Friends of Gabby Petito have responded to the revelation from Teton County Coroner Dr Brent Blue that she died by strangulation.
The friends spoke with People about their feelings in the wake of the grisly revelation.
“It makes me sick to my stomach,” Alyssa Chen, a friend of Ms Petito, told the outlet. “I wonder what was going through her mind, knowing she was probably about to die. She must have been so scared.”
Ms Petito was reported missing on 11 September after her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, returned home from a road trip without her 10 days earlier. The woman's parents became suspicious after she stopped checking in with them for several days. Their initial attempts to get information from Mr Laundrie and his family proved fruitless, prompting them to file a missing person’s report.
Ms Petito's remains were eventually found on 19 September in the Spread Creek area within the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.
Dr Blue issued a verdict on Ms Petito's cause of death on Tuesday during a live-streamed press conference.
According to the coroner, Ms Petito died 3-4 weeks before her body was found on 19 September.
Due to Wyoming state laws, Dr Blue was unable to provide further details regarding her death. Autopsy results are not public record in the state.
When asked to speculate on whether or not Mr Laundrie was the one who strangled her, he said that determination was beyond the scope of his work and would have to be made by law enforcement.
Mr Laundrie remains a “person of interest” in Ms Petito's disappearance and death, and has not been charged with her murder. He has an active warrant for his arrest for using Ms Petito's debit card after her death.
Police and the FBI have been searching for Mr Laundrie for more than a month after he disappeared on 13 September. Authorities initially believed Mr Laundrie was hiding out in the Carlton Reserve, a vast protected swampland north of his home in North Port, Florida. Mr Laundrie’s silver Mustang was found parked at the reserve and his parents believe he is in the swamp, but so far the search has turned up no evidence that he is there.
Ms Petito's friends expressed their anger toward Mr Laundrie, if it is proven he had some hand in her death.
“If Brian strangled her, I hope he burns in hell,” Ben Matula, who was friends with the couple, said. “That's all I have to say.”
Ms Chen also added in her feelings about Ms Petito's murderer, whoever it may be.
“Whoever did this, whether it's Brian or someone else, needs to pay for what they did,” she said. “She didn't deserve to die that way.”
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