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Coroner Confirms Remains Found Are Gabby Petito's, Says Manner Of Death Is A Homicide As Search Resumes For Brian Laundrie

BLUE POINT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Officials have confirmed that the body found in Grand Teton National Park is Gabby Petito.

According to the FBI, the manner of death is considered a homicide.

The actual cause of death has not been determined.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, there are now teal ribbons for as far as the eye can see in Blue Point, Long Island.

The gesture was originally intended to help bring Petito home. Now it's a sign of community grief.

Organizers have ordered hundreds for surrounding communities. The color -- teal -- is to reflect the lost 22-year-old's eyes.

"Seeing that beautiful, beautiful girl is just heartbreaking. I hope they find him and I hope he gets justice for that family," one person said.

The FBI and police agencies fanned out again across the vast Carlton Reserve in Florida searching by land, air and with K9 units for fiancé Brian Laundrie, who is still missing after returning from a cross country van trip without Petito.

Officials call the 25,000 acre terrain near his parents house unforgiving. Much of it is waist-deep gator-and-snake-infested swamp.

"ATVs, UTVs. We have multiple drone operators that have been sent out in numerous teams. So we will mix the resources and deploy them out, so if they encounter flooded areas, or terrain they can't access with these wheeled vehicles, we'll deploy our drones," said North Port Police Commander Joe Fussell. "Terrain's very difficult. Essentially, 75% of it is underwater, and other areas that are dry, we're trying to clear. So we're expecting to get wet by the end of the day, and check the entire area for Brian Laundrie."

"It's actually really hard to find someone even if they want to be found out in the wilderness, let alone someone who is being deceptive," Chris Boyer, executive director of the National Association for Search and Rescue, told CBS2's Dick Brennan.

Boyer said a man on the run would likely wear camouflage, only move at night, and cover his tracks by walking along creeks, adding he could move much faster than the authorities.

"He just has to be moving to wherever he's going. Searchers, as they walk along his path, have to be spending time looking behind every bush to see if he's there," Boyer said.

A major question for authorities is how long could Laundrie hold out on the run.

"He's gonna run out of supplies. He's gonna want to talk to family. He's gonna want to know information about where the search is going on, what the status is. He's eventually gonna have to surface somewhere," Boyer said.

Brian Laundrie
(credit: Moab Police Department)

Tips continue to pour in with possible sightings, but a news conference to address Laundrie's whereabouts was suddenly canceled by his family attorney after "a conversation with the FBI."

Gabby Petito Search: Timeline Of Road Trip, Notable Dates And Events

Petito's father told Dr. Phil, in a prerecorded interview before the discovery of remains, that he never witnessed his daughter and Laundrie fighting.

"Brian was always respectful," Joseph Petito said. "There were no red flags that popped in my head, that this boy was not a good boy. If there were, I would have discouraged her going on the trip."

Gabby Petito's mother, according to search warrant documents, was growing concerned about more and more tension between her and Laundrie.

In an Aug. 12 police stop captured on body camera, a tearful Gabby Petito claimed she was the aggressor in a petty argument with Laundrie. But a 911 call that led to the stop tells a different story.

Caller: "The gentleman was slapping the girl."

911 operator: "He was slapping her?"

Caller: "Yes, and then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and drove off."

A domestic violence expert said in New York state, one of them would have been arrested.

"They would have to arrest someone, even if both parties didn't want to press charges. It's a mandatory arrest in that case," said Keith Scott, director of education at the Safe Center.

Scott said that typically, in a toxic relationship, the victim takes the blame.

"The abuser is the one that seems calm, he or she may be able to pull themselves together," Scott said. "The person who is abused may be the one who seems erratic."

A "Bring Gabby Home" vigil set for Friday in Blue Point has been changed to a memorial service.

CBS2's Dick Brennan contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story first appeared on Sept. 21, 2021.

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