Police may not name a suspect in the Gabby Petito case for a while, as experts say they'll face obstacles to finding and testing physical evidence

Police may not name a suspect in the Gabby Petito case for a while, as experts say they'll face obstacles to finding and testing physical evidence
Gabby Petito North Port Police Department
  • It could take a long time for police to name a suspect in Gabby Petito's killing.
  • Criminal-justice experts said it may be difficult for police to collect evidence from her remains.
  • CUNY professor Joseph Giacalone said police may need to gather evidence from multiple crime scenes.

Police may not name a suspect in Gabby Petito's homicide case for a long time. Experts said investigators would face significant hurdles to finding and testing physical evidence because the case spans multiple states and her body was left in the wilderness for weeks.

Petito was reported missing by her mother on September 11 after her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, returned home to Florida from a cross-country road trip without her. Laundrie was named a person of interest in Petito's disappearance at the time, but her death has since been declared a homicide. Petito's body was found in Grand Teton National Park on September 19.

Laundrie himself has been missing since September 13 and has been charged with credit-card fraud in connection with Petito's disappearance, but he has not faced any additional charges in Petito's death.

Criminal-justice experts said it could take police awhile to name a suspect in the case because gathering physical evidence would be difficult. Police have not disclosed Petito's cause of death, and Joseph Giacalone, a criminal-justice professor at the City University of New York, said he thought they were withholding it for a reason.

"If she's strangled, the evidence is going to be limited," Giacalone told Insider. "In the respect that you're not going to have blood everywhere and, you know, hair fibers or all that other stuff."


Giacalone said that once police found physical evidence, it could still be a long process to name a suspect because testing the evidence for DNA could take "awhile to get back."

Pulling physical evidence from Petito's remains may also be difficult for investigators because it was left in the national park for several weeks and may have become "very skeletonized," according to George Kirkham, a professor emeritus at Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

"I don't know what will be available in terms of forensic evidence after that stage of decomposition," Kirkham said. Kirkham added that police should be able to determine a cause of death.

Giacalone said police may face challenges while gathering evidence because they could be dealing with multiple crime scenes, including the area where Petito's body was found and Petito and Laundrie's van.

Police seized the van in which Petito and Laundrie traveled across the country from the house of Laundrie's parents earlier this month. Giacalone said investigators would be "going over it with a fine-toothed comb."


"Each scene will hold a significant piece of physical evidence that they will need to put this all together," Giacalone said.