SALT LAKE CITY — As family members and friends of a Utah CEO found dead in the back seat of her rental car continue to mourn her loss, many are also questioning how the case was handled by the San Jose Police Department.
The body of Erin Valenti, a Utah tech entrepreneur, was found Saturday in a residential neighborhood in the 6500 block of Bose Lane in San Jose. She would have turned 34 on Wednesday.
Neither a cause nor manner of death had been released as of Monday. It was unknown how long her body had been in the car before being discovered.
Valenti, who was the CEO of Utah-based Tinker Ventures, a company that develops web and smartphone applications, was attending a tech conference in Southern California before heading to the Bay Area.
“Heading to SF and LA soon ... whose around?” was the last post on her Facebook page on Sept. 25 just before 10 p.m.
According to her husband, Harrison Weinstein, Valenti was last seen in Palo Alto on Oct. 7. She was scheduled to fly back to Utah that night.
”She was driving from Palo Alto to San Jose, but never returned her rental car or made it onto her flight home to Utah,” Weinstein wrote on his Facebook page. “Her phone has been off since Monday night. If you have seen or heard from her please let me know.”
Before her phone went off, Valenti talked to her parents.
“We talked to her for hours on and off” on Monday night, her mother Whitey Valenti told the San Jose Mercury News. “Her thoughts were disconnected. She talked a mile a minute. She’d say, ‘ I’m coming home for Thanksgiving,’ then in the next she was saying she’s in the Matrix,” a reference to the science fiction movie.
Valenti’s parents told the Mercury News that they feared their daughter may have suffered a manic episode. But Weinstein said his wife had no history of mental illness.
Weinstein told the website CrimeOnline that a San Jose police officer spoke with Valenti that night by phone at the request of the family.
“The officer said she wasn’t making any sense. They drove around looking for her on Monday night and never found her,” he said.
But Joseph Valenti, Erin Valenti’s father, said San Jose police did not file a missing person’s report until Oct. 10. And when they did, they designated her as “voluntarily missing,” meaning because she was an adult she had the right not to be found if she didn’t want to be.
Friends and family members are strongly questioning that, however, given how she was acting prior to disappearing.
“Anyone that knows her knows she didn’t voluntarily go missing and things could have been different,” Scott Paul, a friend of Valenti, told KSL Newsradio’s “Dave and Dujanovic” show Monday. “We had to self-organize, her friends in Utah had to self-organize and like, try to do a search party five days after. And it was just too late. That’s not the way it should have gone.”
A post on the In Memory of Erin Valenti Facebook page also raised doubt about her purposely not wanting to be found.
“I would like to emphasize how out of character this would be for Erin. While she is adventurous, she is not foolhardy and would never intentionally be out of contact with her family,” the post stated hours before she was found “Erin should be considered a vulnerable person at severe risk and the police should be involved, although they have continued to treat her as a voluntary missing person.”
Many expressed anger toward the San Jose Police Department on its Facebook page.
San Jose police declined to answer questions on Monday, only stating in an email: “The investigation is ongoing and we don’t have new information to share at this time.”
The Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office will determine the manner and cause of death.
Contributing: Associated Press