Precisely 4 weeks after she graduated highschool with varsity letters in a number of sports activities and a volleyball scholarship to attend New York’s Mercy School within the fall, New Jersey teenager Tiffany Ida Mae Valiante was killed by a rushing practice on its solution to Atlantic Metropolis.

The 18-year-old’s demise shocked the tight-knit neighborhood of Mays Touchdown, particularly after it was rapidly dominated that she had intentionally jumped in entrance of the practice.

For her dad and mom, Dianne and Steve Valiante, the concept that Tiffany had died by suicide didn’t make any sense. They’re satisfied that one thing far more sinister occurred to their daughter on the night time of July 12, 2015, and have spent the previous seven years, and 1000’s of {dollars}, to attempt to put collectively items of a puzzle they are saying merely don’t match.

“There’s any individual on the market that did this,” Dianne advised The Each day Beast within the yard of her dwelling final month. “There’s a assassin strolling round.”

They don’t seem to be alone in pondering that the information don’t fairly add up in a case that has been marred by claims of mishandled proof, and what the Valiante household says was a rush to judgment by authorities over their daughter’s demise.

Stephan Rosenfeld, a Philadelphia-based advisor working with the Valiantes, is the previous assistant normal supervisor of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). He says the phrases “affirmation bias” have been uttered virtually from day one by consultants decided to have Tiffany’s demise deemed a suicide.

“The deeper you dig, the extra questions that floor,” Rosenfeld advised The Each day Beast. “However when you… purchased the ‘principle’ [early on] that it was an open-and-shut case of suicide—not mysterious within the least—there’s no cause to even entertain myriad puzzling, troubling questions. You simply inform your supervisor, ‘There’s nothing to see right here.’”

Courtesy of the Valiante Household

The day that Tiffany died was very like some other, Dianne Valiante mentioned as she confirmed The Each day Beast across the woodsy piece of property the place her daughter was final seen on a deer digicam on the finish of the driveway.

Tiffany spent the morning on the household dwelling in Mays Touchdown, leaving briefly to get a lemonade at an area Wawa. That afternoon, Tiffany and her dad and mom walked throughout the road to Steve’s brother’s home for a celebration. His daughter, Tiffany’s cousin, had simply graduated from Holy Spirit Excessive College within the close by city of Absecon, they usually have been celebrating with a big group of family and friends who got here and went all through the day and into the night.

Her household mentioned on the celebration that Tiffany spoke enthusiastically about going off to school and was hatching a plan with certainly one of her two half-sisters to go together with her to choose up a kitten for his or her mother every week or so later as a birthday shock.

Courtesy of the Valiante Household

Shortly after 9 p.m. an in depth buddy of Tiffany’s referred to as Steve and Dianne saying she wanted to talk with them in individual and the couple left the celebration and returned dwelling to satisfy her.

The buddy, who didn’t reply to a number of interview requests for this story and whose identify The Each day Beast is withholding, confirmed as much as the Valiantes’ place round 9:15 p.m. together with her mother and advised them that Tiffany had used her debit card with out permission to purchase about $300 price of garments and meals.

Steve, a upkeep employee for the State of New Jersey, and Dianne, an administrative assistant for the native public college district, then referred to as Tiffany on her cellphone, and she or he confirmed up a minute or two later. In response to civil deposition transcripts obtained by The Each day Beast, Dianne at first defended Tiffany, saying she had no cause to make use of her buddy’s card since she and Steve had given her their bank card. Apparently shocked by the accusation, Tiffany—who had been caught by her dad and mom taking cash from their checking account just a few months earlier—requested her buddy how she thought she may ever steal from her and flatly denied all of it.

The dialog ended lower than 10 minutes after it started and at 9:24 p.m., Tiffany’s buddy drove off together with her mom.

In response to a timeline offered by Valiante household lawyer Paul D’Amato, Dianne started to look Tiffany’s automobile together with her daughter when she noticed {the teenager} slip the cardboard into her again pocket. Dianne instantly went into the home to get Steve however after they got here again out a minute or so later, Tiffany was gone.

Dianne referred to as the buddy, and advised her that Tiffany “ran away,” in line with the deposition transcript, and the buddy rushed again to the Valiante home, together with two different ladies who knew Tiffany to assist search for her.

Justin Rohrlich/The Each day Beast

The skies in Mays Touchdown, a quiet neighborhood of just below 6,000 individuals, about 20 miles west of Atlantic Metropolis, have been nearly pitch-black on the night time Tiffany vanished. In response to Steve and Dianne, Tiffany suffered from near-crippling nyctophobia—a debilitating concern of the darkish.

At first, they thought Tiffany may need been enjoying some type of joke on them, hiding within the woods behind the home and watching the search effort from behind a tree. Ultimately, it turned clear this wasn’t the case, and a big group of household and mates cut up up into search events.

Dianne and Steve searched the world on foot and by automobile. A short while later, Tiffany’s two older half-sisters, Jessica and Krystal, in addition to her uncle started scouring the encircling woods on quad bikes.

At round 11 p.m., Steve noticed Tiffany’s cellphone in some brush close to the top of the driveway. This was extremely uncommon, he thought, since Tiffany didn’t go wherever with out her telephone (she had even bought a particular case for it so she may use it within the bathe, in line with her dad and mom). With none signal of Tiffany, the household referred to as off the search round midnight and contacted police.

However by that point, Tiffany was already useless. She had been fatally struck by a rushing practice headed from Philadelphia to Atlantic Metropolis alongside an remoted stretch of observe 4 miles from the place she lived.

Justin Rohrlich/The Each day Beast

Talking to a reporter from The Press of Atlantic Metropolis, a New Jersey Transit spokesperson mentioned Tiffany “was standing on the practice tracks close to Tilton Highway in Galloway Township, however didn’t transfer when the practice’s engineer sounded the horn and utilized emergency brakes.”

The health worker’s report was notably grim—all 4 of Tiffany’s limbs had been ripped from her torso, her face and head have been fully crushed, and her mind “extruded from the cranial cavity.” The report, issued six days after Tiffany was killed, listed the reason for demise as “a number of traumatic accidents.” Tiffany’s torso was clad solely in underwear, and her ft, which have been severed fully from her physique, have been discovered with out the sneakers she left dwelling in.

Apprentice engineer Marvin Olivares, who had been on the job for somewhat over a 12 months, was on the controls of NJ Transit practice 4693 that night time. As he accelerated as much as the 80 mph pace restrict on the best way to rendezvous with a disabled practice, supervising engineer Wayne Daniels briefly stepped out of the cab to go over the rescue recreation plan along with his lead conductor.

“I had circled to inform him, like, ‘Invoice, that is—that is how we’re going to set all the pieces up,’” Daniels later advised cops, in line with a police report reviewed by The Each day Beast. “And on the similar time that this was occurring, I heard my… scholar engineer, blow the horn, put the practice into emergency, and say… a woman had jumped out in entrance of us.”

The practice hit Tiffany at 11:07 p.m., dragging and slicing up her physique for a couple of quarter-mile earlier than coming to a cease. On the stroke of midnight, nurse practitioner Michelle Amendolia arrived on the scene and pronounced Tiffany useless.

Justin Rohrlich/The Each day Beast

D’Amato has lengthy been bothered by what he says amounted to “inconsistent statements” by each Olivares and Daniels in interviews with detectives.

In a 2019 civil go well with towards NJ Transit that D’Amato filed on behalf of the Valiante household, he identified that Olivares was questioned three separate instances by investigators, offering a special model of occasions every time. (The Each day Beast has reviewed transcripts of those interviews.) In a single, Olivares mentioned that Tiffany had “darted out” from the woods and ran onto the tracks, after which she was hit. In one other, Olivares mentioned he didn’t see Tiffany till the practice was “proper on prime” of her. In a 3rd interview performed underneath oath six days later, Olivares claimed he first noticed Tiffany from a couple of half-mile away, crouched alongside the tracks. She then stood up and dove in entrance of the practice, in line with Olivares.

Daniels additionally gave conflicting accounts of what occurred that night time, D’Amato mentioned.

In court docket filings, D’Amato pointed to the assertion Daniels initially gave investigators, telling them that he “instructed the apprentice engineer to blow the horn and ring the bell as he put the practice into emergency brake software.” Nevertheless, when he was subsequently put underneath oath, Daniels admitted that he had had his again to the cab whereas chatting along with his conductor. Neither of them ever rang the bell, in line with the practice’s “black field,” the lawsuit states.

Olivares and Daniels didn’t reply to a number of interview requests by The Each day Beast.

The errors continued mounting for years, mentioned D’Amato. NJ Transit detectives someway managed to lose an ax with “purple markings” discovered close to the crash web site earlier than it might be examined. In March 2022, a forensic examiner employed by D’Amato discovered that the remaining proof in Tiffany’s case had been saved improperly by police, making all of it however nugatory for a brand new spherical of DNA testing.

The shirt Tiffany was carrying the night time she died had been stuffed right into a plastic bag which was tied with a knot, leaving it “lined with mould” and scientifically ineffective. Different gadgets, which “had been outdoor, uncovered to the weather for just a few weeks, previous to being collected,” made them equally contaminated, in line with a non-public DNA testing lab that D’Amato employed on behalf of the Valiantes.

An NJ Transit spokesperson didn’t reply to The Each day Beast’s request for remark.

There may be, in reality, some proof pointing to suicide.

On July 16, the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Workplace despatched out a Ok-9 handler with a bloodhound to “conduct a observe from the home she left from to aim to establish her route of journey,” states an operations report obtained by The Each day Beast. Investigators wished to study if Tiffany may need been picked up by a automobile on the night time of the twelfth and pushed to the practice tracks—during which case the bloodhound would presumably lose her scent sooner or later between the Valiantes’ driveway and the purpose of impression with the practice.

“I suggested all current… that I didn’t need to know the situation of the incident,” the Ok-9 handler wrote within the report. “I wished to conduct the observe blind and let my Ok-9 companion paved the way and talk about the observe when accomplished.”

Over the following hour and 10 minutes, the bloodhound led the handler from the Valiantes’ driveway alongside a 3.2 mile route that culminated within the “normal space” of the place the locomotive hit Tiffany. Nevertheless, whereas driving the route with The Each day Beast final month, D’Amato mentioned he thought of the Ok-9 outcomes unreliable, because it had rained closely within the interval since Tiffany disappeared.

On a private degree, Dianne advised The Each day Beast, she and Tiffany had been having points all year long previous her demise, however that she thought of this “regular teenage stuff” and that nothing that went past the everyday issues teenage ladies and their moms typically have.

Justin Rohrlich/The Each day Beast

But, the 2 had been bickering increasingly more regularly, and baby safety officers in 2014 paid three separate visits to the Valiante dwelling after certainly one of Tiffany’s academics seen bruising on her arm, in line with a abstract of medical data reviewed by The Each day Beast. Dianne admitted to having prompted the bruise by punching Tiffany after an argument. A caseworker really helpful the pair search counseling, which Dianne and Tiffany agreed to do.

Throughout their first and solely session, on Nov. 17, 2014, Dianne advised the therapist that she had been particularly short-tempered of late, however blamed it on menopausal adjustments. Two days later, Tiffany’s grandfather died. She began skipping class and smoking somewhat pot, and took some cash from Dianne’s checking account at Christmas with out telling her, in line with the abstract. Though that they had “hassle speaking,” the therapist’s official evaluation was that the pair loved a “wholesome” household relationship.

Tiffany advised the therapist she was neither depressed nor suicidal, the abstract states. Dianne “acknowledged not having the ability to transfer on from the incidents” as a consequence of her personal anxiousness, and mentioned she would search “unbiased help, if wanted.” The next month, their case was closed.

In early 2015, roughly six months earlier than her demise, Tiffany got here out as homosexual.

She started courting a younger girl in Philadelphia, and after an amicable breakup, struck up a brand new relationship with a woman she met on-line. At first, Dianne advised Tiffany that she was simply going by a part. Nevertheless, she mentioned she and Steve have been accepting of Tiffany’s sexuality.

Others, nonetheless, could not have been as open minded, in line with D’Amato.

“A few of the different ladies in class wished to ‘experiment’ together with her,” he mentioned, laying out one of many numerous theories which were floated over time. “Which can have upset sure ladies, and likewise sure guys.”

One classmate mentioned Tiffany had been performing in a different way for a few months earlier than she died, that she had been feeling distant from her dad and mom, and that she was “lonely.”

One other mentioned she heard that Tiffany texted a buddy the night time of her demise with a cryptic message: “Simply reply sure or no: ought to I do it?”

Justin Rohrlich/The Each day Beast

Despite the fact that Tiffany was widespread and well-liked she placed on a courageous face, mentioned a 3rd, however nonetheless felt she may “by no means slot in,” and felt “unhappy” about life normally. Nevertheless, they insisted that whereas Tiffany might be impulsive and had a scorching mood, she had by no means talked about suicide.

A few Tiffany’s mates advised investigators that she had harmed herself, deliberately slicing her wrist and her leg on two separate events. One claimed Tiffany had been depressed, and prompt untreated psychological sickness could have performed a job.

Dianne and Steve mentioned when authorities initially decided that Tiffany had died by suicide, they begrudgingly accepted it, regardless that, as they each insist, that they had no indication in any respect that Tiffany had been depressed or emotionally unstable, and positively not suicidal.

Then roughly two weeks after Tiffany died, Dianne went out for a stroll to clear her head. She advised The Each day Beast that a couple of mile away from dwelling she noticed one thing underneath a tree and walked nearer to have a look. What she found shocked her to her core.

Tiffany’s headband, and brand-new sneakers, which she had worn for the primary time to her cousin’s commencement celebration, have been sitting collectively within the grass, fully undisturbed. The sneakers have been neatly lined up subsequent to one another, as if somebody had set them down purposefully, in line with Dianne. There was additionally a keychain close by, which Dianne didn’t acknowledge, in addition to a sweatshirt about 15 ft away that Dianne mentioned wasn’t Tiffany’s.

Dianne instantly referred to as Steve, who confirmed up and referred to as the cops. The sneakers and headband have been certainly Tiffany’s. Detectives interviewed the Valiantes for the primary time three days later. They subsequently misplaced the keychain earlier than it had an opportunity to be analyzed.

The police later requested Steve and Dianne for entry to a deer digicam of their yard. On it, they found the final identified picture of Tiffany, who was seen strolling down the driveway after the blow-up together with her mother, carrying her sneakers and the scarf that Dianne later discovered.

Courtesy of the Valiante Household

Dianne believes Tiffany was lured right into a automobile by somebody parked on the finish of the driveway, who then fled the world together with her. She theorizes that her daughter escaped from the automobile and was chased onto the practice tracks, leaping straight into the trail of the 50-ton locomotive bearing down on her.

Alternatively, Dianne says, Tiffany’s attacker could have killed her first after which hurled her corpse in entrance of the practice to destroy any proof.

An evaluation D’Amato and the Valiantes commissioned in 2016 from Louise Houseman, a former senior investigator with the Atlantic County Medical Examiner’s Workplace, additionally casts doubt on the official narrative.

“It’s extremely unlikely that this very achieved 18-year-old feminine athlete walked barefoot, alone within the woods, with out her cellphone, over stones and brush, at midnight alongside 1.5 miles of remoted railroad tracks on a scorching summer time night time for a complete of almost 4 hours as a way to commit suicide,” Houseman wrote.

She famous that demise by practice is “a particularly uncommon methodology of suicide to be contemplated by anybody, particularly a feminine teenager with no historical past of emotional instability. The loud sound of an approaching practice is more likely to invoke a flight response in a sober particular person had she wished to commit suicide, Tiffany may have walked in entrance of a automobile on a [much closer] closely traveled 4 lane freeway.”

No medicine or alcohol have been present in Tiffany’s system the night time she died, in line with a toxicology report issued two weeks later.

Justin Rohrlich/The Each day Beast

Former Atlantic County Medical Examiner Dr. Donald Jason, now a professor emeritus of pathology on the Wake Forest College of Medication, has been in observe for almost 50 years. Trying to find solutions, D’Amato employed Jason in 2018 to reexamine numerous elements of the case within the wake of Houseman’s report.

“In my profession, I’ve performed between 10,000 and 20,000 autopsies,” Jason advised The Each day Beast, noting that of these “most likely 100 or so” concerned individuals being hit by trains.

Jason mentioned he finds it “very inconceivable” that Tiffany walked 4 miles to finish her life when there have been nearer and simpler methods to do it, however that NJ Transit was “very joyful to only name it a suicide as a result of then they’re off the hook.” A demise on the tracks as a consequence of negligence can set off elevated oversight, giant fines, and even attainable legal expenses.

“I believe it’s extra possible that she was operating away from any individual and attempting to flee,” Dr. Jason mentioned. “So I’d name that both an accident or a murder. However definitely not a suicide… In my report, I concluded it’s most likely most secure simply to name it undetermined, as a result of we don’t know the information but. And so they by no means actually absolutely investigated something aside from suicide.”

Within the report he ready for D’Amato, Jason mentioned investigators handled Tiffany’s “apparently unnatural demise… with the belief that it was a suicide. This bias negatively affected the best way during which the scene was processed by all members of the staff, each responding police and health worker’s workers.”

In her report, Houseman criticized New Jersey officers for not conducting a so-called psychological post-mortem on Tiffany. If that they had, it will have been clear that she was not in danger for suicide, in line with Houseman’s evaluation. For Rosenfeld, the previous transport advisor, he says the psychological post-mortem ought to have been a key a part of the response after Tiffany’s demise.

“Each pathologist we talked to from Day One mentioned [that] earlier than you may assign suicide… [as] the reason for demise, it’s important to conclusively decide there was a motive on the a part of the deceased to take his or her personal life,” Rosenfeld advised The Each day Beast. “And the rhetorical query we have now been educated [on] over the intervening years is, what was the motive? And never one individual on this case has mentioned, ‘Oh, there was a transparent motive right here on the a part of this younger girl.’”

Courtesy of the Valiante Household

Within the preliminary aftermath of Tiffany’s demise there have been some attractive preliminary leads, such because the Wawa supervisor who claimed he overheard a gaggle of teenage boys speaking about Tiffany having been kidnapped at gunpoint, humiliated, compelled to strip all the way down to her underwear, and pushed to the practice station by her abductors.

The supervisor, whose identify D’Amato and Rosenfeld requested The Each day Beast to not publish in mild of previous demise threats, claimed the three boys who labored at Wawa had spoken to him about “issues they heard in reference to the Valiante incident,” in line with the transcript from a November 2016 interview—underneath oath—with a detective from the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Workplace.

Throughout questioning, the supervisor mentioned the teenagers advised him that Tiffany’s buddy—whom the supervisor didn’t know—had been extremely upset in regards to the stolen debit card. After Tiffany stormed off from her home, the supervisor claimed the buddy referred to as somebody who got here by and picked her up in a truck with an “unidentified man,” in line with the transcript. From there, Tiffany was led to her demise on the practice tracks.

However the supervisor had gotten the data third-hand, and his model of the story was plagued by holes. For starters, he claimed, erroneously, that the argument between Tiffany and her buddy occurred on the commencement celebration, in entrance of a crowd. The supervisor additionally mentioned the buddy had not as soon as reached out to Steve and Dianne after Tiffany’s demise. Nevertheless, the buddy wrote a speech for Tiffany’s funeral, and mentioned she introduced over mementoes of Tiffany for Dianne, who wished to hold them on the wall at dwelling. (Two weeks later, the Valiantes blocked the buddy’s telephone quantity and kicked her mother off their property when she confirmed as much as discover out what was occurring, in line with the transcript. The buddy mentioned she by no means received an evidence as to why she was abruptly iced out.)

When investigators interviewed the three teenagers, the trio—who have been every questioned individually—appeared flummoxed by what they thought of to be nothing wanting an outlandish story, in line with transcripts reviewed by The Each day Beast. None of them had any thought what the supervisor was speaking about, and every appeared to have an hermetic alibi.

D’Amato mentioned the supervisor, who didn’t reply to requests for remark by The Each day Beast, was deemed “credible” by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Workplace, however that there was not sufficient proof to convey the case to a grand jury.

Courtesy of the Valiante Household

Regardless of plenty of purple herrings, authorities agreed to revisit Tiffany’s demise and reevaluate the preliminary health worker’s findings in 2017, in line with D’Amato, who has taken NJ Transit to court docket on behalf of the Valiantes a number of instances to pry free investigative data—which has produced a number of the case recordsdata so far, however not all of them. D’Amato has additionally been preventing to get the official method of demise modified from suicide to “undetermined,”thus far unsuccessfully. The household additionally filed lawsuits towards unnamed defendants, listed anonymously as “Steve Does 1-5,” and “Shirley Does 1-5,” alleging kidnapping, assault and battery, manslaughter, homicide, conspiracy, and destruction of proof.

“Whereas we strongly imagine she was murdered, the grievance permits for the chance that the co-conspirators didn’t intend to kill her, however that their violent actions nonetheless resulted in her demise,” D’Amato mentioned in 2017. “A technique or one other, they have been liable for her being on the railroad tracks, they usually should and shall be held accountable for his or her unconscionable conduct.”

In March 2018, New Jersey State Medical Examiner Andrew Falzon determined to depart the way of demise unchanged. Updating it to “undetermined” would enable police to reopen the investigation, in line with D’Amato.

“My examination helps the investigation’s unique conclusion that the way of demise be deemed a suicide,” Falzon wrote in a letter to D’Amato, which he shared with The Each day Beast. “… Because the State Medical Examiner and a dad or mum, please prolong my condolences to the Valiante household for his or her tragic loss.”

It’s nonetheless not sufficient for D’Amato, who stays sure that one thing doesn’t add up.

“With all the eye this case has gotten, and there’s a $25,000 money reward. Nothing,” he argued. “And I hold saying, The place’s that one that’s gonna come as much as me and say, ‘Paul—she was speaking to me about suicide for months?’”

To Rosenfeld, the Valiantes deserve nothing wanting a contemporary have a look at their daughter’s case.

“If nothing else, society owes them justice, and the complete pursuit of it,” he mentioned. “And albeit, that by no means occurred. There are extra questions at the moment than there have been seven years in the past.”

Within the years following her demise, the Valiante household erected a small hut on a concrete patch by the practice tracks the place Tiffany died. Inside, it’s embellished with photos of Tiffany throughout happier instances. A bench is about up for guests to take a seat and keep in mind her. A small radio performs nonstop, powered by a transportable generator Steve put in.

In Tiffany’s honor, Steve additionally constructed the regulation-size seashore volleyball court docket he lengthy promised to construct her. A sculpture he made out of two giant tree trunks bears the inscription: “Tiffany we love you so very a lot.” Among the many scattered classic tractors he rebuilds as a passion, a plaque Steve laid down in a yard memorial backyard reads, “Rooted in love, endlessly in our hearts.”

Courtesy of the Valiante Household

Standing in her driveway, with a big “Justice for Tiffany” decal affixed to the rear window of her SUV, Dianne Valiante chokes again tears as her daughter’s beloved golden retriever romps fortunately by the big yard that now serves as a shrine of types to a younger life interrupted.

“They didn’t assume the household was gonna combat,” she mentioned. “They figured we’d hand over.”

In a follow-up e-mail from each Steve and Dianne, they wrote, “Seven years later, we haven’t given up hope or misplaced our religion.”

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