Gabby Petito case: Coroner clarifies cause of death

Gabby Petito Case

NORTH PORT, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — A day after announcing Gabby Petito died by “manual strangulation/throttling,” the coroner who performed her autopsy explained what that means.

“Throttling generally means that it was done with human hands as opposed to an instrument,” Teton County, Wyoming Coroner Brent Blue told NewsNationNow.com. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be, but manual strangulation basically means it was not done with equipment.”

Petito died some time after Aug. 25, apparently while she and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, were on a cross-country road trip. Blue says her body was discovered nearly a month after she was killed.

“The situation where any body is out in the outside, whether it’s exposed to the elements and insects and animals, there (are) various forms of decomposition,” Blue said.

On Wednesday evening, the Petito family was traveling to Wyoming to pick up Gabby’s remains, NewsNation’s Brian Entin reported. He says Gabby will be cremated.

Brian Laundrie’s father, Christopher Laundrie, emerged from his home Wednesday to mow his lawn, but did not respond to questions asked by Entin.

The Laundries’ attorney, Steve Bertolino, issued a statement Tuesday via text, calling Petito’s death a tragedy, but noted again that Brian Laundrie is only a “person of interest” in her death.

“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,” Bertolino wrote. “At this time Brian is still missing and when he is located we will address the pending fraud charge against him.”

Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, rejected his comment.

“His words are garbage. Keep talking,” she wrote in a text to NewsNation affiliate WFLA reporter J.B. Biunno.

Blue declined to speculate whether he believed Brian Laundrie, was involved.

“We are only tasked with cause and manner of death,” he said in a virtual news conference Tuesday. “Who committed the homicide is up to law enforcement.”

At the Tuesday news conference, Blue brought up domestic violence. On Wednesday, he clarified his comments.

“There were indications that Gabby was in a relationship, a domestic relationship, which could play a part in this case, but I don’t have any direct evidence of that,” Blue said Wednesday.

He said only the cause of death, strangulation, and manner of death, homicide, would be released, per Wyoming law. Blue first ruled the death a homicide Sept. 21.

Petito, 22, was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days. Petito’s body was found Sept. 19 just outside Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Former FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer and Florida State Attorney Dave Aronberg join NewsNation Prime to talk about how this autopsy changes this case and the investigation. See the interview in the player below.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.

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