GABBY Petito's autopsy result shows signs of domestic violence and "deadly intent" after the blogger was strangled, an expert has said.
Gabby and her fiancé Brian Laundrie were on a cross-country road trip when she vanished and her body was later discovered near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
On Tuesday, the coroners revealed that the YouTuber's cause of death was "manual strangulation".
Dr Dan Field, an expert witness in strangulation and homicide cases, said killing someone by strangulation is a "long, deliberate" process.
He said it takes roughly between 62 and 157 seconds.
Dr Field said victims can lose consciousness within the first five to 10 seconds while being strangled – from a combination of lack of oxygen, reflexes and the obstruction of blood flow.
Seizures can occur between 11 and 17 seconds, and by 30 seconds, they lose control of other organs.
"It is surprisingly quick, but it's not a moment," Field told Fox News. "It's not a flap. It's not the pulling of a trigger."
Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue said Gabby was killed three to four weeks before her body was found and was outside "in the wilderness" for this time.
But Dr Field said some clues would have remained on Gabby's body.
He said there would be a broken hyoid bone in the victim’s neck, bleeding within the muscles of the neck, or damage to the carotid artery or jugular.
'UNPLANNED AND IMPULSIVE'
And Dr Ziv Cohen, a New York City-based criminal psychiatrist, said strangulation can also be unplanned, emotional and impulsive.
He said: "Strangulation is a more intimate type of homicide, and so it generally points us in the direction of somebody certainly who knew her or who might have gotten physical with her."
Just weeks before Gabby was last seen, cops responded to reports that a 911 caller had seen a man slapping a woman in Moab, Utah, where they interrogated her and Brian.
Harrowing bodycam footage shows the chaos inside the white camper van, where the couple had been living since they embarked on their four-month trip in July.
With tears streaming down her face, Gabby tells the cops: "We've just been fighting this morning. Some personal issues."
Dr Cohen said: "We know that from the 911 callers, that Brian Laundrie was reported to be witnessed as striking her. And we know that she admitted on the bodycam footage that she scratched him.
"If there's been evidence of some interpersonal violence previously, it raises the likelihood of homicidal strangulation to a much higher degree.
"So I know that there was some issues between the two. Apparently, they were fighting their way across the country in the van."
He added: "There's a lot of evidence, from the 911 calls, from the witnesses at Merry Piglets, and I believe there were other witnesses, that their relationship was spiraling out of control.
"We know that he couldn't contain his behavior, even in a public place like a restaurant.
"When we shortly thereafter find her strangled to death, it does suggest a kind of intimate type of homicide, domestic abuse, type of homicide between a couple."
Moments after the autopsy results were revealed, Dave Aronberg, State Attorney for Palm Beach County, tweeted: "Gabby Petito’s death was previously ruled a homicide.
"Today we learned that the cause of death was strangulation. This most likely means that murder charges are imminent."
SEARCH FOR BRIAN
Brian quietly returned home to Florida alone on September 1, failing to alert police or Gabby’s family that she was missing.
The 23-year-old ex-fiancé reportedly acted "without a care in the world" upon his return, neighbors said, performing mundane duties like mowing the front yard and enjoying idyllic bike rides with his mom.
Gabby was eventually reported missing by Nicole Schmidt in New York on September 11.
They turned to the authorities after she said they were allegedly getting stonewalled for 10 days by Brian and his parents about where her daughter was, she said.
Then, on September 14, Brian allegedly vanished after telling his parents he was going hiking at Carlton Reserve near Venice, Florida.
But they didn’t report Brian missing until three days later.
Authorities seized the van from the Laundrie's home on September 14.
Investigators said they found an external hard drive inside that they believed contained "evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed," NBC News reported.
At the time they stated the van would be tested for fingerprints and other forensic evidence, but have yet to give further details on whether anything was found.
Brian remains missing and is wanted on charges related to using Gabby's debit card.
He has not been named a suspect in her murder.
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