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What’s next in the Gabby Petito case? Forensic science expert weighs in

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IDAHO FALLS — The smallest detail in the Gabby Petito case could “make the whole thing turn,” according to a forensic science expert who has investigated around 10,000 deaths during his career.

Joseph Scott Morgan spent years as a senior investigator in the Atlanta Medical Examiner’s Office and also worked for the New Orleans Coroner’s Office. Morgan currently teaches forensic science at Jacksonville State University in Alabama and has been following the Petito case closely.

“You don’t want to miss anything. It’s the smallest little thing in a case like this that can make all the difference,” Morgan tells EastIdahoNews.com. “(Investigators) are going to go through everything. They’re going over his house stem to stern and the van looking for hair and fiber evidence.”

RELATED | Retired FBI special agent gives insight on disappearance of Gabby Petito

A body, believed to be Petito’s, was discovered Sunday near Grand Teton National Park. Investigators immediately secured the scene and were still there Monday afternoon. An autopsy is scheduled to be performed Tuesday, which will likely reveal how she died.

“You could reportedly see her body so what that tells me is she was not buried. She was just kind of left on top of the ground … so you can have evidence that’s scattered everywhere,” Morgan says.

Police are working to determine when the remains were left in the wooded area and how long the body has been there. The area is rugged and weather conditions can be extreme.

“Environment conditions are very, very hostile out there,” Morgan explains. “More than likely, her body is at least particularly skeletonized. They will not only have a forensic pathologist but they’re probably going to have a forensic anthropologist present for the (autopsy) examination. It would not surprise me if they brought in a forensic odontologist – otherwise known as a forensic dentist.”

As the investigation continues in Wyoming, police and FBI agents were at the Florida home of Petito’s boyfriend Monday serving a search warrant. Brian Laundrie, who returned home to Florida without her earlier this month, declined to talk to investigators and then went missing last week. The search for him had centered on a nature reserve near his home, but North Port Police say they have shifted their focus. Petito’s white van remains a key part of the investigation.

“The FBI is looking for hair and fiber evidence, collecting clothing and any kind of cocooning material – what the body might be wrapped up in,” Morgan says. “If he took a blanket or tarp that you can identify as belonging to him – that’s going to be significant from a fiber evidence standpoint.”

Watch our entire conversation with Morgan in the video player above.

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