Petito died of ‘death by manual strangulation/throttling’, the Teton County Coroner’s Office ruled; Brian Laundry remains a fugitive
North Port, Fla. – Some of the nation’s top expert forensic pathologists are raising their voices after Tuesday’s news that Gabby Petito had died as a result of “manual strangulation” and was released Wyoming She was kept in the wild for an estimated three to four weeks before she recovered, with a description of how a medical professional reached her conclusion.
Dr. Cyril Weicht has been involved in some of the nation’s most high-profile death investigations, including those of Presidents John F. Kennedy and JonBenet Ramsey. He spoke to Granthshala News Digital on Tuesday, shortly after Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue’s press conference and the office’s subsequent announcement that Pettito died of “death by manual throttling/throttling.”
A sign of manual strangulation, compared to ligature strangulation, would typically still be detected on a body that had been exposed to the elements for so long, Weich said Tuesday when reached by phone. Wecht spoke to Granthshala before the Teton County coroner’s office released an official cause of death determination document, and was predicting at the time that 22-year-old Petito had died of manual strangulation.
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“Manual strangulation creates more physical injuries than ligatures … You can strangle someone with a ligature without breaking the bottom,” Veitch said. “The ligature, he would not have been able to determine after three or four weeks because the soft tissue would have disintegrated and contracted, dehydrated, and the ligature, if there was one, may or may not be there.”
Wecht stated that there must be “anatomical defects of one or more fractures in structures in the neck”.
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During his afternoon press conference, Blue confirmed that a toxicology report has been completed, but would not discuss the results. She also said that Petito was not pregnant, but would not say whether her body was shaken. He would also not discuss at the time whether the throttle was manual or involved a ligature.
Blue pointed to the ongoing investigation, saying he was being prevented from sharing more information, including the cause and manner of death.
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Wecht, who said he had not seen the autopsy report, was critical of the lack of answers Blue had to provide, but said investigators had done “everything that was necessary.”
“They brought in experts, or the FBI did. Anthropology and radiology and entomology and toxicology, plus, of course, forensic pathology.”
Generally speaking, Weicht said that some of the signs that usually point to strangulation include fractures or defects in the hyoid bone, thyroid cartilage, and, in men, the Adam’s apple, among other structures in the neck.
He said that entomology, toxicology “has nothing to do with strangulation.”
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Authorities discovered Pettito’s body near Grand Teton National Park on September 19 and confirmed her identity just days later, when they announced she was the victim of a homicide. But he refused to disclose the cause of death. To this day, Petito’s body remains in Wyoming, as investigators have yet to release it to his loved ones, a Petito family spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
Earlier this month, noted forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden told Granthshala News Digital that the FBI’s decision to retrieve Pettito’s remains was “very unusual.”
“In 2021, Granthshala News contributor Baden said, “Where anything of value can be documented[ed], retained, tested on day one or two or three, there is no reason to keep the whole body away from the family.”
Baden, who served as chief medical examiner in New York City and chief forensic pathologist for the New York State Police, has been linked to several high-profile cases, including the ongoing investigation into the death of Jeffrey Epstein. He also served as chairman of the House Select Committee on the Forensic Pathology Panel of the Murders.
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When reached by phone Tuesday, he predicted that the coroner and law enforcement investigating the case “knew the day before the autopsy was performed that it was a strangulation and a homicide.”
He added: “There was no reason the body was still there.”
Baden went on to say that while investigators were collecting additional information, “all other information has more to do with it than what was the cause of death.”
Baden said one issue that could potentially arise is that analyzing DNA is likely “not going to help here unless they find someone else’s DNA.”
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“If they only find Brian’s DNA on the skin, on the nails, in the sexual assault kit, you’d expect to find people who have been living together for several weeks,” he continued. “Each DNA is on the other. . If they found DNA from someone else that shouldn’t have been there, that would be important in the investigation.”
Petito is believed to have been traveling cross-country with her 23-year-old fiancé, Brian Laundry, in a converted white Ford Transit when she was last heard from. Prior to her trip, she was living with Laundry and her parents in their North Port, Florida, home.
Petito and Laundry began their journey in mid-June and plan to visit national parks along the way. But Laundry, 23, returned to her northern port home without her fiancée on September 1 – 10 days earlier, at the end of which she was reported missing.
Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, reported her disappearance to Suffolk County Police in New York on September 11.
According to the woman’s family, Brian Laundry never called her to say that her daughter was not with them. Her parents reportedly ignored phone calls and text messages from the Petito family, including one telling the laundry they were going to call the police.
Investigators seized the white van on September 11 and later executed a search warrant at the North Port home.
Lawyers for the Laundry family announced on September 17 that Brian had gone missing on September 14 after telling his family that he was going to a local reserve. The family has since changed the date Brian was last seen to September 13.
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Shortly after his disappearance, authorities named Laundry as a person of interest in relation to Pettito’s disappearance at the time. On September 23, the FBI issued an arrest warrant accusing Laundry of bank card fraud.
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Following Tuesday’s news, Laundry’s attorney Steven Bertolino said in a statement that “Petito’s death at such a young age is a tragedy.”
“While Brian Laundry is currently charged with unauthorized use of a debit card belonging to Gabby, Brian is considered the only person of interest in connection with the passing of Gabby Pettito,” Bertolino said. “Brian is still missing at this time and we will address the fraud charge pending against him when he is found.”
The laundry is still absconding. He has not been directly charged with Petito’s death.
Granthshala News’ Paul Best contributed to this report.