The case of Long Island woman Gabby Petito’s disappearance has reignited theories about a “zone of death” in Yellowstone National Park where a murderer could get off scot-free.
The last text Gabby Petito sent her mother Nichole Schmidt said she didn’t have service in Yosemite National Park, where a glitch in the constitution could make a 50-mile strip of land the perfect place to get away with murder.
A 2005 academic paper titled “The Perfect Crime” by Michigan State University law professor Brian Kalt suggests “there is a 50-square-mile swath of Idaho in which one might be able to commit felonies with impunity.”
The entire Yellowstone National Park falls under federal judicial district of Wyoming, including an uninhabited small strip of land on behind the Idaho state border now known as the “zone of death”.
The Sixth Amendment requires all criminal prosecutions to be heard by a jury from the state and district where the crime was committed.
It is potentially impossible to try someone for murder in the “zone of death” because there is no one to summon for a jury who lives in both the state of Idaho and the district of Wyoming.
A crime committed in the “zone of death” has never been brought before the courts, so it is uncertain how the loophole would be interpreted.
But social media sleuths have suggested the “zone of death” is the most logical place to search for the missing 22-year-old who never returned from a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.
The last text message from Gabby Petito’s phone warned that she didn’t have phone service in Yosemite National Park and was sent two days before her van emerged in Florida.
Schmidt is not convinced the final message came from her daughter, but has so far refused to elaborate on who she believes sent the text and whether she received any other unusual messages.
Kalt has disputed suggestions his theory makes murder legal in the zone, but instead he has claimed it presents a sound reason why it might be harder to prosecute someone for it successfully.
The academic has long called for Congress to redraw the judicial district boundaries to follow state lines, placing Idaho’s portions of Yellowstone inside the District of Idaho.