could have been pregnant at the time of her death. 

Gabby Petito was strangled to death

Finally, on October 12 — a month to the day after the interaction with Moab Police — Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue announced (via Facebook/WFLA) that the cause of Gabby Petito's death was strangulation, but he didn't say much more. Blue's answer to several reporters' questions during a press conference was that under Wyoming law, coroners only release the manner and cause of death. He wouldn't say whether there were drugs found in her system, but he did confirm that Petito was not pregnant when she was killed.

When asked about the condition of her body, Blue would not elaborate and only said that she had been left "in the wilderness" for three or four weeks. Nor would he explain how he concluded that the 22-year-old had been strangled. He also would not clarify whether he thought Petito was strangled by someone's hands or with an object. But he said, "In a situation like this, nothing was obvious."

Blue also pointed out the media attention the Petito case has garnered. "Unfortunately, this is one of the many deaths around the country of people who are involved in domestic violence, and it's unfortunate that these other deaths did not get as much coverage as this one," he said.

Authorities discover Laundrie's body and a confession

According to FBI Denver, authorities were looking to search Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park north of Fort Myers, Florida, in early October 2021. The search didn't turn up anything conclusive until later that month when on October 20, an area that had been underwater during previous searches was reexamined. Brian Laundrie's parents found an item that had belonged to him. Authorities continued searching the area and eventually discovered human remains — later confirmed to be Laundrie's — as well as a notebook, a backpack, and a revolver.

The next month it was revealed by the family's attorney that Laundrie had died via a self-inflicted gunshot wound (via CNN). "Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head and the manner of death was suicide," attorney Steven Bertolino said. On January 21, 2022, the FBI provided a final update on the case as a review of the notebook found among Laundrie's possessions contained written confessions in which he admitted to killing Gabby Petito.

"All logical investigative steps have been concluded in this case," FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a written statement included with the final report. "The investigation did not identify any other individuals other than Brian Laundrie directly involved in the tragic death of Gabby Petito."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.