SLU director of Forensic Science weighs in on search for Gabby Petito


ST. LOUIS – The FBI searched the Florida home of Brian Laundrie and his parents Monday. Authorities were heard telling the Laundries they were in a “crime scene” and escorted them out of the home temporarily while evidence was collected and taken out of their home. Laundrie’s mustang was also towed away.

“It is definitely a case that has captivated the nation,” said Erik Hall, director of SLU’s Forensic Science Program and assistant founder of Hall Forensic Consulting. “I think it’s probably her social media presence, this cross-country trip that she is documenting step-by-step all along the way, and I think that a lot of younger people can relate.”

Hall said the investigation from a forensics mindset and standpoint, ramps up as soon as a body is found. Which authorities believe they likely found Gabby Petito’s body in Wyoming Sunday. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday to begin the confirmation process.

Hall said now the determination needs to be made on how Petito died if this is, in fact, her body that was found Sunday.

“How did she die? Is this a homicide, which I think is the presumption at this point? But was it an accident? was it natural?” Hall said.

Hall said they will also be looking at DNA, performing toxicology reports and they may not have positive confirmation of the identity right away.

“Human remains were discovered consistent with the description of Gabriel “Gabby” Petito. Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100 percent that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified of this discovery,” Chris Jones with the FBI said in a news conference Sunday after the remains were found.

Hall said the forensic investigation will likely focus on the human remains found.

“The body is the best piece of evidence they have, you can potentially pull DNA off of the body, is there clothing there, could the clothing be looked at for trace amounts of DNA,” he said. “They still may be combing through the area looking for evidence sort of tracing the steps of where they think the body may have come into the area.”

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