Gabby Petito Strangulation Being Looked at As 'Crime of Passion'—Former Prosecutor

Gabby Petito's death could be being looked at as a "crime of passion," a former federal prosecutor has suggested.

Petito, 22, died from strangulation about three to four weeks before her body was found along the border of Grand Teton National Park in northern Wyoming on September 19, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said in a news conference on Tuesday.

Petito had been on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie when she went missing. Laundrie, who is considered a person of interest in Petito's disappearance, returned to his parent's home in Florida alone last month, but then went missing and remains unaccounted for.

The coroner had previously ruled Petito's death a homicide, but the cause was withheld pending further autopsy results. A document signed by Dr. Blue last week said Petito died from "manual strangulation/throttling."

Former prosecutor Mary Fulginiti said strangulation and throttling means "using your hands to physically kill someone."

Asked if there was a chance Petito's death could have been accidental, she told Ashleigh Banfield on NewsNation's Banfield: "It's a brutal and violent crime and it's definitely intentional, which would equal murder."

A memorial poster of Gabby Petito hangs
A memorial poster of Gabby Petito hangs on a fence in Holbrook, Long Island, New York, on September 26, 2021. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Banfield went on to ask if a "rough sex" defense could be invoked by defense attorneys.

"There are cases where people do have rough sex and where they utilize strangulation, and that would definitely lower it in terms of what the potential crime would be," Fulginiti replied.

"But here I think given all the evidence and given what we have with the timeline so far and given the violent behavior that we've seen exposed, you know, from Brian Landrie that I think they're looking at this more like a crime of passion, which we also see with strangulation and in those circumstances, sadly, it's typically between people who know each other and typically usually an intentional act."

Banfield and Fulginiti also discussed the DNA that was recovered from Petito's body. Blue didn't say whether it belonged to her or someone else.

Fulginiti said that if investigators determine the DNA does not belong to Laundrie, it would be a "sign of relief" for him and further investigated.

"But when you look at this case and you see the autopsy report, what little we have of it, shows what happened to her, sadly, and we know that it's you know, manipulation and strangulation," Fulginiti said.

"We know when it happened—three to four weeks out, which puts him right, or her with him, right about the time of the killing."

She continued: "You have to figure out, well, who has the motivation to strangle a woman in the middle of the Grand Tetons? And when you look at that, and you think about that, you're thinking about who's angry? Who's mad? Who's in a fight? What's happening in her world then that would cause some stranger to actually commit this act? I have to tell you, it looks really bad for Brian Laundrie.

"And plus he fled the crime and fleeing the scene is considered consciousness of guilt because it's obviously not an act that an innocent person would do. An innocent person would help, go to the police, do something that would be, or at least cooperate with the police and in this situation he didn't. He fled, he went home, he lawyered up and he didn't help at all."