Gabby Petito autopsy: Coroner faces challenges in determining time, cause of death, says forensic pathologist


The body believed to be Gabby Petito will undergo an autopsy Tuesday as her fiance, Brian Laundrie, remains missing. Board-certified forensic pathologist Priya Banerjee joined “Fox & Friends First” on Tuesday offering her expertise on the key features of the autopsy and the potential challenges in determining the time and cause of death. 

“I would still approach this case like any other suspicious death, take fingernails, hair, any sort of sexual assault kit,” said Banerjee. “You just never know what can be found with further testing.”

“Then even with decomposition, sometimes the bugs found on the body and other tissue changes can even tell you help you along the lines for dating- bugs, soil elements that can actually, if a forensic entomologist gets involved, they can work backwards to try to deduce a better timeline for when she was killed.”

The body, consistent with the description of Gabby Petito, was discovered in Wyoming on Sunday. The 22-year-old was reported missing on September 11 after embarking on a cross-country road trip with fiance Brian Laundrie, who remains a person of interest, and is missing. 

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“Given the length of time, I just worried that everything’s going to not look like it’s supposed to be, hence the decomposition,” said Banerjee. “That can change not only the color of tissues, but it could potentially even hide surface defects.”

“Once we get inside, hopefully they can see, you know, remnants of blood discoloration, whatever else, bone trauma should be readily identified.”

Authorities have not been able to confirm yet if the body is Gabby Petito, but will carry out DNA testing to clarify the identity.

“The first thing to consider is that if we think about when she was last communicated with in late August, that leads quite a bit of time for her to be deceased and for the body to decompose,” said Banerjee.

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“So that’s going to make things a little bit more challenging.”

“But again, we don’t know exactly how she died. And so that’s going to be critical for the pathologist to really dive in, use all sorts of extra analysis, if you will, not only toxicology, potentially needing a forensic anthropologist, if bone traumas there, depending on the condition of the body.”

The FBI raided the Laundrie family home in North Port, Florida on Monday, where Gabby lived with Brian before embarking on their months-long road trip to tour national parks. 

Laundrie returned from the couple’s trip in the 2012 Ford Transit van they used together, on September 1, but without Gabby. 

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