Debunking the relevancy of Yellowstone’s ‘Zone of Death’ to the Gabby Petito case

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Internet explorers are speculating on the so-called “Zone of Death” in Yellowstone National Park following the disappearance of YouTuber Gabby Petito, and whether this may play into the ongoing mystery.

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Ms Petito, 22, was reported missing when her fiancé, Brian Laundry, returned to her Florida home in early September without her. The couple were on a cross-country road trip before Mr Laundry returned to their home without Miss Petito.

The Zone of Death is a 50-mile strip in Idaho that has captured the imaginations of true crime enthusiasts, thanks to the claim that someone could technically get away with murder if they acted in the area.


The claim that someone in the area could get away with murder was popularized by Michigan State University law professor Brian Cult. In 2005 he wrote a paper called “The Perfect Crime”, in which he conducts an idea experiment about a strip of land in Idaho.

Mr Cult’s argument boils down to this: The Sixth Amendment guarantees that “in all criminal trials, the accused shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district in which the offense may have been committed.”

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No one lives in the Zone of Death, so the jury could not be assembled. However, generally all land, no matter how deprived, is part of a district within a state. Yellowstone National Park is an exception, as it extends to Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. The park is considered jointly within the District of Wyoming.

Mr. Cult argued in his paper that, under a strict reading of the Sixth Amendment, no jury could be assembled as it must be composed of people living in Idaho, but under federal jurisdiction of Wyoming, thus the sole People who would be eligible to serve on the jury would have to live in the death zone. But nobody does.

While this sounds like the premise of a crime thriller, and it has served that role in at least one book and one horror movie, it doesn’t really mean that a murderer can get away with their crime if they Do it in the field.

Mr Cult himself admitted saying politics that it “does not make killing in the area legal”.

“It just presents one reason why it can be hard for someone to prosecute successfully for it. But breaking the law is breaking the law, what happens to whoever does it,” he said.

Mr. Cult even went so far as to lobby Congress to change the law, making parts of the parks in Idaho and Montana part of the federal districts of their respective states. That effort proved fruitless, meaning the flaw still exists.

Loophole or not, a homicide would be prosecuted in the death zone.

“I don’t think the prosecution will simply give up,” he said.

Instead, any fictitious murder trial taking place in the zone will set a legal precedent for future criminal trials.

So how does the Zone of Death factor into Gabby Petito’s disappearance?

Feverish Internet spies have brought it into the conversation by creating a cascade of unproven assumptions about the case. At first, they believe that Ms. Petito is dead. Police are still treating the investigation as a missing person’s case, meaning they do not believe she is dead. There is no evidence that the offense has been committed.

Second, they believe that if she died, she was murdered. If Ms. Petito is dead, there are several ways she could have died while alone in the woods.

Third, they believe that if Ms. Petito is dead and murdered, that she was in Yellowstone National Park, and specifically within the Idaho portion of the park. Ms. Petito’s last known location was Grand Teton National Park, which is adjacent to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Her final text, sent on August 30, said, “No service in Yosemite.”

It’s entirely possible that Ms. Petito – or whoever sent the text, because her family doesn’t believe their daughter sent the last message from their phone – intended to say “Yellowstone”, because Yosemite National Park Grand Teton It is 12 hours away from National Park. .

However, this is an assumption. It is not currently known whether Ms. Petito was ever in Yellowstone, and a further assumption would be necessary to assume that she visited the Idaho part of the park.


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