What happened to Tiffany Valiante? ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ takes on death of NJ teen
HAMILTON (Atlantic) — More than seven years later, there's a new surge of hope for the parents of an 18-year-old who feel their daughter's death should never have been ruled a suicide.
They've doubled the reward for solid information related to the tragedy, as the Netflix reboot of "Unsolved Mysteries" takes on the case in an episode that premieres Tuesday.
Mystery at Mile Marker 45 examines the July 12, 2015 death of Tiffany Valiante, of Mays Landing, whose body was found mangled by an NJ Transit train headed to Atlantic City.
It was quickly determined by the medical examiner that Tiffany had died by suicide but Tiffany's parents are convinced that she would have never taken her own life and that other people had something to do with her demise.
Rush to judgment?
"We know so many others that also believe Tiffany's death was not suicide, that there was a rush to judgment to close the case, and that the real story of how and why she died has yet to be told," Tiffany's parents, Stephen and Dianne, said through their lawyer, Paul D'Amato.
"The combination of this new, deeply-researched, fact-based program, and the increased reward, might just be what's necessary to help get Tiff's case reopened."
Will the Tiffany Valiante case be reopened?
Due to compromised or lost evidence, including a bloody ax found at the scene, lab reports should be considered incomplete or inconclusive, according to D'Amato.
He noted that Tiffany had a crippling fear of the dark, so she would have never walked alone for miles from her home to the tracks where she came in contact with the train. And, according to the investigation, Tiffany made most of that walk with no shoes on.
According to a Daily Beast examination of the case, which D'Amato considers to be the most in-depth look at the suspicious death, Tiffany's mother found her headband and shoes while out on a walk, a few weeks after her death.
In the last known image of Tiffany, she's seen wearing the shoes and headband at the end of her driveway — she had walked out of the home after a heated argument about finances.
Parents' costly search for truth and evidence
Since Tiffany's death, her parents have had to re-mortgage their home and use their own savings to pay for DNA testing of evidence that was gathered but never examined, D'Amato said.
D'Amato and the family believe Tiffany was killed before making contact with the train and was thrown into the train's path, or that she was running from captors and couldn't avoid the speeding train.
The train's engineers had conflicting reports throughout a series of interviews after the incident, D'Amato said. NJ Transit declined the opportunity to comment for this article. The agency, along with the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, also declined requests to be interviewed for the Netflix program.
"She had received a sizeable scholarship to play volleyball at Mercy College in New York. Everything was looking bright for Tiffany," D'Amato told New Jersey 101.5. "There was nothing in her life that would lead her to die by suicide."
The New Jersey Medical Examiner's Office reviewed Tiffany's case in 2018 and the suicide ruling was upheld, according to the Netflix episode.
Higher reward in Tiffany Valiante case
New posters for Tiffany note the Netflix program, and a reward of $40,000, up from $20,000, for information that helps "solve the 2015 suspicious death." Tips can be submitted by: