8 years after slaying, Chandler woman’s remains are found SanTan Sun News

8 years after slaying, Chandler woman’s remains are found

July 10th, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
8 years after slaying, Chandler woman’s remains are found
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By JIM WALSH

Staff

Eight years after a Chandler woman was reported missing by her father, Chandler police apparently have finally answered an important question for Jaime Laiaddee’s grieving family: What happened to her body?

A painstaking Chandler police investigation culminated in the conviction of Laiaddee’s boyfriend, Rick Valentini, on second-degree murder and fraud charges without the benefit of Laiaddee’s body – a critical source of evidence in any homicide case.

And late last month, a construction crew digging in an undeveloped area near Sun Lakes, at Riggs Road and Arizona Avenue, unearthed deposed remains and contacted the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, according to the authorities.

The Medical Examiner’s Office identified the remains as that of Laiaddee, 32, who was reported missing in May 2010 by her father.

Valentini, 41, then known by his alias, Bryan Stewart, told Sompongse Laiaddee that his daughter had been missing for eight to 10 weeks. Later, Chandler police traced Stewart to Scottsdale, where they arrested him on warrant.

The investigation revealed that Stewart was actually Valentini, that he was driving a car Laiaddee owned and that he had used her credit cards after she had vanished.

Prosecutors argued during the trial that Valentini had emotionally and physically abused Laiaddee during the two years they lived together in her Chandler condominium.

Laiaddee had told friends she was afraid of Valentini and reportedly had landed a new job in Denver after losing her lucrative medical supplies sales job during the Great Recession.

After living off Laiaddee, who had also bought him a car, Valentini did not want to lose the standard of living to which he had grown accustomed, prosecutors argued. He had been working as personal trainer at one point but had lost his job, according to published reports.

“The defendant was found guilty of using Jaime Laiaddee’s personal assets/credit cards after she was murdered, and his deceitful behavior appears to be substantiated by the defendant’s long-term use of a fictitious identity and the nature of recent convictions,’’ according to the pre-sentence report.

The report said Laiaddee was murdered on March 17-18, 2010, and the fraudulent schemes targeted her financial assets March 18-May 27, 2010.

Valentini insisted to the probation officer who wrote the report that he did not kill Laiaddee. His defense attorney argued during the case that the two had merely broken up and that she had moved to Denver.

Valentini’s defense also focused on the lack of DNA evidence and a body.

A Maricopa County Superior Court jury convicted Valentini of second-degree murder and fraudulent schemes in November 2011. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison on the murder conviction and a consecutive 20 years in prison on the fraud conviction.

After the remains were discovered, Valentini again denied killing Laiaddee. His appeal is pending before the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Valentini’s case ended up there after Superior Court Judge Susan Brnovich refused to overturn his conviction in two separate attempts.

L. Burke Files, a private investigator, was asked by friends to look into the case after Laiaddee vanished and before Valentini was arrested.

He said he quickly determined that Valentini and his alias, Stewart, were turning up together in databases.

Files said his friends knew Laiaddee and Valentini through a University of Michigan alumni association group, often watching Michigan football games together. He said Laiaddee graduated from Michigan and Valentini falsely claimed he was an alumnus.

Court records said he attended a few classes at a community college in California and at the University of Utah.

“I felt really uneasy. This is a guy who doesn’t fit with someone like her,’’ Files said. “I didn’t do anything more than be a catalyst to get the parents to call the police – now.’’

Files said his friends always found Valentini “dorky’’ and “over the top,’’ over-reacting to the football games.

He said the circumstances of the case, with Laiaddee going missing for so long, Valentini being convicted without a body and now the sudden discovery of Laiaddee’s remains, would be emotionally taxing for anyone.

“It is truly a bittersweet moment. You know she’s dead and then the body is found. Then, all of these emotions are brought back to the surface,’’ Files said.

Files said Valentini is a classic con man who leached onto people for their money.

“It’s a knucklehead crime and knucklehead execution,’’ Files said.

Laiaddee’s parents told authorities after the slaying that their lives had been shattered by their daughter’s murder.

“I get mad all the time without reason,’’ Sompongse Laiaddee wrote to the court in Valentini’s pre-sentence report. “Also, my wife is crying for her all the time, every time she looks at her picture or hears her name.”

Shortly after the verdict, Vunnee Laiaddee was quoted in a newspaper report as saying, “Jaime’s got her justice [but] we still want to find her body.”

Family members could not be reached for comment.

After the remains were identified, Penny Pease, a family friend, posted the following on the Help Find Jaime Laiaddee Facebook page:

“Our hearts are broken but at least now we can honor Jaime’s glorious memory properly. Rest in peace, sweet girl. You are now and always have been full of goodness and light. We will always love your in our hearts.’’

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