Gabby Petito was strangled to death by “human force,” the Wyoming coroner who oversaw the Long Island native’s autopsy said on Tuesday.
Teton County Coroner Brent Blue offered new details in the investigation into Petito’s cause of death during an appearance on CNN – hours after it was revealed she died by strangulation.
Paperwork offered more specifics, listing the death as “manual strangulation/throttling.”
“Throttling means that someone was strangled by human force,” Blue said on Anderson Cooper 360. “There was no mechanical force involved.”
“People can be strangled by other means,” he said. “We have seen people on snowmobiles who run into a wire – that would be strangling by a mechanical event. But this was, we believe this was strangling by a human being.”
Host Anderson Cooper asked how Blue knew it was a human responsible for killing Petito.
“Mainly because only humans have opposable thumbs,” Blue said. “There is no evidence that this was done by any animal as far as the cause of death.”
Petito, 22, had been dead for three or four weeks by the time her body was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest on Sept. 19, ending a weeklong search that drew national headlines.
Although officials ruled her death a homicide, the cause of death wasn’t revealed until Tuesday afternoon when Blue briefed members of the media on the results of the autopsy. But, he said under Wyoming statute he wouldn’t release further details.
Blue didn’t estimate the exact time of Petito’s death, and didn’t disclose details such as the condition of her body when it was found – or even if her remains were found buried or not.
And though he didn’t speculate about the potential involvement of Petito’s fugitive boyfriend Brian Laundrie, Blue said during his afternoon news conference that Petito’s was one of many deaths of “people who are involved in domestic violence” and it was unfortunate others don’t get as much attention.
Cooper asked Blue about those comments during his CNN appearance, saying it suggested Petito’s death was a result of domestic violence.
“That’s an assumption,” Blue said. “That was strictly an assumption.”
Petito was last seen alive sometime in late August while on a cross-country trip with Laundrie. But the trip was aborted and Laundrie returned home to his parents’ house in Florida without Petito early on Sept. 1.
He refused to cooperate with police when Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11 and vanished shortly after.