(Spoilers/details on news coverage of Tiffany Valiante’s death will be found below.)
Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries returns on October 18 to deliver more O.G. true-crime vibes for the streaming audience. The series will grow more supernatural with the second episode, but the first one takes a grounded approach to dealing with a real-life crime and considers whether an 18-year-old volleyball star, Tiffany Valiante of New Jersey, took her own life. Of course, Netflix recently scored a major hit with Ryan Murphy’s Dahmer dramatization starring Evan Peters, and that show upset victims’ families by arguably capitalizing upon tragedy. With this newest Unsolved Mysteries episode, however, the family is fully onboard in the interest of uncovering the truth of what happened to a beloved daughter who died in a puzzling, nonsensical way in 2015.
Officially, the medical examiner and investigators declared Valiante’s death to be a suicide, a determination that her family cannot stomach as the truth. That’s because Valiante was not only apparently an outwardly happy and well-adjusted teen, but she was nearly about to begin college on a volleyball scholarship. Her stature (she was 6’2″) made her stand out in a crowd, but no one saw what happened to Valiante after she left a party to walk a few blocks to her family’s home. She did show up on footage from a neighbor’s deer camera (as shown below), but investigators determined that she supposedly ditched her shoes and walked three miles, barefoot and on rough terrain, to the point where a moving train (which was on the route between Atlantic City and Philadelphia) hit her after she allegedly threw herself on the tracks.
The episode’s a spooky one, and — as the episode details — the conductor who was helming the train gave conflicting stories about what he saw or didn’t see on the tracks that night. Tiffany was also not fully clothed when (what was left of) her body was found. In addition, a previous Daily Beast investigative report detailed a hearsay story from a Wawa manager, who claimed that he overheard some teenage boys discussing how Tiffany was allegedly kidnapped after she had left the party. Whether or not that story was true, or whether Tiffany was chased onto the tracks by anyone else, no one knows for sure, and the manager didn’t want to be identified by the Daily Beast.
In addition, there are differing accounts of whether Tiffany had argued with her mother and/or ditched her cell phone in her parents’ driveway. Reportedly, cell records showed that Tiffany used the phone an hour after some people say that she tossed the device. Her mother also indicated that Tiffany always kept her cell phone with her and went to great measures to protect it with a durable, waterproof device. Further questions involve whether Tiffany could have been distraught over an ended relationship, but she had recently entered into a different coupling.
In the end, this episode doesn’t provide the answers, which adds to the obligatory “Unsolved” nature of the tragedy in question. The Netflix series, as with the original, asks viewers to provide any tips (here) if they think they can help solve a crime. Hopefully, Tiffany’s family can gain some closure if anyone out there can help determine what actually happened leading up to those train tracks.
Netflix’s ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ will return on October 18.