US woman who vanished on road trip with boyfriend was strangled

CHEYENNE, WYOMING : Ms Gabby Petito, the young American woman who vanished on a road trip with her boyfriend and later turned up dead in Wyoming, was killed by strangulation, a local coroner said.

The Teton County Coroner, Dr Brent Blue, whose office had already ruled Ms Petito's death a homicide, said she was killed about three to four weeks before her body was found on Sept 19. Her boyfriend, Mr Brian Laundrie, 23, has been missing for nearly a month.

The autopsy took more than three weeks to complete and included outside specialists and an analysis of toxicology test results, Dr Blue said.

Ms Petito, 22, was last seen alive on Aug 26. Her body was discovered near the remote Spread Creek Dispersed Campground in Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming.

The disappearance last month of the young woman during a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend captivated the country, first as an Internet sensation and then as a tabloid mystery that grew more enigmatic by the day.

Ms Petito and Mr Laundrie, who lived with his parents in North Port on Florida's west coast, embarked on their trip in early July from New York's Long Island, where her parents live.

As they travelled through Kansas, Colorado, Utah and points west, Ms Petito documented their "van life" on social media with videos and pictures that depicted a loving couple having an American adventure. She posted her final photo on Instagram on Aug 25, the same day she last spoke to her mother by phone.

Mr Laundrie returned without her on Sept 1 to his family's North Port home driving Ms Petito's white van. Ten days later, Ms Petito's mother Nicole Schmidt reported her missing to police in New York.

With the search becoming more public after Florida police named Mr Laundrie a person of interest in the case, the police in Moab, Utah, released bodycam footage on Sept 15 that suggested a darker side to the couple's sunny social media veneer.

On Sept 23, a federal grand jury in Wyoming indicted Mr Laundrie on a charge of fraudulently using Ms Petito's bank debit card between Aug 30 and Sept 1 to spend US$1,000 (S$1,353) or more.

He has not been charged in her death. - REUTERS