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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Update on Trophy Wife -- Rick Valentini/Jamie Laiaddee


Rick Valentini was a charming fitness instructor who kept lots of secrets.  I featured him in my story The Trophy Wife in the Masters of True Crime anthology.  At the time that book went to press, Valentini had been convicted of certain crimes.  Since that time he has gone through another trial, this one for murder.

Inmate 268586 R VALENTINI Image
Rick Valentini is no a guest of the State of Arizona 
Inmate 268586
R VALENTINI

























Even though Jamie Laiaddee's body has never been found, a Grand Jury indicted Valentini for Second Degree Murder in her disappearance.  Bail was set for $2,000,000.00  But Valentini was already in custody on other charges.

The jury that convicted Valentini of several dozen charges, some of them related to Jamie, was never told of her disappearance.  They convicted Valentini without hearing from her. Though convicted, the judge withheld sentencing for now.

A few months later, Rick Valentini went on trial for the 2nd Degree Murder of Jamie. He faced an entirely new jury.  Valentini's lawyer, the same Marie Farney from the other trial, had notified the court of defenses ranging from "Alibi" to "Lack of Specific Intent."

Arizona is one of the few states that allow jurors to ask questions from the jury box. But the questions must be approved by the judge, after conferring with both sides, before they can be put to the witness. When Rick Valentini aka Bryan Stewart took the stand to defend himself in the murder trial, they wanted to ask plenty.

Valentini told the jurors Jaimie was still alive and he had sporadically communicated with her since her disappearance, including carrying out transactions such as reimbursing her for some things and being given permission to use her credit cards. In their questions, jurors wanted to know more details about these alleged interactions and such things as what types of her clothing were missing, e.g. "work clothes," "warm clothes," etc.  The court allowed many of these questions.

But one juror question that was not allowed was, "Why do you think Jamie is not here to defend you?"

This is the actual verdict form
Rick Valentini, who had persuaded so many others to buy his stories, was unable to convince this jury. They convicted him of the 2nd Degree Murder charge as well as of more fraud.   Two days before Christmas, he was sentenced to a total of 42 years in prison--consecutive.

The delayed sentencing from his first trial could now go forward. In a mixture of consecutive and concurrent prison terms, Rick Valentini was sentenced to more years behind behind bars. Although he was not technically sentenced to life in prison, effectively he has been.

Valentini is currently serving out his sentence in the complex of prisons in the Arizona town of Florence. If he served it all, he would be released around the age of 92.

But Valentini is appealing his convictions. As he told the probation officer preparing his pre-sentence report, "it is in my best interest not to make a statement, other than the fact that she (Jaimiee Laiaddee) is alive and I didn't kill her."

At Jamie's abandoned house in Chandler, police had not found blood spatter or any other sign of a struggle or overt violence.  Not a trace of her body has ever been found. Prosecuting a murder case without a body is extremely difficult. How did the victim die? Was there criminal intent involved? Or, as Valentini continues to claim, could the person even possibly still be alive?  It happened in 2003 in Australia, when teenager Natasha Ryan stepped out on to the world stage in the middle of her supposed murderer's trial. She'd been missing for years; Leonard Fraser had even confessed to killing her; but she'd really been living as a runaway.

The sudden re-appearance of the "dead" person is extremely rare, though. Maybe one or two a century, it seems.

But no-body cases, when they do go to court,  have a high conviction rate. .  The case of Rick Valentini and Jamie Laiaddee demonstrates why. Uncovering all Rick's secrets and examining Jamie's well-established reliability shows that sometimes the truth is glaringly obvious, even when a seemingly vital piece is missing.

Shortly before the book Masters of True Crime was released, CBS 48 Hours/Mystery did a show on Rick Valentini and Jamie Laiaddee. Their episode is called "Stranger Beside Me."  As is to be expected, reporter Erin Moriarty took a different angle in reporting than I did.  She and her crew have some great footage of Jamie, when she was alive and happy.  They have lots of great video. But the extensive comment thread below the show reveals that some viewers have lots of questions still. It just so happens that my story, The Trophy Wife, covers the material that Erin Moriarty did not. And vice versa, she covers what I didn't have space for.

CBS viewers should know that in The Trophy Wife, you find out more on:

  •  Rick's bizarre childhood
  •  His history with Aunt Donna (who appears in the 48 Hours show)
  • Why Jamie didn't leave "Bryan"
  • Why cops (and the jury) are convinced she is now dead
  • The wacky story of T.J., Rick's new "friend"
  • Why Jamie's friends, who truly did love her, did not know she was missing
  • What "Bryan" and Jamie were quietly doing while those photos were shot at the U. of M.
If you saw the story on CBS 48 Hours, do yourself a favor and read the rest of the evidence. You'll find it in this book. 






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9 comments:

  1. I sensed Jamie, although a quiet, reserved person, would have not allowed "Bryan" to be accused of murder if she was still alive. Her lack of appearance, as noted by one juror, speaks volumes.

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  2. Jamie's loyal and forgiving nature, which is so evident in the way she lived her life and the records she left, would NEVER have permitted him to falsely accused. Getting to know her through the evidence of the case was bittersweet, she was so lovely and generous. Thanks for commenting, Kim.

    By the way, TV producers are working on this case right now. I'll announce it when I know more!

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  3. i was fascinated by this true crime(just call me a TC addict)and was disappointed at the unclear/unfinished ending on the cbs show..great to now read that he will be serving an almost life sentence..
    what an arrogant piece of he crap he portayed himself as..
    justice did triumph in this case!..and i do believe he did kill her..why? well never know!

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    Replies
    1. B/C she was leaving him!!!!!!! After she found out about his fraudulent schemes (among other things) she was DONE! She landed a new job states away and wanted to be far far away from "Bryan".

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  4. I can only assume that this girl had very low self esteem. Why else would an educated and successful woman date down? Bryan was not in her league, although she could not see it. He's a predator and went after her and fed her what she wanted to hear...and ultimately used her.

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    Replies
    1. I am not sure that she 'dated down'...he led her and lots of other educated people to believe that he also was an educated guy. These sort of people are very clever in that they can put on an act and re-invent themselves but sooner or later the mask falls and the real person is revealed. In this case a controlling, jealous and arrogant man who truly thought he could talk himself out of it. He had 'street smarts' which is often apparent in sociopaths. I only saw the 48 Hours last night (I live in England....and they seem to air around 12 months behind)Scary stuff....and very sad for Jamie and her family.

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    2. I'm sorry. This guy is guilty of fraud. There is a whole lot of reasonable doubt in the case of murder. No body, no struggle, no blood and no evidence of murder. In the case of fraud, the judicial system followed the law. There was evidence and proof. That is an open and shut case. Then the other charge (murder) there were none of these things. Just because everyone thinks you did it does not mean you did. Didn't everyone once think the world was flat? Didn't they all turn out to be wrong. The murder charge is full of reasonable doubt and I do not see or hear where they proved BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. Fraud without a doubt was proven. NOT MURDER. Lets just say I no longer believe you need evidence to prove anything. Just get a whole bunch of people together to say you did it and you are guilty.

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  5. Not much reasonable doubt here & I used to be a criminal defense attorney. He had all her possessions including her car. There are plenty of no body convictions these days. People shouldn't get away with murder just 'cuz they're good at hiding a body.

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