Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Coroner: Gabby Petito Died from Manual Strangulation, Was Killed 3-4 Weeks Before Body Found; NFL's Players Union Urges Release of All Emails after Gruden Resigns; U.S. Officials Report Havana Syndrome Symptoms in Colombia. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired October 13, 2021 - 13:30   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Heartbreaking details paint a clearer picture what happened to Gabby Petito. The coroner said she died of manual strangulation and that her body was left in the woods roughly three to four weeks before it was found.

Many questions remain unanswered. Specifically, where and when was she killed? What happened leading up to her death? And who killed her?

CNN's Jean Casarez is here to help us with what we don't know.

Jean, how significant are these details in terms of solving this mystery?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We now know the manner of death, officially, and cause of death, specifically. That is what everyone didn't know until yesterday.

But I think the timeline is interesting, because yesterday, the medical examiner said there was not a death certificate yet and that they have flexibility, and there can be and there can be a range of dates of death.

So we may never know the date she died. Because, literally, we know one person knows. The person who killed her. We don't know anyone who witnessed it, an eyewitness, so that may be the only person.

Here's what we do know. A search warrant affidavit says, on August 27th, that that was the last day there were any sightings of Gabby. It doesn't say who saw her or when they saw her.

But independently, CNN confirmed that she was in a restaurant with Brian. And it was the Merry Piglets, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Jackson Hole.

And CNN spoke with the owner of the restaurant and she said that triggered her and she remembered that and she contacted the FBI.

And it was a very volatile scene. According to eyewitnesses, Gabby was crying. Brian was going out of the restaurant and coming in, very angry at the host. And back and forth and back and forth.

So that's the visualization we have. That was on the 27th.

After that, on the 29th of August, we know that Brian hitchhiked two times, toward Jackson Hole and then back from Jackson Hole, to the camping ground, where the van was.

To both people that picked him up, they related a similar story. That he said, oh, I've been camping by myself by the river, and my girlfriend was at our van. She was working on her blog. But there was no Gabby at all.

Then on the 1st, which would be a couple days later, that man returned to Florida.

And the plate shows, as it went through an automatic screening, that it was 10:26 a.m. that Brian arrived back in Florida with that van to his parents' home without Gabby.

CABRERA: It was then much longer past that before she was reported missing, and then he went missing. So here we are.

Jean Casarez, thank you.

CASAREZ: Three to four weeks later is when her remains were found. That's a long time out in the wilderness.

CABRERA: Yes, indeed. And again, here's where we stand at this moment.

I want to bring in senior law enforcement analyst, Charles Ramsey. He served as Philadelphia police commissioner and D.C. police chief.

Commissioner, we know Gabby Petito was strangled. We also know her body was left in the woods three to four weeks before it was found.

Can we assume police already knew this and they have been working with this information for a while? And if so, what would be the significance of making it public now?


CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I do believe that they have known for a period of time the cause of death was strangulation. They already knew it was a homicide.

But sometimes I think it's just a matter of timing. I don't know why yesterday the medical examiner chose to make that public. But, you know, there was a lot of demand to know what the cause of death was.

But I'm certain law enforcement knew at least a few days before that strangulation was the cause of death.

CABRERA: We've seen that video from back in August when Petito and Brian Laundrie were pulled over by police in Utah after someone called to report a man hitting a woman.

I want to play a portion of what Petito told police.


UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Where did he hit you. Be honest. Be honest.

GABBY PETITO, MURDER VICTIM: Well, he was like, grabbed my face, just like, I guess. He didn't, like, punch me in the face or anything.

UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Did he slap your face or what?

PETITO: Well, like he grabbed me with his nail and I guess that's why it looks - like, I definitely have a cut right here.


PETITO: If I touch it, it burns.


CABRERA: Commissioner, what struck me, reflecting on that video, Petito tells the officer Laundrie grabbed her face and she demonstrates with her hands. She kind of shows her hand cupping her chin area.

Does that video have any new significance to you as an investigator now that we know she was strangled?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, you know -- first of all, I'm not surprised that death by strangulation was probably the cause of death. It's not all that unusual in a domestic case.

You know, and it's also not unusual that the victim would actually try to take on some of the blame. Part of that video also shows that she says she hit him and he hit her. She's trying to take on some of the blame.

She certainly was not responsible for any of that. He's the only person responsible for that.

You know, clearly, this is a situation where they were having arguments. They were having very heated arguments. It turned physical.

Now, all of a sudden, you know, she's dead, body found in a wooded area, and he comes back by himself.

Now, he is, in my mind, a suspect, even though he's not being technically called that yet. But it appears that he's the last person to have actually been with her or seen her alive.

Now, they're trying to build a circumstantial case here because that's what you have. Unless he confesses, it's going to be circumstantial evidence.

They're probably a step or two away from actually naming him as a suspect.

But they have to find him first. They know enough now to pick him up just by using that credit card.

But I don't believe they have any idea of where he is right now.

CABRERA: His family attorney -- the family attorney did release a statement in response to the autopsy results, and they confirmed that he used Gabby Petito's credit card or debt card, I should say.

I have to wrap up the segment here, but they did say, "While Brian Laundrie is currently charged with the unauthorized use of a debit card belonging to Gabby, Brian is only considered a person of interest in relation to Gabby Petito's demise."

So that's where we are on the story right now.

Charles Ramsey, always good to have you here.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

CABRERA: Appreciate your expertise. Thank you for being with us.

The NFL under fire for refusing to reveal more information connected to the vulgar emails that cost the ex-Raiders coach, Jon Gruden, his $100 million job.


Next, I'll speak with a whistleblower who shined a light on rampant harassment within another NFL team. Her message to Roger Goodell, next.



CABRERA: New fallout today with the Jon Gruden emails that contain racist, homophobic, sexist, comments. Emails that expose what critics say is a toxic culture festering inside the NFL.

The revelations come from a trove of 650,000 emails and other documents collected as part of the NFL's investigation of the Washington Football Team and its workplace.

The players union is now calling for all those documents to be made public. A short time ago, the NFL told CNN it has no plans to reveal any more details of that probe.

Emily Applegate was a driving force behind that investigation. She worked for what was formerly the Redskins for a year and is among 15 former staffers complaining of rampant sexual harassment and mistreatment.

Emily, thank you for joining us.

I can only imagine what went through your mind when the contents of those emails were revealed. What was your reaction? And what have these last few days been like for you? EMILY APPLEGATE, FORMER WASHINGTON REDSKINS EMPLOYEE & WHISTLEBLOWER:

Thank you so much for having me.

We have been very busy these last few days trying to piece together all the information we've been receiving.

I think the first thing that goes through our head is that we're so grateful that anything we have done was able to put pressure on the NFL to remove somebody that is so willing and able to make comments that are racist, homophobic, anything like that.


Because there's no place for that in the NFL or, really, anywhere across the country.

For us now, it also is allowing us to shine light on the original portion of this story, is what we all experience when we are working for the Washington Football Team.

Now it's allowing us to put pressure on the NFL for the entire report so our stories can be heard, too, and more change can actually come out of it.

CABRERA: Right now, the NFL has no more plans to he release details about their investigation. Clearly, you think they should. What is your reaction to them not being more forthcoming?

APPLEGATE: We definitely think they should. We've been asking them for the report for as long as it's been deleted.

I believe that a spokesman for the NFL continues to say there was confidentiality agreed up in these investigations. That's not true.

We participated in the investigation because we want these stories out there. We want the public, and especially sponsors to know what was going on at that facility because we want to make sure that, moving forward, it doesn't happen again.

So we do not want any of this confidentiality that they're claiming.

CABRERA: You described a horrible workplace with sexual harassment, verbal abuse from some of the top executives from the Washington Football Team.

Can you share more? What happened to you?

APPLEGATE: Of course. I actually just posted a photo yesterday on my Instagram to show people that a photo was taken of me by my immediate boss, the CMO of the company, because he liked the way I looked that day, without my permission.

I was in a T-shirt. I was about to go running outside the facilities. That was something that happened on a daily basis.

And you can translate that into understanding now that there are topless photos that were being exchanged between top-level executives and the NFL.

That was just one day, one incident.

Every day, you walked down the hallway and you weren't sure which member of the executive team was going to comment on the way that you looked, what you were wearing, what you should be wearing, how you should be addressing clients to impress them.

It was a daily struggle.

CABRERA: That sounds horrible.

APPLEGATE: It was horrible, degrading. It has affected all of our personal lives, our professional lives, of course.

There's really not a day that goes by that I think all of us don't think about what happened to each and every one of us.

CABRERA: What is your message right now to NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell?

APPLEGATE: My message is to release the report. Allow what we have been going through to become public.

Because what people don't really understand is the work that we have to do outside of this story being in the media.

They don't understand the therapy that we go through. They don't understand what it means for us when we're just having casual conversations with people.

You have the power as the NFL commissioner to make serious change.

You could be the commissioner that continues to step away from issues that the NFL is facing, or you can be the commissioner that says, I care about women. And 47 percent of viewers of the NFL are women.

And you have the opportunity to make a change so we are all going to be a safe and inclusive environment, whether we work for the NFL or we're just at a game watching the NFL.

CABRERA: Emily Applegate, I appreciate your time. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

APPLEGATE: Thank you guys so much.


CABRERA: New cases of the mysterious Havana Syndrome reported at the U.S. embassy in Colombia now just ahead of a visit this month by the secretary of state.


[13:53:44] CABRERA: It causes memory loss and nausea, among other painful physical ailments, and now U.S. officials are investigating even more reports of a mysterious illness known as Havana Syndrome after more than a dozen U.S. embassy staffers in Colombia and their families reported symptoms in recent weeks.

CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us at the State Department.

Kylie, this comes just days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit Colombia. What are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, that makes this more significant, the fact that the secretary of state is planning to visit Colombia.

While there are more than a dozen of these U.S. officials and their family members who in recent weeks have reported symptoms consistent with Havana Syndrome.

And just to remind our viewers, as you were saying there, of what Havana Syndrome is. It is a mysterious illness. The U.S. government still doesn't know what is causing it. They still don't know who is causing it.

But it leads to is nausea, it leads to headaches and, in some instances, it leads to memory loss and traumatic brain injury.

This is a really, really detrimental and scary thing that's happening to U.S. officials around the world.

The reason it's called Havana Syndrome is because it started in Cuba in 2016. But since then, we have reported on incidents that have happened to U.S. officials around the globe, in places like Austria, China, Taiwan, Vienna. This is happening in more and more places.


And, Ana, I want to note, as we are reporting on these incidents, similar to Havana Syndrome in Colombia, this is the third time that there have been reported potential incidents around the time of a top Biden administration official's international travel.

It happened just recently in the last two months with the CIA director and with Vice President Kamala Harris -- Ana?

CABRERA: The mystery deepens. And as you point out, since 2016 is when they've been investigating this.

Thank you, Kylie Atwood. Great reporting.

That does it for me. Thank you so much for joining us. We're back tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. In the meantime, join me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

Have a great afternoon.