MISHANDLING KEY EVIDENCE IN 2015 TIFFANY VALIANTE SUSPICIOUS DEATH CASE IMPEDED INDEPENDENT FORENSIC DNA ANALYSIS, REPORTS RENOWNED LAB
TRENTON, N.J., March 29, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The highly regarded forensics lab, hired with New Jersey court approval to analyze key evidence linked to the 2015 suspicious death of 18-year-old Tiffany Valiante, has just concluded that the items – including a blood-stained towel and a T-shirt – were so poorly handled by investigators that they were “of no scientific probative value”, according to the final report of the Ohio-based DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) released today by Paul R. D’Amato, the Valiante family’s attorney.
Julie A. Heinig, Ph.D., Laboratory Director of Forensics and DNA Technical Leader, said, “We have extensive experience over decades performing analysis on evidence with degraded DNA, however, in this instance, we were able to obtain very little DNA for comparison due to the manner in which the evidence was collected and maintained. This included storage of evidence in plastic, rather than a paper receptacle, which resulted in moisture-inducing bacterial contamination.” She noted that a DNA blood card, containing a sample of Tiffany Valiante’s blood, was verified only after paternity testing due to the improper chain of custody and contamination of the sample.
Attorney D’Amato, who has been representing the Valiante family in the aftermath of her death, near midnight on July 12, 2015, after being struck by a New Jersey Transit train, along a secluded section of track less than five miles from her Mays Landing home, said the long-awaited report’s findings are “immensely disappointing but also consistent with the view of other independent forensic professionals who collectively questioned the official investigation by New Jersey Transit Police and the NJ Medical Examiner’s Office into Tiffany’s death, and they disputed labeling it suicide. At minimum, they believed the cause of death should have been ruled ‘undetermined’.”
Mr. D’Amato added, “This report by DDC reinforces our view that there was a gross rush to judgement by investigators, who hastily determined Tiffany’s death was a suicide; they never treated the scene like a crime scene and, clearly, mishandled key evidence that we now conclusively learn was useless when finally subjected to DNA testing. It remains an outrage that the Valiante family had to obtain a court order – and pay with their own savings – to have that DNA analysis performed.” He said the evidence that DCC tested has now been returned to the New Jersey office of Attorney General along with a copy of the lab’s report.
Tiffany’s parents, Dianne and Stephen Valiante, in a statement on the report, said, “We were hopeful for a miracle with the DNA testing, especially knowing Tiffany’s death from the start was dismissed as a suicide without a proper investigation ever conducted. There’s no excuse for evidence being mishandled, even lost as in the case of a bloodied axe and a keychain found at the scene. We know her killer or killers are still free and must be held accountable for Tiffany’s death. We again appeal to the Attorney General to reopen this case and pray for justice for Tiffany.”
About DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC)
Founded in 1995, DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) is a world leader in private, certified DNA forensic testing. Dr. Michael Baird, DDC’s Laboratory Director, was the first DNA expert to testify in a US court, in 1982, and has testified in hundreds of cases. Legal and law enforcement professionals regularly contact DDC’s team of forensic scientists to assist them on the most challenging cases. The forensics team at DDC uses state-of-the-art methods to continually advance the science and to help to ensure the correct outcome. The laboratory works closely with The Innocence Project in Ohio and around the country, assisting in the pursuit of truth and justice.
SOURCE D’Amato Law Firm