N.J. woman’s family says state erred in calling her death a suicide

Tiffany Valiante's family is challenging state officials who ruled the 18-year-old's July 2015 death a suicide. (Photo provided)

Tiffany Valiante's family is challenging state officials who ruled the 18-year-old's July 2015 death a suicide. (Photo provided)

The family of a Mays Landing woman has filed a lawsuit against the state of New Jersey, claiming that a state medical examiner erred in calling the 18-year-old’s death last summer a suicide.

Tiffany Valiante died in July of 2015 after being struck by an NJ Transit in Galloway Township, just miles from her family’s home.

“We’re not looking for money. We just want to change the death certificate from suicide to undetermined or accidental,” said Paul D’Amato, the family’s attorney. “The family is committed not to let this death certificate that says suicide be the last chapter of their daughter Tiffany’s life.”

Friends and family of the college-bound volleyball star thought from the beginning that Valiante would never have killed herself, according to D’Amato, but state investigators ignored their claims.

D’Amato said investigations by NJ Transit and the state medical examiner were not comprehensive and even failed to include a “psychological autopsy” to determine whether Valiante was suicidal before her death.

“You look at the nurse’s file from the school. You check with local hospitals to see if she had been treated for addiction issues with drugs, alcohol — or if she had a depression problem. You talk to the family. You talk to the friends,” said D’Amato. “None of this was done.”

The Oakcrest High School graduate had been preparing to study criminal justice at Mercy College when she died.

The state attorney general’s office, which oversees the state medical examiner’s office, declined to comment.

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