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Gabby Petito's last moments: Experts paint grim picture, say it was a ‘long’ process

Coroners revealed in an autopsy report on October 12 that the vlogger's cause of death was 'manual strangulation'
UPDATED OCT 16, 2021
A makeshift memorial dedicated to Gabby Petito near City Hall on September 20, 2021 in North Port, Florida (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)
A makeshift memorial dedicated to Gabby Petito near City Hall on September 20, 2021 in North Port, Florida (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

A forensic expert has offered that signs on Gabby Petito's body would have probably shown a "long and deliberate" death after the Long Island YouTuber was found to have died of strangulation.

Petito, 22, and her fiance Brian Laundrie, 23, were on a cross-country road trip when she mysteriously disappeared and her murdered remains were later discovered near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Coroners revealed in an autopsy report on Tuesday, October 12, that the vlogger's cause of death was "manual strangulation."


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According to Dr Dan Field, who has been an expert witness in strangulation and homicide cases, killing someone by strangulation is a "long and deliberate" process that takes roughly between 62 to 157 seconds depending on the severity of the attack. The doctor explained that victims may lose consciousness within the first five to 10 seconds of being strangled. This happens due to a combined lack of oxygen, reflexes, as well the obstruction of blood flow to the brain. Seizures can occur between 11 and 17 seconds of being strangled. After 30 seconds, the victim is said to lose control of their organs. "It is surprisingly quick, but it's not a moment," Field explained to Fox News. "It's not a flap. It's not the pulling of a trigger." 

Petito was murdered at least three to four weeks before her body was found and had remained outside "in the wilderness" for a considerable amount of time, according to Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue. However, Dr Field believes some clues would have remained on Petito's body regardless. He explained how the coroner would have found a broken hyoid bone in the victim’s neck, bleeding within the muscles of the neck, or damage to the carotid or jugular artery.

Meanwhile, New York-based criminal psychiatrist Dr Ziv Cohen said that strangulation can also be unplanned, emotional, and impulsive. "Strangulation is a more intimate type of homicide, and so it generally points us in the direction of somebody certainly who knew her or who might have gotten physical with her," he told Fox News.

Shortly before Petito's last sighting, police responded to reports of a man slapping a woman in Moab, Utah, where they interrogated her and Laundrie. Bodycam footage from the police stop documented the ominous confusion inside the white Ford Transit van, which the couple had used to travel on their four-month trip starting July.


"We know that from the 911 callers, that Brian Laundrie was reported to be witnessed as striking her. And we know that she admitted on the bodycam footage that she scratched him," Dr Cohen said. "If there's been evidence of some interpersonal violence previously, it raises the likelihood of homicidal strangulation to a much higher degree. So I know that there were some issues between the two. Apparently, they were fighting their way across the country in the van."

"There's a lot of evidence, from the 911 calls, from the witnesses at Merry Piglets, and I believe there were other witnesses, that their relationship was spiraling out of control," he continued. "We know that he couldn't contain his behavior, even in a public place like a restaurant. When we shortly thereafter find her strangled to death, it does suggest a kind of intimate type of homicide, domestic abuse, type of homicide between a couple," Dr Cohen added.


Shortly after the autopsy results were made public, State Attorney for Palm Beach County Dave Aronberg noted that Petito's "cause of death was strangulation," which "most likely means that murder charges are imminent."