Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old #vanlife blogger whose disappearance kicked off a national, TikTok-fueled media frenzy last month, died by strangulation, the coroner for Teton County, Wyoming, announced on Tuesday.
Petito’s body was found more than three weeks ago in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Her death was ruled a homicide at the time. Brent Blue, the coroner, said during today’s news conference that the body had been “outside, in the wilderness, for three to four weeks” before it was discovered.
That timeline appears to match up with when investigators believe Petito disappeared, at some point between August 27 and 30. Petito, who had been traveling across the country with her fiancé Brian Laundrie, was reported missing by her family on September 11, a week and a half after Laundrie had already returned — alone, in the couple’s van — to his parents’ home in Florida. Laundrie is considered a person of interest in this case; he is believed to have committed domestic violence against Petito on at least one occasion. His whereabouts have been unknown since mid-September, and he is currently the target of a manhunt by the FBI.
That the disappearances of Petito and now Laundrie have been the subject of outsized fascination can probably be attributed in part to the role social media amateur sleuths played in finding salient clues — and sometimes completely baseless speculative garbage — in the case, and in part to a sick national obsession with true crime. The response to Petito’s case also spurred questions about which missing women capture the public’s attention.
In light of the autopsy results, prosecutors will likely file murder charges in this case, says Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg.