Medical examiners lash Brian Laundrie's claim of mercy killing

Medical examiners slam ‘farcical’ newly-unearthed claim from Brian Laundrie in his journal that his murder of Gabby Petito was a mercy killing due to her hypothermia

  • Newly-unearthed notebook passages reveal that Brian Laundrie, 23, admitted to killing his fiancée Gabby Petito, 22, last year
  • He described her murder in the passages as a mercy killing, saying she fell into a shallow creek and suffered from hypothermia
  • Petito’s death was later ruled a homicide by manual strangulation
  • Medical Examiners Michael Baden and Cyril Wecht, though, told FOX News that her symptoms were not consistent with hypothermia
  • They said it is unlikely she was suffering from the extreme cold when she died
  • John Kelly, a criminal profiler and psychotherapist, and Jason Jensen, a private investigator, also called Laundrie’s version of events ‘farcical’
  • They say Laundrie was a serial abuser who had signs of extremely narcissistic personality disorder and sociopathic disorder
  • Even if he did kill her out of mercy, they said, ‘Euthanasia is murder’ 

Two of America’s top medical examiners have called into question Brian Laundrie’s newly-unearthed claims that he killed his fiancée, Gabby Petito, out of mercy.

In images of eight water-logged pages of his notebook, handed to by the Laundrie family’s attorney Steve Bertolino on Friday, Laundrie, 23, admits that he killed his 22-year-old fiancée after she fell into a creek and inured herself at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on their country-wide road trip last summer.

He claims in the notebook that he battled to comfort Gabby, but she was rapidly deteriorating, crying in pain and shivering from the constant cold when he decided to kill her.

Petito’s death was later ruled a homicide by manual strangulation.

But following the revelations on Friday, Medical Examiners Michael Baden and Cyril Wecht told FOX News that they had doubts about this version of events.

Wecht, who has previously been involved in the investigations of former President John F Kennedy’s and JonBenet Ramsey’s deaths, noted that while signs of hypothermia are difficult to detect on a corpse, violent shaking like Laundrie described is not a symptom. 

‘Hypothermia, at the beginning, you’ll be cold as hell,’ he explained. ‘But then when the hypothermia becomes significant, you don’t shiver, you don’t move. In fact in surgery, that’s why they bring patients down to a hypothermic state.’

And Baden – who previously served as New York City’s medical examiner was involved in the investigation into convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s death – said that while Petito’s autopsy did show some signs of hemorrhaging as a result of severe hypothermia, it remains unlikely she was suffering from the condition.

‘In general, hypothermia does not cause injurie that are easily found at autopsy,’ he explained, adding: ‘There is some information that there can be small hemorrhages in the stomach in the very severe cold depths – but that’s in the weeds.

‘That’s the weeds of forensic pathology.’ 

John Kelly, a criminal profiler and psychotherapist, and Jason Jensen, a private investigator, also called Laundrie’s version of events ‘farcical.’

And, even if he did kill Petito out of mercy: ‘Euthanasia is not legal in any state, anywhere. Euthanasia is murder.’

In newly-unearthed notebook passages, Brian Laundrie, 23, admitted to killing his fiancee Gabby Petito, 22, right, when they were on a cross-country van trip 

Laundrie’s notebook contained a letter written to the late Petito before he killed himself following a large manhunt for him, The notes revealed a confession from Laundrie, who claimed he killed Petito out of mercy after an accident during their cross-country trip

Medical Examiners Drs Cyril Wecht, left, and Michael Baden, right, called into question the veracity of Laundrie’s claims in the notebook

Kelly also told FOX News that he was frustrated that Laundrie ‘tiptoed around the confession.

‘He wanted to serve it up as a mercy killing.

‘That’s the thing that’s bugging me more than anything,’ Kelly said. ‘He found her breathing heavily and gasping for breath, so he decided to choke her out?’

He continued to say that it made no sense that he would strangle Petito on the spot rather than drag her back to their van to get some help.

‘I don’t believe in all this accident stuff, because how can you say you love somebody so much, you can’t go on without her, you love her so much you’re willing to commit suicide like a Romeo and Juliet?

‘She’s hurt, and will not go and get help for her.

‘And not only will you not go the extra mile,’ he said, ‘you will not even report her missing.’ 

Laundrie had been the main suspect in Petito’s disappearance and murder after he arrived back home, alone, in North Port, Florida on September 1 from a cross-country road trip he embarked on with Gabby in her white 2012 Ford Transit van.

Jensen also said he found Laundrie’s story suspect, saying: ‘He writes this farcical tale about her falling down and getting injured while crossing Spread Creek, and describes how he couldn’t leave here behind.’

He called the notebook passage ‘an attempt to rewrite history.’

‘The truth is he killed her because he was a domestic abuser,’ Jensen said,. ‘He strangled her, and had done so before.’

The couple was previously seen on police body camera footage from Moab, Utah after fellow travelers said Laundrie hit her. 

He also reportedly got into a fight with wait staff at a restaurant in Jackson shortly before Petito’s death, which Kelly says shows signs of extremely narcissistic personality disorder and sociopathic disorder.

‘The only thing I give him credit for, in any way, is he decided to get eaten up by animals himself,’ Kelly said.

‘In the end, it rang true he wanted to disappear. He felt he was a nobody.’ 

Petito and Laundrie were on a cross-country van trip when Laundrie said she fell into a shallow creek and got hypothermia

An autopsy later revealed that Petito’s cause of death was homicide by manual strangulation

Laundrie’s notebook was found in a dry bag beside his body on October 20 last year after he fled to the alligator-infested Carlton Reserve near his home in North Port, Florida. He’d shot himself in the head.

In a desperate bid to explain his version of events, he writes: ‘I am sorry to my family, this is a shock to them as well as a terrible greif (sic)….

‘Please do not make this harder for them, this occurred as an unexpected tragedy.’

The couple were at the national park after visiting Utah on their trip west in Gabby’s 2012 white Ford Transit. They were cataloguing the trip on social media.

Laundrie writes in his notebook: ‘Rushing back to our car, trying to cross the steam of spread creek before it got too dark to see, to (sic) cold. I hear a splash and a scream. I could barely see, I couldn’t finder her for a moment, shouted her name.

‘I found her breathing barely, gasping, any (indistinct as the ink is waterlogged) she was freezing cold, we had just come from the blazing hot national parks in Utah.

‘The temperature had dropped to freezing and she was soaking wet. I carried her as far as I could down the stream towards the car, stumbling, exhausted in shock, when my (indistinct) and I knew I couldn’t safely carry her.’

He continues in an occasionally confusing monologue: ‘I started a fire and spooned her as close to the heat, she was so thin, had already been freezing too long. I couldn’t at the time realize that I should’ve started a fire first but I wanted her out of the cold back to the car. From where I started the fire I had no idea where the car might be. Only knew it was across the creek.

‘When I pulled Gabby out of the water she couldn’t tell me what hurt. She had a small bump on her forehead that eventually got larger. Her feet hurt, her wrist hurt, but she was freezing, shaking violently, while carrying her she continually made sounds of pain.’

Then he begins his excuse for murdering his fiancée. He writes: ‘Laying next to her she said little, lapsing between violent shakes, gasping in pain, begging for an end to her pain. She would fall asleep and I would shake her awake fearing she shouldn’t close her eyes if she had a concussion.

‘She would wake in pain, start her whole painful cycle again, furious that I was the one waking her. She wouldn’t let me try to cross the creek, thought like me that the fire would go out in her sleep.’

 It is then that he explains that he killed her out of mercy, writing: ‘I don’t know the extent of Gabby’s injuries, only that she was in extreme pain.

‘I ended her life. I thought it was merciful, that it is what she wanted, but I see now all the mistake that I made. I panicked. I was in shock. But from the moment I decided, took away her pain.’

He adds: ‘I knew I couldn’t go on without her.

‘I rushed home to spend any time I had left with my family.

‘I wanted to drive north and let James or TJ kill me, but I wouldn’t want them to spend time in jail over my mistake, even though I’m sure they would have liked to.’

Of his own fate in the 25,000-acre swampland on Florida’s west coast, he writes: ‘I’m ending my life not because of fear of punishment, but rather because I can’t stand to live another day without her.

‘I’ve lost our whole entire future together, every moment we could have cherished. I’m sorry for everyone’s loss. Please don’t make life hard for my family, they lost a son and a daughter. The most wonderful (?) girl in the world I’m sorry.

‘I have killed myself by this creek in the hope that animals may tear me apart that it might make some of her family happy.’

As an apparent after thought, and in larger writing, he finishes with the words: ‘Please pick up all of my things. Gabby hated people who litter.’

Laundrie began the notebook with the personal message to Gabby, writing: ‘I wish I could be at your side, I wish I could be talking to you right now. I’d be going through every memory getting even more xxx for the future. But we’ve lost our future.

‘I can’t be without you. I’ve lost every day we (indistinct) spent together… I’ll never get to play with (indistinct) again. Never go hiking with T….I can’t bear to look at our photos, to recall great times because it is why I cannot go on.

‘When I close my eyes I will think of laughing on the roof of the van, falling asleep to the sight of a (indistinct) at the crystal geyser. I will always love you.’

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito were engaged to be married prior to their deaths

The pair had been travelling on a cross-country trip together since July 2, when they left New York. Petito was reported missing on September 11

Attorney Bertolino passed on to the images from his notebook to after he and the Petitos’ attorney Patrick Reilly met with the FBI in Tampa, Florida, on Friday to take possession of Brian and Gabby’s personal items.

The meeting came three days after Gabby’s distraught mom cried in a courtroom listening to her lawyer blast the actions of killer Laundrie’s parents as ‘callous and shameful’. 

Nicole Schmidt, 41, also toyed nervously with a necklace as she sat with former husband Joseph Petito, 42, the father of the van-life girl.

The devastated mother and father are suing Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, alleging they knew their son had murdered Gabby after he returned to their Florida home alone – and tried to help him flee authorities.

They claim the Laundries are guilty of ‘inflicting intentional emotional distress’ and that a statement issued by their lawyer hopeful of a successful end to the search for then-missing Gabby was ‘outrageous’ because they allegedly already knew she was dead.

Their attorney Reilly told Sarasota County Court, Florida: ‘This is case not simply about the silence of Robert and Christopher Laundrie who knew their son had brutally murdered Gabby Petito.’

He said it also wasn’t about their ‘callous refusal despite pleas from the Petito family’ to speak out about whether not Gabby was alive – or if she wasn’t the location of her body.

‘It’s about a course of conduct that they committed from when they learned on August 28, 2021 that their son had brutally murdered Gabby Petito,’ he said.

Reilly said this included the statement that was made by the attorney advising them at the time, Steve Bertolino, regarding their wish for a successful end to the search.

The Laundries were not in court, but were spotted the following day by near their home in North Port.

Judge Hunter W. Carroll asked what duty did Christopher, 63, and Roberta, 56, have to do ‘anything to help’ Gabby’s parents.

‘It’s about what they did with the information that they had,’ Reilly replied. ‘Not just not disclosing what they knew.’

He added the Laundries could have made an anonymous phone call to reveal the location of Gabby’s body. The lawyer said they knew Gabby’s parents were ‘desperately searching’ for information.

The hearing was to consider the Laundries’ motion to dismiss the case. After hearing pleas from both sides, Judge Carroll said he hoped to issue a written decision in two weeks. If he dismisses the motion, the Laundries could face a jury trial next year.

It was the first time Gabby’s parents had an opportunity to be in a court over the tragic death of their daughter. Laundrie shot himself after fleeing to a Florida swamp, denying them legal justice.

However, the hearing continued the couple’s pain as they had to listen to arguments. Both sets of parents had been friendly before Gabby went missing, the court was told.

Timeline of missing Gabby Petito’s case

July 1: Gabby Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie left Blue Point, New York for a cross-country road trip

August 12: Police in Moab, Utah respond to a domestic incident involving the couple

Aug. 17: Laundrie allegedly flies back to Florida to ‘clear out a storage unit’   

Aug. 21: Petito’s father, Joseph Petito, has his last FaceTime video call with his daughter who was in Salt Lake City, Utah 

Aug. 23: Laundrie flies back to Utah to ‘rejoin Gabby’ on their trip 

Aug. 24: Petito is last seen at a hotel in Salt Lake City with Laundrie

Aug. 25: Petito makes final call to her mother, Nichole Schmidt, saying she was in Grand Teton National Park

Aug. 25 or 26: The couple chats with the owner of a shop called ‘Rustic Row’ in Victor, Utah for about 20 minutes 

Aug. 27: Video of Petito’s van was taken by blogger Jenn Bethune around 6.30 pm at the Spread Creek Campground; Witnesses say they saw a ‘commotion’ with the couple at Merry Piglets Tex-mex restaurant in Jackson, Wyoming 

Aug. 29: The day that Wisconsin TikToker Miranda Baker claimed that she and her boyfriend were approached by Laundrie at Grand Teton National Park and asked them for a ride at 5.30pm

Aug. 30: Schmidt receives the last text from Petito’s phone: ‘No service in Yosemite’

Sept. 1: Laundrie returns to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida in a van without Petito

Sept. 6-7: Laundrie and his parents visit Fort De Soto campsite in Florida

Sept. 11: Schmidt reports Petito missing to authorities in New York; Petito and Laundrie’s van was impounded by police in Florida that same day

Sept. 12: Grand Teton National Park rangers search for Petito

Sept. 13: Laundrie’s lawyer says on October 5 that his parents now ‘believe’ this was the day they last saw him heading for a hike

Sept. 14: Laundrie issues a statement about Petito’s disappearance through his lawyer; Laundrie’s parents claim on September 17 that Laundrie left his parents’ home for a hike this day and they hadn’t seen from him since 

Sept. 15: Laundrie is officially named a person of interest in Petito’s case

Sept. 17: Laundrie family attorney confirms his whereabouts are unknown

Sept. 18: North Port police and the FBI start searching the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County for missing Brian Laundrie

Sept. 19: Bethune realizes she has video of Petito’s van around 12am and submits the FBI with the footage 10 minutes later; Officials announce a body was found near Grand Teton National Park that matched Petito’s description in the afternoon

Sept. 21: Coroner confirms remains found in Grand Tetons belong to Petito. Her death is ruled a homicide but her cause of death is still under invesetigation

Sept. 20 – 22: FBI and North Port police continue search for Laundrie in Carton Reserve 

Sept. 22: Neighbors say they saw the Laudrie family pack up their detached camper on the day Gabby was reported missing. photos show the camper was back in the driveway two days later, on September 13 

Sept. 23: FBI issues an arrest warrant for Laundrie for ‘use of unauthorized access device’ for fraudulently using a Capitol One Bank debit card that was not his between August 30 and September 1 to spend $1,000; A probe is launched into the police handling of the Utah police incident on Aug. 12; Laundrie’s parents visit their attorney in Orlando 

Sept. 25: Dog the Bounty Hunter joins the search for Laundrie 

Sept. 26: A funeral is held for Petito in Holbrook, New York, and her family launch a charity to help parents find missing children 

Sept. 27: Manhunt for Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve is scaled back after 10 day search doesn’t find him. Dog the Bounty Hunter says Laundrie and his parents stayed at Fort De Soto Park from September 1-3 and September 6-8 – and that on the latter visit only the parents left 

Sept. 28: Laundrie’s mom is accused of using a burner phone to contact her son Sept. 29: Documents reveal Laundrie’s mom canceled a reservation for the Fort De Soto Park campsite for two from September 1 to 3 and booked for three from September 6 to 8; FBI seizes surveillance footage from site; FBI investigates lead Laundrie bought a burner phone on September 14;  

Sept. 30: Bodycam footage from a second officer at the August 12 incident is released showing a distressed Petito admitting Laundrie hit her; FBI agents collect more evidence from the Laundrie home 

Oct. 1: It emerges Laundrie’s sister had contact with him after she said she did 

Oct. 2: A hiker along the Appalachian Trail claims to have seen Laundrie near the border of Tennessee and North Carolina 

Oct. 3: Investigators searched the area on the Appalachian trail for any signs that Laundrie had been there  

Oct. 4: Laundrie’s sister told protestors outside her home that her family has been ignoring her after they rebuked her story and that she does not know where her brother is

Oct 5: Laundrie’s sister appeared on Good Morning America to say she would turn her brother in if she knew where he is;  

Oct. 7: Laundrie’s father Christopher joins FBI agents on the search for his son at the Carlton Reserve but the search brings up no clues 

Oct. 12: Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue announces autopsy findings which show Petito died by strangulation; No specific date of death was given – only that she was dead 3-4 weeks before her body was found 

Oct. 16: Petito’s parents are seen collecting her ashes from the Valley Mortuary in Jackson, Wyoming

October 20: Human remains found in Carlton Reserve 

October 21: FBI confirm the body found belongs to Brian Laundrie. A notebook, backpack and dry bag are also found near the body

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