Gabby Petito’s disappearance and death have raised many questions and sparked national interest, and authorities are scheduled to provide an update on her final autopsy report on Tuesday.
According to a news release from his office, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue will discuss the ruling on Petito’s autopsy at 12:30 p.m. local time (2:30 p.m. ET) and will follow up with a brief question-and-answer session.
According to the FBI, Blue previously ruled the manner of her death a homicide in his preliminary findings, but the cause of death remained unknown pending further autopsy results. Petito had spent the summer traveling across the Western United States with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23, and documenting their adventures on social media. Petito was not with Laundrie when he returned to the Florida home they shared with his parents in their van.
Her parents reported her missing on September 11, and her remains were discovered on September 19 in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest after an extensive search.
Petito’s body was discovered a five-to-ten-minute walk from where her van was last seen in Wyoming, according to her mother Nichole Schmidt and stepfather Jim Schmidt, who spoke exclusively with Dr. Phil McGraw last week. Her case has elicited heartbreak, outrage, and intrigue in many members of the public, but it has also drawn attention to the tens of thousands of missing persons’ stories that do not receive the same level of attention. According to the National Crime Information Center, there were nearly 90,000 active missing person cases as of the end of 2020. Few missing person cases receive the same level of urgency and national attention as Petito’s.
The mystery has been heightened by the disappearance of Laundrie, who, according to his parents, went for a hike in a nearby Florida nature preserve shortly after Petito was reported missing. Laundrie has not been charged in Petito’s death, but he has been charged with using two financial accounts that did not belong to him in the days after her death.
Petito’s final days appeared idyllic based on social media posts. However, after she was reported missing, reports of rising conflict between the couple surfaced.
Laundrie’s parents told investigators on September 17 that he had left home days earlier and was heading to the nearby Carlton Reserve, prompting a search of the nature reserve’s 25,000 acres. His parents initially stated that he left on September 14, but last week, Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino stated, “We now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday, September 13.”
Laundrie was not wanted for a crime at the time, but North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor said Laundrie was under “enormous pressure” to provide answers in Petito’s disappearance.
On September 20, the FBI raided the Laundrie home, removing several items and towing away a Ford Mustang convertible.
The focus then shifted to the Carlton nature preserve, where authorities used drones, dive teams, and bloodhounds to comb through swampland teeming with snakes and alligators.
After more than a week of searching for Laundrie, the FBI returned to his parents and requested personal items from him to aid in DNA matching. Bertolino, the Laundries’ lawyer, told multiple news outlets that they did their best.
Laundrie’s father assisted in a search of the nature reserve for him, but he has no plans to assist in police searches, and the couple has refused to take a polygraph test, according to Bertolino.
The discovery of Petito’s remains sparked outpourings of grief and memorials across the country, for both those who knew her and those who felt a connection to her.
In his eulogy, Joseph Petito described his daughter as a “happy girl” who people gravitated toward. She made others feel welcome, he said, and she enjoyed being outside, whether it was scuba diving, hiking the Appalachian Trail, or snowboarding down Colorado sand dunes.