Coroner confirms Petito likely killed weeks before her body was found

New details continue to emerge in the case of Gabby Petito, the New York woman who went missing while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.

Autopsy results released this week confirmed that Petito died of strangulation several weeks before her body was found in Wyoming last month.

“More anatomical injuries than a ligature”

Teton County coroner Dr. Brent Blue said on Tuesday that the manner of death is listed as a homicide, but he offered few additional details about the ongoing investigation.

Forensic scientist Cyril Wecht has since weighed in on the case with speculation regarding how Petito met her fate.

As he explained in a statement to Fox News, manual strangulation leaves signs that would have been detectible even after Petito’s body had been left in the woods for nearly a month.

Wecht noted that such an injury “produces more anatomical injuries than a ligature,” adding that “you can strangle someone with the ligature without breaking anything underneath.”

Had her killer used such a ligature, there would have been few traces because “the soft tissues would have been decomposed and shrunken, dehydrated and the ligature, if there was one, might or might not have still been in place,” he added.

Background on the case

The graphic analysis came as a manhunt continues for Laundrie, who disappeared just days after Petito was reported missing and is being considered a person of interest in connection with her death.

Plenty of speculation has swirled around the developing crime saga, including questions about whether Laundrie’s parents might have helped him evade authorities. He is facing charges related to fraud for allegedly illegally accessing Petito’s bank account.

Laundrie is said to have returned home to Florida alone on Sept. 1 in his girlfriend’s van. Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, reported her missing 10 days later.

For their part, Petito’s loved ones appear to believe the Laundries are hiding something, indicating that they ignored calls and texts from the missing woman’s parents when she did not return home. The Petito family has called on Laundrie to surrender.

Relatives held a memorial service for Petito near her hometown of Blue Point, New York, but the family has not yet received her remains, which are still being held in Wyoming.

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