The FBI initially ruled his death as a homicide.
Teton County Coroner Brent Blue, who performed a preliminary autopsy on Petito’s body, said his “initial determination” was that the type of death was homicide.
The official cause of death is “pending final autopsy results,” the FBI said in A declaration.
Brian Laundrie, Petito’s 23-year-old fiancé, was identified as a person of interest by police in North Port, Florida, where he and Petito lived with Laundrie’s parents before embarking on their trip. Laundrie was last seen on September 14, when he told his parents he was going to a nearby nature reserve to meditate. Her parents reported her missing three days later.
The FBI executed a search warrant at their home on Monday, a day after a body matching Petito’s description was found in the Spread Creek Scattered Campground of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Authorities resumed their search for laundry at the 24,565-acre Carlton Reservation in Sarasota County on Tuesday.
Petito and Laundrie had spent months touring national parks in their converted 2012 Ford Transit van, documenting the trip on social media.
Petito’s family, who live on Long Island, said they lost contact with her in late August and reported her missing on September 11 – 10 days after Laundrie returned to Florida in the van without her.
Police seized the van and named Laundrie a person of interest after refusing to share “any useful details.”
Petito’s parents have asked the Laundrie family to cooperate with the authorities.
“We understand that you are going through a difficult time and that your instincts are strong to protect your son,” the Petito family said in a letter to the laundries last week. “We ask you to put yourself in our shoes. We haven’t been able to sleep or eat and our lives are crumbling.
Steven Bertolino, a lawyer for the Laundrie family, had scheduled a press conference for Tuesday afternoon but canceled it after speaking to the FBI, he said.
Police in Moab, Utah, last week released body camera footage showing officers pulling the young couple’s van near Arches National Park on August 12 following a report of a “domestic problem” between the two men outside a health food store.
The video showed Laundrie with scratches on her face and a visibly distraught Petito wiping away tears while telling an officer the couple had fought and were struggling with “personal issues.”
“I’m sorry,” Petito said to the officer. “We just fought this morning. Some personal problems.
After questioning the couple separately for over an hour, officers concluded that Petito had been the perpetrator in the incident, but neither Laundrie nor Petito wanted to press charges.
“I don’t believe the situation has escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis,” the officers concluded in their report.
Instead, they decided to separate the couple for the night. Laundromat was taken to a motel and Petito was allowed to stay in the van. The couple reunited soon after and continued on their journey.
According to the audio of a 911 call released on Monday, a witness told police he saw Laundrie slap Petito several times in the parking lot of the health food store. But the information would not have been shared with the officers who stopped the van.
The case has drawn the attention of national media – as well as media critics for failing to cover similar cases involving people of color.
It has also generated a lot of interest on social media, with online detectives scouring the couple’s Instagram posts for potential clues.
Before her body was found, Petito’s Instagram posts had been filled with comments hoping she would be found safe and sound.
And the most recent post on Laundrie’s Instagram page – which remains active – was inundated with thousands of comments, many with a similar question: “Where’s Gabby?”
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