Gabby Petito’s cause of death has been revealed as the search for her fiance continues.
Ms Petito, 22, died three to four weeks before her body was found September 19 near an undeveloped camping area along the border of Grand Teton National Park in remote northern Wyoming, Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue said in a news conference.
The cause of her death was ruled to be strangulation, Dr Blue said.
It wasn’t clear if the determination might lead to additional charges against Petito’s boyfriend and traveling partner, Brian Laundrie, who is considered a person of interest in her disappearance and remains unaccounted for.
Dr Blue declined to say more about the autopsy or the case overall, saying he was prevented by Wyoming law that limits what coroners can release.
Ms Petito had been on a cross-country trip with her boyfriend. She was reported missing September 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days while the couple visited parks in the west.
Dr Blue previously classified Ms Petito’s death as a homicide — meaning her death was caused by another person — but had not disclosed how she was killed pending further autopsy results.
Ms Petito’s case has led to renewed calls for people to pay greater attention to cases involving missing Indigenous women and other people of colour, with some commentators describing the intense coverage of her disappearance as “missing white woman syndrome.”
The search for Mr Laundrie has generated a frenzy, with TV personalities like Duane Chapman — known as Dog the Bounty Hunter — and longtime “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh working to track him down.
Ms Petito and Mr Laundrie posted online about their trip in a white Ford Transit van converted into a camper. They got into a physical altercation August 12 in Moab, Utah, that led to a police stop, which ended with police deciding to separate the quarrelling couple for the night. No charges were filed, and no serious injuries were reported.
Investigators have searched for Mr Laundrie in Florida and also searched his parents’ home in North Port, about 56 kilometres south of Sarasota.
Federal officials in Wyoming last month charged Laundrie with unauthorised use of a debit card, alleging he used a Capital One Bank card and someone’s personal identification number to make unauthorised withdrawals or charges worth more than $1,000 during the period in which Ms Petito went missing. They did not say to whom the card belonged.
In Florida, FBI-led search teams have been looking in a vast nature preserve for any sign of Mr Laundrie. Weeks of searching in the swampy Carlton Reserve south of Sarasota — where Mr Laundrie’s parents say he went after returning home from the west — have turned up nothing.
Laundrie family lawyer Steve Bertolino said in an email there was “nothing new” in the search.
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