(CN) — Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old cross-country traveler and YouTuber whose disappearance captured the attention of national media and fueled a frenzy among internet sleuths, died by strangulation, a Wyoming county coroner revealed Tuesday.
Investigators determined Petito's body was “in the wilderness for three to four weeks” following her death, Teton County Coroner Brent Blue said. He declined to release further details including the condition of the body, additional injuries, toxicology results and whether it had been moved from another location, citing state law.
Blue initially determined Petito died by homicide about three weeks ago, shortly after her remains were found near an undeveloped camping area at the edge of Grand Teton National Park in remote northern Wyoming, but his office required additional time to determine the cause of death.
“It was just a matter of making sure we had everything right,” Blue said via Zoom conference.
Petito's body underwent a full CT scan as well as exams by forensic pathologist and anthropologists, Blue said. The FBI also took DNA samples and sent evidence to forensic entomologists — experts in how insects aid in decomposition.
Blue responded to multiple questions from reporters asking about identifying pronounced signs of strangulation.
“In a situation like this, nothing is obvious,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Blue also remarked on the tremendous media attention the case has received and the lack of coverage for other cases involving domestic violence, especially when victims are people of color.
"It was quite the media circus and continues to be,” Blue said. “Unfortunately, this is only one of many deaths around the country of people who are involved in domestic violence.”
The disparity has been highlighted by social justice advocates as they criticize so-called “missing white woman syndrome” and lift up missing persons cases involving women of color.
More than 700 Native American people went missing in Wyoming alone between 2011 and 2020, according to a report from Wyoming’s Taskforce on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons. The taskforce also found white people were more likely to have an article written while indigenous people were more likely to have an article written about them being missing only after they were found dead.
Petito had been chronicling a cross-country road trip that began in July with her boyfriend, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, via YouTube. Laundrie eventually returned home to Florida without her on Sept. 1.
Laundrie remains a person of interest in the case and has been charged with unauthorized use of a debit card, but he has since gone missing himself. Authorities have focused their search on a swampy Florida preserve area, where about 75% of the area is underwater, where he reportedly went hiking.
Meanwhile, social media users continue to pore over the details of the case and internet content related to Petito looking for clues. Armchair detectives have dissected her Spotify playlists and bookmarked hikes, in addition to bodycam video released by police from a domestic violence incident involving the couple.
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