Cause Of Gabby Petito’s Death Revealed To Be Strangulation

In a Tuesday news briefing, Teton County coroner Brent Blue confirmed what so many expected and feared – that Long Island native Gabby Petito’s death was a homicide by strangulation through “human force” after her remains were examined following their discovery weeks prior.

While Blue explained it is possible for strangulation to occur by other means, such as mechanical, paperwork explicitly states it was “manual strangulation and throttling,” which could not have been done by an animal.

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Appearing on “Anderson 360,” Blue told Anderson Cooper that Petito’s body was left in the wilderness for about three-to-four weeks, although the exact date of her death is difficult to pinpoint due to variables such as weather.

Important details, such as what condition the remains were found in or how the remains were found, were left out of the report. However, Blue confirmed that the autopsy revealed more information that was withheld from the public due to ongoing investigations.

Blue also explained that having to work on the case was “quite the media circus and continues to be,” and made an assumption that this was a case of domestic violence.

Speaking to Fox News, criminal defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh said that Petito’s strangulation will likely result in a first-degree murder charge for the arrested suspect – which all signs seem to be pointing is fiancee Brian Laundrie, 23, who was the last person to be with Petito, 22, in August.

“I think there’s a strong argument that if premeditation didn’t exist prior to the physical contact, it certainly was developed at some point during the strangulation.”

Criminal defense attorney Stuart Kaplan told Fox News that the autopsy has likely revealed enough information in private to either disregard Laundrie as a suspect, or connect him to the homicide. While Laundrie has yet to be charged for murder, he is the prime “person of interest” to the police and FBI, and is wanted for the unauthorized use of a debt card.

Laundrie and Petito, who both shared a love for nature, left from New York in mid-June for a four-month cross-country road-trip that would take them through multiple national parks and landmarks. Despite their engagement, the two appeared to have a rocky and unstable relationship at times.

On Aug. 12, the couple were pulled over by police for a domestic disturbance. Then, on Aug. 27, the two were once again seen fighting in a restaurant. Sources told ABC News that Petito left in tears while Laundrie looked “pissed off.”

The restaurant would be the last place Petito was seen alive, while Laundrie arrived back to his home in North Port, Florida on Sept. 1 in Petito’s white van – alone.

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After returning, Laundrie and his family were reportedly uncooperative with authorities. Laundrie then managed to slip away to go “hiking” and has been missing since Sept. 14. This resulted in a currently on-going nationwide manhunt that has specifically targeted the Carlton Reserve, which has more than 80 miles of hiking trails.

Despite the intense amount of coverage this story has received, there are still no confirmed sightings of Laundrie. Of course, there’s no guarantee that Laundrie is even still alive. Laundrie’s sister Cassie called him a “mediocre survivalist” in an interview with ABC News.

Additionally, WESH went over the numerous obstacles that Laundrie would currently be facing in the wilderness. The Reserve is home to dangerous wildlife such as alligators, bears, hogs, snakes, and even reportedly panthers.

Mix in other factors such as the “difficult” Florida climate, Laundrie’s likely decreasing state of mind, his lack of food, water, and supplies, and the overall outlook is potentially grim. The general feeling of survival experts that spoke to CNN is that Laundrie is no longer in the area, or he isn’t alive.

Has “Missing White Woman Syndrome” Played Into Gabby Petito’s Coverage?

In the past weeks, the nation has been captivated by the tragic story of Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito, a young engaged couple that had set out on a road trip to explore the natural west.

The van-dwelling, wanderlust-filled pair’s travels have ended with authorities discovering Petito’s remains in Bridger-Teton National Park, Wyoming, while a manhunt for Laundrie is still ongoing.

One of the more notable aspects of this saga includes the explosion of media coverage of the disappearance and the surrounding circumstances, along with fierce public reaction on social media platforms like Twitter. This has led to some claiming it to be a case of “missing white woman syndrome.”

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Termed by the late PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill, missing white woman syndrome, or MWWS, is the phenomenon of a disappeared or jeopardized white girl or woman, typically in the middle or upper classes, being given intense preferential treatment when it comes to news media coverage.

In contrast, the disappearances of individuals belonging to minority groups such as latinos, indigenous, and blacks are claimed to be given less intense coverage or completely overlooked altogether.

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology provided some evidence to support the MWWS theory, citing that blacks are less likely to appear in the news or have a significant amount of coverage.

Women, specifically caucasian, in the study were “consistently overrepresented on both the individual and article levels and across all sources.”

Syracuse University professor of communications Carol Leibler elaborated further on how MWWS has played into Petito’s coverage, noting her characteristics were just as important in attracting attention as the color of her skin:

“The causes for MWWS are complex and reflective of dominant ideologies of white supremacy and beauty ideals. It’s not just that Gabby Petito was white: She was young, thin, fit, blond. In other words, she fit societal definitions of beauty.”

Social definitions are also contested to be a reason for the sparse in-depth coverage of minority disappearances, particularly the prejudice notions that most black people are runaways or involved in crime.

There are other arguments as to why MWWS persists, one of which is a clear lack of diversity among journalists. In 2018, a Pew Research Center report found that non-hispanic white individuals make up three-quarters, or 77%, of newsrooms.

Additionally, a 2017 Women’s Media Center’s survey determined that women of color made up just 8.08% of journalists in the 661 participating newsrooms. Advocates for more diverse newsrooms feel that better senses and ideas regarding racial and social issues, along with a wider range of coverage, are more easily attainable in that kind of setting.

The heavily-discussed emergence of MWWS in the Petito homicide case has led to multiple journalists interjecting their own opinions, some of which resulted in disagreements over appropriateness.

In one recent instance, KTUV news anchor Frank Somerville was indefinitely suspended for attempting to bring awareness to how the disappearances of black people and other races are not given as much attention as white people are during a segment on Petito.

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Even Petito’s family hasn’t turned a blind eye to the racial inequality that has risen up in these horrific developments. Instead, they have used this as an opportunity to help others who are or have been in their situation.

Joe Petito, the father of Gabby, announced that the family is starting a foundation in honor of his daughter that is dedicated to help find missing individuals through “guidance and resources.”

Petito recognized the outcry of disparity in coverage during a press conference and sent a message to reporters, saying that “it’s on all of you” when it comes to providing help for those missing.