Disclaimer: This article contains discussion surrounding the death of Tiffany Valiante and includes discussion of suicides, references to sexual assaults, descriptions of graphic violence, and crime scene photos.
Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for Unsolved Mysteries volume 3, episode 1, “Mystery at Mile Marker 45”.
Official Investigators’ Theory That Tiffany Valiante’s Violent Death Was Described In Unsolved mysteries was a suicide has a lot of problems. The first episode of Unsolved mysteries Volume 3, “Mystery at Mile Marker 45”, detailed how, on the evening of July 12, 2015, the popular young athlete was hit by a train nearly four miles from her home in Galloway Township, New Jersey. The investigation overseen by the New Jersey Transit Police concluded that Valiante’s death was a suicide, but her family said they felt the investigation was rushed and believed she was murdered.
Since the initial investigators declined to be interviewed for Unsolved mysteries volume 3, the episode “Mystery at Mile Marker 45” leans heavily on the theories of the Valiante family and independent investigators who disagree with the New Jersey Transit Police’s assessment. Beyond the suicide theory causing Tiffany Valiant to engage in unlikely and unusual behavior, she also ignores some of the physical evidence uncovered by the medical examiner. Moreover, there are reasons to question the validity of eyewitness accounts of Tiffany Valiante’s tragic death.
Mile Marker 45 was the perfect location for a crime
The question of how Tiffany Valiante arrived at the site of her death, near mile 45 along the local train tracks, is one of the most confusing mysteries posed by the Netflix true crime series Unsolved mysteries. Ignoring the Valiante family’s objections to the suggestion that Tiffany was suicidal, the baseline scenario offered by the New Jersey Transit Police seems unlikely. According to a 2014 statistical analysis conducted by Harvard School of Public Health, most suicide deaths occur at home and involve means less dramatic than a moving train. Given this, the long walk that authorities suggest Tiffany Valiante undertook in the hours before her death doesn’t make sense, but the Valiante family believe the location where Tiffany’s body was found would be a place perfect for murder.
The Valiante family discusses the remote region in detail in Unsolved mysteries“Investigation into the true story of the death of Tiffany Valiantedescribing it as “sorry” and “sinister“Nestled between the train line and the White Horse Pike freeway toward Atlantic City, there would be considerable background noise capable of muffling a murder. The Valiante family believe the site was chosen for this reason, and that either Tiffany’s body was left on the train tracks or she fled there after being assaulted.
The question of Tiffany Valiante’s clothes
Another oddity in the case was that Tiffany Valiante was only wearing underwear at the time of her death. His family later retrieved his shoes and headband nearly two miles from where he died. The investigators’ conclusion was that Tiffany Valiante must have stripped naked during her walk in the woods and spent the last leg of her journey walking barefoot along the train tracks.
At first glance, this evidence appears to support the tiffany valiante murder theory favored by the Valiant family to explain Tiffany’s death. Tiffany’s body was cremated before a full autopsy was performed by the medical examiner, and no rape kit was used to check for signs of sexual assault before her death. Assuming that Tiffany had suddenly decided to undress, as in the investigator’s theory, the rest of her clothes should have been discovered in the same area. However, as Tiffany’s mother, Dianne Valiante, noted in the Unsolved mysteries episode “Mystery at Mile Marker 45”, the shorts and shirt Tiffany wore earlier that evening were never found.
Tiffany Valiante’s feet were not injured
The train that hit Tiffany Valiante inflicted intense damage to her body, impacting her with such force that all four of her limbs were apparently torn from her body. Despite this, the medical examiner’s report and the crime scene photos referred to in the Netflix series showed that Tiffany’s feet were in surprisingly good condition. This was evident, despite their conclusion that Tiffany Valiante traveled almost two miles barefoot on a path of jagged rocks and broken glass to reach the impact site.
This incongruity was captured by H. Louise Houseman, an independent medical examiner who was brought in to analyze the evidence in the case after the Valiante family filed a civil lawsuit in 2017. Houseman described her findings in the Unsolved mysteries episode “Mystery at Mile Marker 45”, but originally published his research in a 30-page report. Houseman concluded that if Tiffany had walked the route proposed by the original investigators barefoot, “it is more likely than not that his feet would have shown severe damage“However, an examination of Tiffany’s feet in crime scene photos showed”no abrasions or damage” to the soles of his feet.
Eyewitness accounts keep changing
by Netflix Unsolved mysteries revealed there was only one eyewitness to Tiffany Valiante’s death; an engineering student, who had only been in the job for 14 months. However, on the initial accident report, both the student engineer and the senior engineer in charge claimed that Tiffany Valiante had jumped in front of the train before she could stop it. Six days later, after being sworn in, the lead engineer changed his story and denied seeing the death of Tiffany Valiante, as they spoke to the driver and had their backs turned at the time of impact. The engineering student also changed their story saying they hadn’t seen Tiffany”until I was right on top of her.” According Unsolved Mysteries’ case studythe engineering student changed his story a third time, ten days after the second deposition, this time claiming to have seen something on the tracks half a mile away, before Tiffany Valiante jumped”out of the woods on the slopes.”
H. Louise Houseman also noted these inconsistencies in her report and discussed them in the Unsolved Mysteries Tiffany Valiante case profile. Houseman suspected the engineering student may have been in shock and misremembered details, describing the transcript of his deposition as “Trek“as if he wasn’t sure what he saw. Houseman further suggested that the engineer might have perceived Tiffany’s body being thrown upwards by the impact of the train hitting her body as”skipEither way, the continual changes make her testimony suspect, and challenge the theory that Tiffany Valiant’s death was a suicide.
New episodes of Unsolved Mysteries out Tuesdays on Netflix.