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But there are also the flesh-and-blood cold cases, suspicious deaths and disappearances that only grew more mysterious with time—and which were always deserving of a deep dive to the families and friends left behind five, 10, 20 years ago.
"We really do try and have a variety of different types of mysteries, and we like to try and have mysteries that we think are going to get solved," series co-creator Terry Dunn-Meurer told Gizmodo ahead of the Oct. 18 season premiere. "We aren't always right about that. But also, cases where it feels like the show can do something, where we can actually generate some tips; that's important because [in] some cases, law enforcement just doesn't have any leads."
The series has made an impact, such as in the case of the 2004 death of 23-year-old Alonzo Brooks, whose body was found a month after he disappeared following a party in rural La Cygne, Ks., and featured on Unsolved Mysteries' second season in 2020. While the question of what, exactly, happened to him remains unanswered, renewed attention resulted in his body being exhumed and his death ruled a homicide following an autopsy. The FBI offered a $100,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction of whoever's responsible.
"Alonzo Brooks was killed," Duston J. Slinkard, U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas, said in 2021, per NBC News. "We are doing everything we can, and will spare no resources, to bring those responsible to justice."
So every season of Unsolved Mysteries begins with the hope that some previously uncovered piece of the puzzle will fall into place. Here are three cases that could take a turn:
Was Tiffany Valiante's death really a suicide?
Dianne Valiante never believed for a minute that her 18-year-old daughter, Tiffany—who was headed to college in the fall of 2015 on a volleyball scholarship—took her own life.
"There's absolutely no way, no way at all," she said on the episode "Mystery at Mile Marker 45. "I want to know what happened to my daughter."
On the night of July 12, 2015, Dianne argued briefly with Tiffany outside their home in Mays Landing, N.J., after her daughter admitted to using a friend's credit card without permission.
Diane went into the house at 9:28 p.m. to get Tiffany's father, Stephen Valiante. When they came back outside a minute later, Tiffany was gone.
A deer camera Stephen had set up outside showed Tiffany walking off at 9:29, wearing a black shirt, white jean shorts and flats, her hair tied up in a loose bun.
The family searched for her around the neighborhood. On the show, Tiffany's uncle Michael Valiante recalled heading toward the railroad tracks—where he saw there had been an accident. A girl had been hit by a train. Local authorities hadn't been notified because the tracks were under the jurisdiction of New Jersey Transit Police.
Michael, a State Police trooper, was the one who identified Tiffany's body. "I truly believe in my whole heart that my brother would never have been able to handle it," he said. "What I saw that night, no one needs to see that. It was probably one of the most horrific things I've seen."
The next day, local news outlets were already reporting that Tiffany had died by suicide. The state medical examiner came to the same conclusion. Her case file, per records obtained by NJ.com, included statements from a relative that Tiffany had been arguing with her mother and had a history of self-harm.
But Tiffany's family insisted she had to have been the victim of foul play, that there was no way she—as state investigators had determined, per NJ.com—dropped her phone at the end of her own driveway, walked 4 miles to the tracks in the middle of the night, then another mile alongside the tracks and stood on purpose in front of an oncoming NJ Transit train.
Another uncle, Robert Valiante Sr., said on Unsolved Mysteries that Tiffany was "scared to death of the dark."
Her shoes and headband were found along the route she seemingly took, her steps sniffed out by a law enforcement bloodhound. But, as her parents charged in a 2016 lawsuit challenging the medical examiner's findings, investigators only brought the dog out after two heavy rainstorms. Who knows what sort of clues had been lost, they wondered.
"We're just kind of acting like she's still away, you know, at college," Tiffany's older sister Jessica Valiante-Vallauri told NJ Advance Media, which included Tiffany's case in a 2017 investigative report for NJ.com about alleged rampant dysfunction within the State Medical Examiner's Office. "We're waiting for her to come home because it hasn't really clicked that this is real, because we really don't know what happened that night to her."
The Valiante family hired their own investigator, who provided a 20-page report to NJ Advance Media detailing myriad ways the state allegedly didn't give Tiffany's death due diligence. "While there are several plausible explanations for Ms. Valiante's tragic death," the investigator wrote, "suicide is not one of them."
After NJ Advance Media published its report in December 2017, then-incoming Gov. Phil Murphy called for "wholesale reform" of the State Medical Examiner system, calling the article's findings "shocking and appalling." (Then-outgoing Gov. Chris Christie had no comment.)
But in March 2018, after reviewing his office's 2015 findings, as well as additional information provided by the Valiante family and their investigator, Chief State Medical Examiner Andrew Falzon upheld the original conclusion: Tiffany died by suicide.
Her family's attorney, Paul D'Amato, told NJ.com that Tiffany's loved ones weren't giving up. "All the family is looking for is a declaration from the state of New Jersey to say their daughter didn't commit suicide," he said. "The next step, which is going to be the endless journey, is to find out how she was killed."
In addition to stating their case on Unsolved Mysteries, Stephen and Dianne have increased their offered reward for information that leads to definitive answers about Tiffany's fate from $20,000 to $40,000, according to the Press of Atlantic City.
"We know so many others that also believe Tiffany's death was not suicide, that there was a rush to judgment to close the case, and that the real story of how and why she died has yet to be told," they said in a statement released by D'Amato. "The combination of this new, deeply researched, fact-based program and the increased reward might just be what's necessary to help get Tiff's case reopened."
Who killed David Carter?
Fearful of what they might find in the sleeping bag that maintenance workers had come across in a grassy area alongside Ohio Interstate 75 on Oct. 1, 2018, Ohio Department of Transportation officials waited for state troopers to show up.
Which was for the best, because the bag contained the dismembered lower half of a man's body. Authorities noted a distinctive tattoo of a pit bull with red eyes on the left upper leg, and sent the description out for police to check with missing person reports.
DNA testing soon confirmed that the remains belonged to 39-year-old David Carter of Melvindale, Mich., whose family had reported him missing several days beforehand after he didn't show up for two shifts at the auto parts manufacturer where he worked.
His sister Tasia Carter-Jackson, brother-in-law Derrick Jackson, dad Elton Carter Sr. and ex-partner Samia Conner recounted on the Unsolved Mysteries episode "Body in Bags" going to his residence at the Gale Gardens Apartment to look for him on Oct. 2. His car was still in the lot and the door to his unit was unlocked. Tasia said there was what looked like a blood stain on the floor under the bed, and indentations on the carpet indicated the bed had been moved to conceal the stain. Elton, as an ex-military man, recognized what looked to him like a bullet hole in the closet door, plus there was another hole in the middle of another red stain on the mattress.
They recalled being puzzled that Tamera "Tammy" Williams, David's girlfriend of six months, didn't seem particularly shaken by the news that her boyfriend was missing. Tasia said on the show that Tammy told her she hadn't seen David in a few days and didn't know where he was. She reportedly kept going to work and posting on social media like everything was normal.
On Oct. 5, Ohio State Highway Patrol announced the DNA match to the remains found along Interstate 75.
The next day, Melvinville Police confirmed to the Detroit Free Press that a person of interest whose identity they did not disclose had been arrested in connection with the investigation.
On Oct. 16, more remains were found along Interstate 75, at another exit 20 miles away from the first site, which authorities suspected were connected to the first grisly discovery. By then David's death was being investigated as a homicide.
"OK, Tammy is the key," Samia, mom to now 20-year-old son D.J. Carter with David, recalled thinking at the time on Unsolved Mysteries. "She knows what happened."
But by the middle of October, Tammy was nowhere to be found.
Tasia said on the show that at first she believed back in October 2018 that David had broken up with Tammy and she couldn't take it—but, she added, "I never, never thought Tammy would be capable of murder. Never."
Investigators concluded otherwise. On Dec. 20, 2018, Michigan's 24th District Court issued a felony warrant for Tammy's arrest on charges of first-degree homicide, disinterring a dead body and tampering with evidence.
In January 2019, authorities told Detroit's 7 Action News that Tammy was the one who killed David. Police confirmed that Tammy was the person of interest who'd been taken into custody, but she was released—and then left town.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Aaron Garcia told the station that Tammy was "a manipulative person, an evil person out there who thought this out, and—she killed her boyfriend." They had tracked her as far as Brooklyn, N.Y., but then she disappeared off their radar.
On Feb. 1, the U.S. Marshals Service Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team sent out an alert asking the public for help finding Tammy. And they've been looking for her ever since.
In October 2021, the U.S. Marshals Service raised the reward for information leading to her capture to $10,000.
"She changes her look a lot," Garcia told ClickOnDetroit. "You know, she might have a wig and she fluctuates her hair. The color, styles. So, as far as identification...it's been pretty hard."
Sister Tasia told the outlet, "It's been a nightmare for our family...we still haven't processed it. We were never able to see my brother in the casket. We were never able to touch him or anything like that...We just literally have absolutely nothing."
What happened to Joshua Guimond?
On the night of Nov. 9, 2002, Joshua Guimond arrived at a party inside a friend's dorm to play poker at 11:30 p.m. By midnight, he was gone.
And the 20-year-old St. John's University student, who vanished into the night in Collegeville, Minn., has been missing ever since.
According to subsequent information shared by authorities and his family, the aspiring lawyer who was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" in high school didn't have his glasses or his car keys, he wasn't dressed warmly enough to spend any length of time in the snow and, as time went by, there was no activity on his credit cards. Friends first realized something was wrong when Josh didn't show up for a mock trial team practice the day after the party.
Local and state authorities, joined by more than 100 Minnesota National Guard troops and countless volunteers, combed the sprawling campus and surrounding woods, a helicopter scoured the area from above and dive teams were dispatched to plumb the depths of Stumpf Lake. But every search came up empty.
"We searched what we could in the dark," Stearns County Sheriff's Department Lt. Dave Nohner told the Maple Lake Messenger at the time. "Our resources were activated at 7 a.m. on Monday [Nov. 11] and we conducted a search of the campus and its buildings, going basically room to room, including the power plant, the doors and all the wooded areas."
Authorities eventually raised the possibility that Josh fell into one of the bodies of water around campus and drowned. But Josh's father, Brian Guimond—who at one point hired private divers to follow up on that theory—became convinced that his son was a victim of foul play.
Brian sued the Stearns County Sheriff's Office for access to Josh's case file in March 2021, attorney Mike Padden telling CBS Minnesota, "We feel that if we have that there's a reasonable chance we can figure out what happened to Josh."
On the 2016 podcast Simply Vanished, host Josh Newville—who secured approval from Josh's parents before embarking on his own investigation—raised the possibility that there was a greater pattern at hand. "There were a series of attacks and stalkings, attempted abductions of college men in the area," he told Minnesota Public Radio, "not just in November of 2002, the same month that Josh went missing, but in the years surrounding that as well. And so we are continuing to receive leads related to this theory."
Interest in the true crime podcast aside, the case remained cold—but sheriff's officials who inherited the investigation years after Josh vanished have not given up.
"We believe we can solve it through hard work and a little bit of luck," Stearns County Sheriff's Office Lt. Vic Weiss told the Star Tribune in 2017. "That case is so open as far as possibilities—whether he walked away, whether he was abducted, whether he was killed. We don't know why he disappeared."
"Someone has a critical piece of information," Weiss added. "Most times it's something from the public...that pushes the case forward."
Many of the same names quoted in the reports of his disappearance in 2002 appeared on Unsolved Mysteries, including his high school sweetheart, Katie Benson, mom Lisa Cheney and dad Brian, and they maintain hope that answers are out there.
Josh's picture hangs in the hallway at the Stearns County Sheriff's Office "because we still have this unsolved case," Weiss said on the show, "and we have to have that constant, daily reminder that it's there, so it's not forgotten."
The first three episodes of Unsolved Mysteries season 3 are streaming on Netflix, with ensuing trios dropping Oct. 25 and Nov. 1.