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Teton County coroner clarifies comments in Gabby Petito case after autopsy announcement

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by: Mahsa Saeidi

Posted: Oct 13, 2021 / 07:05 PM EDT / Updated: Oct 14, 2021 / 07:40 AM EDT

TAMPA (WFLA) - 8 On Your Side spoke directly with the Teton County, Wyoming Coroner Dr. Brent Blue about the autopsy of Gabby Petito on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Dr. Blue announced he had determined Petito's cause of death was strangulation with the manner of death being ruled a homicide.

Petito was reported missing by her family on Sept. 11 after she did not return from a months-long cross-country trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie. Her remains were found on Sept. 19 at a campground in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park.

She was last seen alive on Aug. 27, on that day, a video from Florida travel bloggers placed Petito's white van in the camping area close to where her remains were discovered.

On Sept. 21, the autopsy was conducted in Teton County. Within hours, authorities announced Petito's death was in fact a homicide.

Dr. Blue's office performed the autopsy with him personally interpreting the results.

"What factors led you to believe so quickly that this was in fact a homicide?" asked 8 On Your Side Investigative Reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

"We look at the scene, we look at the…. apparent injuries, we look at the whole situation," said Dr. Blue.

Three weeks later, Dr. Blue confirmed the cause of death: manual strangulation or throttling.

"Manual strangulation or throttling is strangulation by use of hands as opposed to mechanical strangulation," said Dr. Blue.

"How do you determine a finding of manual strangulation, what is the state of the body in general, that allows you to come up with that conclusion?" asked Saeidi.

"Well it's dictated by the type of injuries," the doctor responded.

Dr. Blue says, two things can occur during a strangulation.

"One is the cutting off of blood flow to the brain through the carotid arteries, the other is a collapse in the windpipe so the person can't breathe," Dr. Blue said.

While manual strangulation is often considered to be murder, there could be a set of facts that make it not murder, like self-defense.

8 On Your Side also asked Dr. Blue to elaborate on comments that appeared to identify a suspect in Petito's death.

"Unfortunately this is only one of many deaths around the country of people who are involved in domestic violence," said Dr. Blue during a zoom news conference with reporters Tuesday.

"Did you determine that her cause of death was the result of domestic violence or was that just, you know, a comment that you made in the moment?" asked Saeidi.

After the news conference, some assumed Dr. Blue was confirming that Laundrie was involved in Petito's death.

"That was a comment I made in the moment," he said.

Right now, the FBI and federal prosecutors are not releasing any more information.

Laundrie is still a person of interest in Petito's disappearance, and has been missing according to police since Sept. 17. According to police, his parents reported last seeing him last Monday, Sept. 13, in hiking gear. He has not been named as a suspect in the ongoing investigation. and law enforcement are looking for him.

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