A Utah tech executive was found dead in the back of her rental car Saturday in California, nearly a week after she disappeared and failed to catch her flight home.
Erin Valenti, the chief executive officer of the Salt Lake City-based app development company Tinker Ventures, disappeared Oct. 7 during a trip to San Jose, sparking a baffling mystery that has consumed her distraught family in the days since she disappeared, according to The Mercury News.
Valenti had traveled to California for a workshop and tech conference, and to visit friends and colleagues, but her family called police after she failed to make her return flight home to Utah on Oct. 7.
Her parents had spoken with her earlier that day, after she had met with some colleagues, but said she was talking a mile a minute and was not making any sense.
Her family reached out to police, who were able to speak with Valenti over the phone, but authorities were unable to find her.
Valenti's body was discovered Saturday in the backseat of a rental car she had rented for the trip, her family confirmed to the local paper. The car had been parked along a quiet residential street — triggering questions from her family about how long the car had been there, and why police had been unable to locate it earlier.
“The beginning of it was a charade,” Erin Valenti’s father, Joseph Valenti, told the local paper of the police search. “And I am totally frustrated and pissed off with how that was conducted.”
The San Jose Police Department said it’s launched a “death investigation," but declined to release any further details, The Deseret News reports.
Authorities have also not released the cause of death.
Valenti’s husband, Harrison Weinstein, confirmed his wife’s death on Facebook.
“I can’t believe that I’m writing this, but my wife (and best friend and entire life) Erin Valenti was found dead in San Jose,” he wrote. “There are a lot of details that we don’t know yet, including cause of death. Her family is devastated. I feel like I don’t have a life to go back to, because she was my life.”
Her mother, Whitey Valenti, told The Mercury News that they believe Erin may have been having a manic episode the day she disappeared, and said they had talked with her “for hours, on and off” on Oct. 7.
“Her thoughts were disconnected,” she said. “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.”
Weinstein, a psychologist who met his wife in 2003, said the strange behavior was extremely out of character.
“There’s never any history of anything like this, no mental health diagnosis, no hospitalization, no substance use, no arrests — as clear of a record as you can get. This is incredibly unlike her,” he told the local paper. “She is an extremely high-achievement, successful person.”
But, on the night she disappeared, Valenti’s phone was turned off, and she never returned her rental car as planned, Weinstein wrote on Facebook.
She had been scheduled to receive an award Wednesday from the Utah-based Women Tech Council — but it was a ceremony she’d never attend.
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