Family says Erin Valenti suffered apparent manic episode
By JULIA PRODIS SULEK | email@example.com, JASON GREEN | firstname.lastname@example.org and LISA M. KRIEGER | email@example.com | Bay Area News GroupPUBLISHED: October 11, 2019 at 11:42 pm | UPDATED: October 14, 2019 at 7:28 am
UPDATE: Father accuses San Jose police of botching search for Erin Valenti.
SAN JOSE — The family of Erin Valenti stopped its search on Saturday night, shortly after police reported that a body was found in South San Jose’s Almaden Valley, the location where the 33-year-old tech entrepreneur went missing after a series of bewildering phone calls during an apparent mental health episode.
“While we were praying for a different outcome, we are so appreciative for the help and support you have given,” according to a Facebook post by the group Help Find Erin Valenti.00:0201:02
“Please remember Erin as the beautiful, smart, funny woman that she was,” it said.
Valenti went missing Monday night after driving off course from Palo Alto to catch a flight home from the San Jose International Airport.
The San Jose Police Department reported finding a body inside a vehicle parked on the 6500 block of Bose Lane, only a half-mile from Valenti’s last known location, near Almaden Expressway and Camden Avenue. Records show that the San Jose Fire Department responded to a medical call at 3:56 p.m. near 6582 Bose Lane.
The name of the victim will be released after confirmation of their identity and notification next of kin, according to Sergeant Enrique Garcia. The Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office will identify the manner and cause of death.
On Saturday, relatives had continued their frantic search for Valenti, who they said apparently suffered a manic episode early in the week, telling them in a string of bizarre phone calls that “it’s all a game, it’s a thought experiment, we’re in the Matrix.”
Her husband said she had no history of mental illness.
The young woman, with thick blond hair down to her waist and driving a gray Nissan Murano, had not used her phone or credit cards since Monday.
Her mother, Whitey Valenti, flew to San Jose from New York with her husband and two sons to join her daughter’s husband in the search. She described her daughter as an intense, brilliant young woman who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Georgetown University with a degree in business administration before entering the private equity world.
Valenti was founder and CEO of Tinker Ventures, an application design and development company, where she managed a global team of 120 employees in their Salt Lake City and Pakistan offices. Prior to forming Tinker, she was the Head of Product Development for Overstock.com, where she oversaw a team of 250 engineers.
Valenti, who lived in Salt Lake City with her husband, was also an accomplished rock climber and skier.
Nothing seemed amiss until she called her parents about 3:30 p.m. on Monday after she met with a former colleague on Sand Hill Road, and said she couldn’t find her rental car. Once she found the car, she stayed on the phone with her parents, her conversation became bizarre.
Valenti missed her Monday evening flight home to Utah from San Jose International Airport and did not attend a Tuesday ceremony in Utah, where she was looking forward to receiving a “women in tech” award.
“We talked to her for hours on and off” on Monday night, Valenti said. “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 a science fiction movie about a virtual reality world.
The family planned to hire someone on Saturday with a drone to search the rugged areas of Quicksilver Park in the Almaden Valley. On Friday, they reviewed security camera footage at gas stations and plastered missing fliers throughout Almaden, including the areas around Redmond and Camden avenues and Washoe Drive. Verizon Wireless picked up pings in that area on Monday.
“It’s a nightmare,” her mother, a nurse, said during the search. “Why can’t they find a car? How can you hide a car?”
Attempts to locate her through “find my phone” apps and other digital search tools were unsuccessful. During the phone calls with family members Monday night, Valenti said she was low on gas. With a request from the family, a San Jose police officer contacted Valenti by phone Monday night.
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“The officer said she wasn’t making any sense. They drove around looking for her on Monday night and never found her,” Valenti’s husband, Harrison Weinstein, said.
Valenti and Weinstein met in Palo Alto in 2003, when he was a graduate student at Palo Alto University and she was working for Summit Partners private equity firm. They had been married since 2011.
During her trip to California the week of Oct. 1, the couple spoke each night, he said, and everything was fine. She stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Beach for an executive leadership workshop called “Create the Powerful,” and on Thursday flew to San Jose and rented the Nissan. She drove to a tech conference in Monterey late in the week before returning last weekend to the Bay Area to reconnect with old friends and colleagues.
Weinstein, a psychologist, said Valenti checked out from The Nest Hotel in Palo Alto on Monday afternoon.
“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 said during the search. “She is an extremely high achievement, successful person.”