NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A woman and her boyfriend who were holding hands as they jumped to their deaths from the George Washington Bridge had apparently killed the woman’s 70-year-old uncle over a financial dispute, police said Wednesday.
Suffern police were investigating the death of William Valenti, 70, on Monday when they heard media reports about the double suicide of Nickie Hunt, 40, and her boyfriend Gary Crockett, 41, Suffern Police Chief Clarke Osborn said.
That’s when Osborn said investigators began to connect the two cases.
Hunt — Valenti’s niece — and Crockett had been living with Valenti in an apartment on Washington Avenue in Suffern, when his nephew found the 70-year-old’s body Monday afternoon and called police, Osborn said.
When officers arrived, they found two notes inside the home. One was “perceived to be a possible suicide note,” Osborn said. The other, which was found on the back door, said Valenti had been taken to a hospital.
“There was note on the back door saying that ‘we took Uncle Bill to the hospital and we’ll call you later on,” Osborn said. “Uncle Bill was dead in the house.”
Valenti’s Chevrolet Malibu was also missing, police said.
“Obviously, it was a diversion tactic so we wouldn’t go in,” Osborn said. “By the time we were called to the house, they had already jumped off the bridge.”
After discovering Valenti’s body, police said they later heard media reports about a couple jumping off the George Washington Bridge earlier in the day.
The jumpers had no identification, but their descriptions fit Hunt and Crockett, police said. Investigators later positively identified them as the couple. Valenti’s car key was also found with Hunt, police said.
A note written by Hunt expressed apologies to her family for the path her life had taken.
As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, the deceased were all part of a family that is well-rooted in their quiet Rockland County community.
“This family is from the village — very much part of the village,” said Suffern Mayor Trish Abato.
But detectives believe Hunt and Crockett plotted to kill Valenti.
Police said the couple had stolen about $16,000 from the uncle’s bank account. They said the couple was concerned that Valenti was going to alert police or take them to court.
“We don’t have any other motive besides the money factor,” Osborn said. “Obviously, it was a family situation that went bad.”
The Rockland County Medical Examiner ruled Valenti’s death a homicide.
“The cause of death was an asphyxial death, meaning that his airway was blocked,” Osborn said.
Both Hunt and Crockett also had previous criminal records. Hunt had been charged in Orange County for grand larceny and forgery while Crockett was previously charged with possession of narcotics, according to police.
Crockett was also wanted in New Jersey in connection with a stolen assault rifle when he took his life, police said.
Osborn said the suspects were believed to be drug users, but no drugs were found in the home where Valenti’s body was found.
As detectives continued to search for answers in the case Wednesday afternoon, residents of Suffern were grateful that it was all an isolated incident. Still, they struggled to understand why.
“There was relief and sadness all at the same time,” Abato said.
Valenti’s car has not yet been found. Police believe the couple parked it somewhere near the bridge and then walked.
Hunt left behind four children.
This was the first murder in Suffern in more than a decade, Osborn said.
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