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Autopsy reveals Gabby Petito's death caused by strangulation

The 22-year-old woman's body was found in September in a remote area of Bridger-Teton National Forest.

TETON COUNTY, Wyo. — An autopsy concluded that Gabby Petito was killed by "manual strangulation," the Teton County, Wyoming, coroner announced Tuesday in a heavily anticipated news conference.

Dr. Brent Blue said the 22-year-old's manner of death has been confirmed as a homicide.

Blue estimated Petito died three or four weeks before her body was found. He was not able to say if her body was buried when she was discovered or above ground in the wilderness.

The autopsy revealed that Petito was not pregnant at the time of her death, which the public speculated when she disappeared, Blue said. 

He continued a thorough autopsy was performed to find the cause of death for Petito. It included a full-body cat scan, an exam by a forensic pathologist, an exam by a forensic anthropologist and a toxicology evaluation. Additionally, the FBI sent materials to a forensic ophthalmologist.

"We were waiting for various specialists to come in and help us with this investigation," Blue said when explaining why it took nearly a month for autopsy results, "It was just a matter of making sure we have everything right."

At this time, Blue says Petito's death certificate is not complete. The state of Wyoming allows for approximate dates and variability.

"I doubt there will be an exact date of death on the death certificate," Blue said.

Body located and a missing fiancé

A body that matched the description of Petito during search and rescue efforts was located on Sept. 19 in the Spread Creek Dispersed Area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. 

Federal investigators confirmed the human remains to be those of Petito on Sept. 21. Her death had been initially ruled a homicide.

The series of mysterious events that led to Petito's death has drawn national attention as law enforcement officials continue to search for the one person who they believe last saw her: Brian Laundrie, Petito's fiancé.

Following Tuesday's news conference on the autopsy report for Petito, Laundrie's family attorney, Steven Bertolino, released the following statement:

"Gabby Petito’s death at such a young age is a tragedy. While Brian Laundrie is currently charged with the unauthorized use of a debit card belonging to Gabby, Brian is only considered a person of interest in relation to Gabby Petito’s demise. At this time Brian is still missing and when he is located we will address the fraud charge pending against him."

The statement indicated Laundrie is accused of using Petito's debit card, a point not previously known.

From a cross-country trip to all-out search

On July 2, the couple journeyed across the nation in Petito's Ford sprinter van, documenting their adventures in national parks along the west coast for Petito's YouTube channel, her mother Nichole Schmidt told KSL-TV. 

In late August, that's when her family said they had their last conversations with Petito. Her father, Joe Petito, told North Port police she often checked in with her family and it was not like her to go more than three days without contacting someone. 

RELATED: TIMELINE | The disappearance and death of Gabby Petito: What we know

According to reports, Aug. 21 is the last time Gabby Petito FaceTimed with her father and stepmother. And only a few days later, Schmidt said her last FaceTime conversation with her daughter was Aug. 24, KSL-TV reports.

Laundrie returned to his North Port home where he and Gabby Petito had lived with his parents – Chris and Roberta Laundrie. He was driving her van, but he was alone.

Concerned because they hadn't heard from her, on Sept. 11, Gabby Petito's family who lives on Long Island, New York, reported her missing to the Suffolk County Police Department. That night, North Port police recovered Gabby's van at the Laundrie home.

It wasn't until Friday, Sept. 17, that the Laundrie parents told the FBI that Brian Laundrie said he was going to the Carlton Reserve earlier in the week but never returned home.

As the search for Brian Laundrie set in motion, Gabby Petito was still missing and her parents pleaded for answers regarding the disappearance of their daughter.

While Gabby Petito was found at the last known location where she was reportedly seen, the search for Brian Laundrie has been long-drawn-out for more than three weeks.

A federal arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie was issued on Sept. 23. According to a grand jury indictment, he used a debit card that didn't belong to him — now revealed to be Gabby Petito's, according to the Laundrie family attorney — making at least $1,000 in purchases. 

He did so on or about Aug. 30 through Sept. 1, the indictment says.

RELATED: Gabby Petito memorial taken down to make way for permanent tribute

Multiple people have reportedly seen Brian Laundrie, but none have proven demonstrably true. There have been sightings in the Florida panhandle and as far north as North Carolina after a hiker said he thinks he ran into him along the Appalachian Trail.

Remembering Gabby

A funeral service was held for Gabby Petito on Sunday, Sept. 26, in Holbrook, New York. The family asked for donations to the future Gabby Petito Foundation in lieu of flowers.

Her parents appeared on a two-part "Dr. Phil" episode on Oct. 5 where they called on Brian Laundrie, if he's watching, to turn himself in. Gabby Petito's family shared their knowledge of Brian Laundrie's potential "survival skills" and the heartwrenching moment Gabby Petito's stepfather had to identify her body. 

Recently, the Laundrie family's attorney, Bertolino, says Chris Laundrie – Brian's father – was asked by North Port police to help authorities search for his son at the Carlton Reserve.

According to Bertolino, the reserve has been closed to the public which prevented Chris Laundrie from assisting previously. Brian Laundrie's father assisted investigators with the search on Oct. 7, but they made no new discoveries.

After spending days using various equipment, technology, teams and K-9s to try to locate Brian Laundrie, efforts appear to have been "scaled back."  

RELATED: Where is Brian Laundrie? People's reported sightings span across the southeast

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