Former DC homicide detective Ted Williams breaks down the evidence the FBI has to turn Brian Laundrie from a 'person of interest' to a suspect in Gabby Petito's strangulation.
The Wyoming coroner who conducted Gabby Petito’s autopsy briefly alluded to domestic violence during a Tuesday afternoon news conference in which he said at the start he would avoid going into detail about the investigation, citing state law.
"Unfortunately, this is one of many deaths around the country of people who are involved in domestic violence," Dr. Brent Blue said during a question and answer period. "And it's unfortunate that these other deaths to not get as much coverage as this one."
The remark came in response to a local radio host who asked him what it was like as a small-town official to play a central role in a high-profile homicide case that’s garnered national attention for more than a month.
"Can you speak on what it was like doing your job with such a big spotlight on you?" the reporter asked.
Blue called it a "media circus" and then veered into the topic of domestic violence and the massive attention Petito's case has attracted.
"I'm assuming that because the deceased was a blogger, that this received more coverage than others," he added. "But there are a lot of both men and women who have lost their lives that aren’t covered with this kind of media attention."
Blue said he was only going to release the cause and manner of Petito’s death and declined to delve deeper into the results of his autopsy’s findings, the toxicology report and other investigative matters.
While Blue declined to answer questions about whether Petito’s former fiancé, the Florida fugitive Brian Laundrie, could be identified as a suspect in her slaying, he appeared to acknowledge that domestic violence may have played a role in her slaying.
Addressing potential domestic violence in connection with the case was unexpected.
"He shouldn’t be concluding that," former Miami-Dade homicide detective Pat Diaz told Fox News Tuesday. "That’s just an assumption on his part."
But the assumption follows at least one documented incident involving Petito and Laundrie. Fox News Digital was first to report an alleged domestic altercation between the couple that took place on Aug. 12.
Officers responded to a caller who claimed to have seen Laundrie hitting and slapping Petito outside the Moonflower Co-op, an organic grocer in downtown Moab, just of Main Street, around 4 p.m.
Petito told a Moab police officer that Laundrie hit her in an exchange caught on bodycam video – but she quickly backtracked and claimed she struck him first.
"He like grabbed me with his nail, and I guess that's why it looks, I definitely have a cut right here," she tells the officer. "I can feel it, when I touch it it burns."
In the same video, an officer confronts Laundrie – who was sitting in the driver’s seat of Petito’s 2012 Ford Transit van.
"We got a call about a male hitting a female and the two of them getting in this vehicle and taking off," the officer says.
"I don’t wanna try and defend myself by saying anything here," responds a stuttering Laundrie. "I pushed her away. She gets really worked up, and when she does she swings, and she had her cellphone in her hands, so I was just trying to push her away."
Petito later told the officers that Laundrie had scratched her face, gesturing toward her jawline.
Police filed no charges after the incident but split the couple up and drove Laundrie to a hotel on Main Street in Moab. There is currently a federal warrant for his arrest on debit card fraud charges, but he has not been charged in connection with Petito’s slaying.
Jason Jensen, a Salt Lake City-based private investigator, predicted Monday that the cause of death could be strangulation due to Petito’s gesturing toward her chin and jaw.
"I wouldn’t be surprised that it’s manual strangulation," he said. "I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s choked her before. Any victim that’s been choked before — their natural reaction is to lower their chin to their clavicle to prevent that hand from going around their throat."
And that motion could have led to the scratches on her chin, he said.
An official report released by Blue’s office lists the official cause of death as "manual strangulation/throttling." The manner is homicide.
Laundrie's whereabouts have been unknown since mid-September.
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