He said that the time of Petito’s death was estimated to be about three to four weeks before her body was found on September 19 in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. Blue provided few other details about her autopsy, though, saying he was limited in what information he could legally release.
Blue had previously ruled the manner of her death a homicide in his preliminary findings, but the cause of death had been pending further autopsy results, according to the FBI.
Blue announced the findings at a news conference about a month after Petito, 22, was reported missing in the wake of a road trip with her 23-year-old fiancé Brian Laundrie.
She was first reported missing by her parents on September 11, and after an extensive search, her remains were found on September 19.
Petito’s body was found a 5-to-10 minute walk from where her van was last seen in Wyoming, her mother Nichole Schmidt and stepfather Jim Schmidt said in an exclusive interview with Dr. Phil McGraw last week.
Laundrie has not been charged in the death of Petito, but he was indicted on charges of using two financial accounts that did not belong to him in the days following her death.
What we know about Petito’s final days
Petito called her mom regularly, and those conversations appeared to reveal there was “more and more tension” in Petito’s relationship, according to a police affidavit for a search warrant of an external hard drive found in the couple’s van.
On August 27, an “odd text” from Petito worried her mother that something was wrong, according to a search warrant.
“Can you help Stan, I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls,” the message read, according to the affidavit. Stan was a reference to Petito’s grandfather, who her mother said Petito never referred to that way, according to the affidavit.
“We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller said. “Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off.”
CNN obtained dispatch audio recordings from the Grand County Sheriff’s office last month that shed more light on what Moab police were told about “some sort of altercation.”
And on August 27, a witness described a “commotion” as they were leaving the Merry Piglets Tex-Mex restaurant in Jackson, Wyoming.
Petito was in tears and Laundrie was visibly angry, going into and out of the restaurant several times, showing anger toward the staff around the hostess stand, the witness Nina Angelo said. The couple’s waitress was also visibly shaken by the incident, said Angelo, who told CNN she did not see any violence or physical altercation between Petito and Laundrie.
A manager at Merry Piglets, who declined to give her name, did see “an incident” at the restaurant and called the FBI, she told CNN. The manager declined to describe what happened and said the restaurant did not have surveillance video of the incident.
The search for Laundrie
Investigators said Laundrie’s parents told them on September 17 that he had left home days earlier and was headed to the nearby Carlton Reserve — sparking a search of the nature reserve’s 25,000 acres. Initially, his parents said he left on September 14, but last week, Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino said, “We now believe the day Brian left to hike in the preserve was Monday, September 13.”
When he left, he didn’t take his cell phone and wallet with him, and his parents were concerned he might hurt himself, a source close to Laundrie’s family told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
At the time, Laundrie was not wanted in connection with a crime, but North Port Police spokesperson Josh Taylor said Laundrie had an “enormous amount of pressure” on him to provide answers in Petito’s disappearance.
The FBI searched the Laundrie home on September 20, removing a number of items and towing away a Ford Mustang convertible.
Attention then turned toward the Carlton nature preserve, where authorities combed through swampland filled with snakes and alligators, utilizing drones, dive teams and bloodhounds.
Laundrie’s father has participated in a search of the nature reserve for him, but he has no plans to assist in police searches and the couple will not take a polygraph test, Bertolino said.
CNN’s Kari Pricher, Jenn Selva, Christina Maxouris and Amir Vera contributed to this report.