CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Friends, family say San Jose police mismanaged search for tech leader

Oct 14, 2019, 6:09 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:27 am

San Jose police...

The body of Erin Valenti, a Utah tech CEO, was found in a parked rental car in San Jose. (San Jose Police Department)

(San Jose Police Department)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The family and friends of a Utah tech leader are crying foul and claiming negligence on the part of San Jose Police.

33-year-old Erin Valenti, the CEO of Tinker Ventures, was in Southern California last week for work, but she never returned home to Salt Lake City.

Valenti missed a Monday evening flight to Utah from San Jose International, which should have been cause for concern, according to those closest to her.

“My last communication with her was on the phone with her Monday night,” said Valenti’s husband, Harrison Weinstein. “So after the last person saw her.”

Weinstein described the conversation as odd and said his wife was all over the place.

Weinstein said his wife was “trying to figure out where she was. … She was still saying I’m going to the airport, but also was bouncing off of topics.”

Valenti also spoke on the phone with her parents that day, who claimed she was talking a mile a minute and failed to make sense.

Additionally, she was expected back home for an award ceremony on Wednesday, which she failed to attend.

At that point, a number of friends and family began to take her disappearance as a serious missing person case. Valenti’s family says they spoke to the police in San Jose in order to give a description.

Police were not able to locate her, and on Thursday, the department filed an official missing person report, describing her as “voluntarily missing.” That didn’t add up for those close to her.

“She was marked as ‘voluntary missing’ and anyone that knows her knows that she wouldn’t go voluntary missing,” said a friend, Scott Paul.

Paul and others in Utah started to do their own amateur police work by tracking her last phone call to the Almaden neighborhood. They also established a Facebook page called “Help Find Erin Valenti.”

“We had to self-organize as friends in Utah, we had to self-organize and try to do a search party,” Paul said. “It’s not the way it should have gone.”

A number of Bay Area locals connected with the page and volunteered to search in the area where her last call was tracked.

“We had a spot where we knew the phone went out and we thought cops would be doing a perimeter search,” said Paul, “looking for license plates, looking for cars.”

As it turns out, a Facebook volunteer found the rented gray SUV parked at the curb of a suburban street with Valenti’s body in the back.

That discovery was made about a half-mile from her last known location.

Since Saturday, a number of friends and family have voiced their criticism of the San Jose Police Department regarding their management of the situation.

At this time, police have not commented on the search or criticism, citing the fact that the case is “still ongoing.”

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Friends, family say San Jose police mismanaged search for tech leader