Gabby Petito autopsy: Forensic pathologist calls lack of information from coroner 'quite disappointing'

Former FBI agent on Gabby Petito case: Officials ‘working hard’ to make case ‘bulletproof’

Maureen O’Connell expressed her optimism surrounding the ongoing search for Brian Laundrie.

Forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht says Teton County, Wyoming, coroner Brent Blue’s brief Tuesday press conference discussing Gabby Petito’s cause of death was “quite disappointing,” citing a lack of information shared with the public.

Blue earlier this week announced that Petito died from manual strangulation, weeks after the FBI located the 22-year-old’s remains at Bridger-Teton National Forest, north of Jackson Hole on Sept. 19.

“I found the [press] conference by the coroner’s office there to be quite disappointing. I don’t know why, frankly, he conducted a news conference at all,” Wecht said.  Wecht said there were only two important details Blue announced: the cause of death as strangulation and the determination that Petito’s remains were discovered three to four weeks after she died. 

“Well, three to four weeks is no surprise because that was the period of time she was missing,” said Wecht, who also criticized the Warren Commission’s findings after former President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. “Strangulation is a diagnosis that requires some anatomical, pathological question, and every question he was asked, he said he could not answer … or [was] not permitted to answer. I don’t know why he held that conference.”

Gabby Petito (Credit: Find Gabby Facebook page)

Wecht added that Blue operates “a separate, independent office” and is a forensic scientist that is not part of any law enforcement agency or office. Blue quickly identified Petito and ruled her manner of death as homicide two days after the FBI discovered her remains.

“I am puzzled by the diagnosis of strangulation because that must mean that it was manual strangulation with some fracture of the hyoid bone or the thyroid cartilage, and he didn’t tell us that, so we’ll have to wait until somebody — Laundrie, specifically — is found, arrested and charged. … And then … we’ll come to learn what those findings were.”

Petito’s parents reported her missing eight days before her remains were discovered. The 22-year-old was traveling cross country in a Ford transit van with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, when she went missing.

Before her disappearance, Petito and Laundrie were recorded on Aug. 12 in Moab, Utah, police bodycam footage following an incident in which Petito takes blame for hitting Laundrie. Though she told police that Laundrie grabbed her face. In a statement given to Moab police regarding the same incident, a witness describes a male hitting and slapping Petito.

Laundrie, 23, returned home to North Port, Florida, on Sept. 1 in the van without Petito, and her parents filed a missing person report on Sept. 11. Laundrie is a person of interest in the case, and his whereabouts have been unknown for weeks. His parents reported him missing to North Port, Florida, police Sept. 17.

On Sept. 23, the FBI issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie, accusing him of bank card fraud. Authorities alleged at the time that he used an unidentified person’s Capital One card and the personal identification number to charge or withdraw over $1,000 between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1, a period when Petito was missing. 

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