Gabby Petito's Autopsy Finally Reveals Cause Of Death

Gabrielle "Gabby" Petito was reported missing on September 11, 2021, ten 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 refused to talk to investigators about his missing fiancé's whereabouts, then went missing himself; he has yet to be located. Another compelling aspect of the story is its 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 camping spot 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, with many on social media thinking he 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, although what exactly happened is still a mystery, 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 had been 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, "We drove by, and the gentleman was slapping the girl," per audio posted by Fox News (via 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. 

The coroner took weeks to release more information

After Gabby Petito's remains were found, the FBI searched Laundrie's parents' home in North Port, Florida, on September 20, 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 "very 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. 

Reality TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter, who has helped with the effort to locate Brian Laundrie, told the U.S. Sun he had never seen autopsy findings take so long to release and wondered if it was "an act of mercy" amid a particularly brutal murder. Elsewhere, some who have followed the case closely and sought out clues on the couple's social media pages theorized Petito could have been pregnant. But that's all just speculation, as the story that captured the attention of the nation has raised more questions than it has given answers. 

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 wasn't saying much more. Blue's answer to several reporters' questions during Tuesday's 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 other than to say that she had been left "in the wilderness" for three or four weeks. Nor would he explain how he came to the conclusion 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.