Brian Laundrie autopsy result likely shows he's responsible for Gabby Petito's murder, experts believe
THE confirmed suicide of fugitive Brian Laundrie shows he is likely responsible for the murder of his fiancée Gabby Petito, experts tell The Sun.
Laundrie's skeletal remains were found in Florida's Myakkahatchee Creek Park on October 20, just over one month after Gabby was found strangled to death at a campsite in Wyoming.
The remains, which were described as a partial skull and bones, were sent to a forensic pathologist for further investigation several weeks ago after an initial autopsy came back inconclusive.
The District 12 Medical Examiner's office finally reported its results on Tuesday afternoon, confirming that Brian had died by suicide from a single gunshot wound to the head.
"Chris and Roberta Laundrie have been informed that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head and the manner of death was suicide," Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino told The Sun.
"Chris and Roberta are still mourning the loss of their son and are hopeful that these findings bring closure to both families."
It's currently unclear where the gun Laundrie used to kill himself came from and whether or not investigators know where it is.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun, three different experts claimed that Laundrie's suicide indicates that he was responsible for Gabby's murder.
Former veteran NYPD homicide detective Tom Joyce said the corner's suicide ruling confirms "What we knew already about the case."
"I think we all know he was responsible," Joyce speculated. "He understood the gravity and low likelihood of getting away with it. He contemplated his options and felt this was the easiest way out.
"I don't consider it an absolute 'confession', though, which we should all wish he did before he took his life."
Ex-federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani agreed with Joyce, adding: "All the evidence tells the same story: that Laundrie killed himself after killing Petito.
"The only question is whether Laundrie left a suicide note and whether it is salvageable after being underwater, and whether the gun will ever be found."
Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, the former president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, also believes Laundrie's suicide is an admission of guilt over Petito's murder.
He told The Sun: "I believe he killed her out there [in Wyoming], and he came to realize there was no way out.
"And rather than talk about it," he continued, "he took his own life.
"It makes all the sense in the world. That's it for the case – done and dusted."
A number of questions do still remain in the case, even after Brian's cause of death was finally confirmed.
Chief among them is precisely what happened between Gabby and Brian on their ill-fated road trip touring the US national parks, and if Brian did indeed kill her.
Prior to his death, 23-year-old Laundrie was never named publicly as a suspect in her murder but was the sole person of interest in the case.
He also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest after allegedly illegally using Gabby's bank card, racking up charges of more than $1,000 in late August – days after she was strangled to death and left to decompose in the desert.
Rahmani, like Wecht, suggested that the outcome of Brian's autopsy marked the end of law enforcement's months-long investigation into Gabby's death.
"This is the end of the criminal investigation because all signs point to Laundrie and law enforcement can’t prosecute a deceased person," he said.
"The Petito family will never receive the criminal justice that Gabby deserved, but hopefully they will take comfort in the fact that her likely murderer is no longer alive.”
Joyce, meanwhile, said that while Gabby's murder case will be closed, investigators still have a few "loose ends" to follow up on.
"Gabby's murder will be closed with what's known as an exceptional clearance, or where the suspect and culprit is known but cannot be arrested – in this case, because he's dead."
One such lead investigators may wish to tie up, Joyce says, is locating the firearm Laundrie used to end his own life.
The former cop said: "I think they have a good chance of locating weapons if they do a grid search and dig.
"However, that will be commensurate with the level of effort and necessity of finding it."
It's unclear where Brian got the gun that he used to end his life.
A report by Fox News on Tuesday said that when his parents first reported him missing in mid-September, they turned over all the firearms in their home – but one was missing.
It’s unclear whether the missing gun is the one Laundrie used to kill himself. The family's lawyer has so far refused to comment on the matter, as has the FBI.
It's believed Laundrie killed himself within days of his disappearance on September 13. He told his parents he was going camping at Carlton Reserve but never returned.
His skeletal remains were then recovered at the nearby Myakkahatchee Creek Park on October 20, which had for weeks before been submerged in water. A notebook and backpack belonging to Laundrie were also found nearby.
Experts previously told The Sun that Brian's body was likely feasted on by alligators and other wildlife because a cadaver wouldn't decompose that quickly naturally.
They also said that Brian's notebook could hold clues as to what happened to Gabby and him, should its contents be salvageable.
Explaining how forensic pathologists were able to determine Laundrie's cause of death with only bones, Dr. Wecht said: "An advanced state of decomposition does not change an investigator's ability to identify a gunshot wound.
"There would've been an entry wound and possibly an exit wound too, depending on the condition of the skull.
"This isn't like a stab wound or a heart attack, where you need the tissue or organs to help make a determination – usually a gunshot wound determination can be made in a decomposed body."
What's more difficult, Wecht explains, is the distance at which the gun was fired and therefore whether Laundrie killed himself or was killed by someone else.
"The range of which it was fired is difficult without tissue and skin," Wecht said. "Investigators may have been able to determine [Laundrie] killed himself by finding residue on the skull, indicating the barrel of the gun was pressed against his temple."
Joyce pointed out that the location of the entry wound would also likely help investigators determine whether or not Laundrie killed himself.
"A determination of a gunshot wound to the head is common in situations like these, but without witnesses and video, suicide can be hard to determine.
"Assuming a skull was recovered, obviously, there may be an entrance and exit wound and both would have characteristics that would differentiate.
"That would also lend itself to trajectory and could the person have shot him/her self. For instance, if the entry wound is in the back of the head it wouldn't be likely and therefore the person had likely been executed.
"Whereas an entrance through the mouth, under their chin, or on their temple would likely be self-inflicted."
No further details have been released by police in relation to Brian's death. Police have also not disclosed, what – if anything – was recovered from Laundrie's notebook or backpack.
Specifically what happened between Gabby and Brian during their cross-country road trip is yet to be determined by investigators.
They had been around two months into their planned four-month cross-country road trip touring the US’ national parks before Gabby vanished sometime around August 27.
Brian quietly returned home to Florida alone on September 1, failing to alert police or Gabby’s family that she was missing.
Gabby was eventually reported missing by her mother in New York on September 11. That came after 10 days of allegedly being stonewalled by Brian and his parents about where her daughter was.
Brian then vanished himself on September 13, telling his parents he was going hiking in the Carlton Reserve. They described him as being "upset" and "out of sorts" when he left their home for the last time.
Six days later, on Sept. 19, Gabby's remains were found at a campsite near Grand Teton National Park.
A subsequent autopsy determined that she had been strangled to death by a "human force" around three to four weeks earlier.
A five-week nationwide search for Laundrie then ensued. While he wasn't named as a suspect in her death a warrant was issued for his arrest on allegations of bank fraud.
That search came to an end on October 20 after skeletal remains were found in Myakkahatchee Creek Park, which is adjacent to the Carlton Reserve, in Sarasota County, Florida.
Officials identified the remains as Laundrie's the following day.
The breakthrough in the investigation only came when Brian's parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, agreed to join police in a search of Myakkahatchee on Oct. 20.
Despite ground units, helicopters, cadaver dogs, and drones scouring the park for more than a month, it took Chris and Roberta less than 90 minutes to find a dry bag and another item belonging to Brian at the side of a trail.
Brian Laundrie timeline
Brian Laundrie has not been seen since the morning of September 13. Here is a timeline of Laundrie’s latest whereabouts:
- July 2021: Brian Laundrie and his fiancé Gabby Petito leave for a grip across the country. The couple visit numerous national parks across the way.
- August 12: Police in Utah respond to an incident involving the couple. The bodycam footage is not released for another month but it shows a visibly upset Gabby talking to police after reports of a domestic violence incident outside a grocery store.
- August 24: Gabby is seen leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Laundrie.
- September 1: Laundrie returns to his home in North Port, Florida without Gabby.
- September 6: Laundrie joins his family on a camping trip about 75 miles from their home in North Port.
- September 11: Gabby's family reports her missing.
- September 13: Laundrie leaves home to go hiking in Carlton Reserve, Florida. His family had initially said he departed on September 14, but revised their timeline weeks later.
- September 15: Laundrie is named a person of interest in the case of Gabby.
- September 16: Bodycam footage is released regarding the incident between Gabby and Laundrie.
- September 19: The FBI announces a body found at a Wyoming national park is believed to be that of Gabby's.
- September 23: The FBI issued a warrant for Laundrie's arrest claiming he "used unauthorized debit cards after Gabby Petito's death."
- September 26: A funeral is held for Gabby in New York.
- September 27: Dog the Bounty Hunter announces he will lend a hand and help search for Laundrie.
- September 28: Gabby's family held an emotional press conference as the search for Laundrie continued.
- October 5: Laundrie's sister, Cassie, appeared on Good Morning America and urged her brother to come forward.
- October 7: Laundrie's father, Chris Laundrie, assisted law enforcement in the search to find his son.
- October 12: Gabby's autopsy results were made public. Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue confirmed Gabby died by strangulation.
- October 20: Laundrie's personal items were found near the Myakkahatchee Creek Park trail in Florida. The medical examiner was called to the scene to investigate.
- October 21: Reports stated the human remains found in the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park were bones.
- October 21: The FBI confirmed the remains found have been identified as Laundrie's.
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