Homicide preceded couple’s fatal leap from bridge
NEW YORK — A couple who jumped to their deaths from the George Washington Bridge are believed to have committed a homicide before the leap, authorities said Wednesday.
The alleged homicide was still unknown to authorities about 11:20 a.m. Monday, when workers on the lower level of the bridge — which connects New York to New Jersey — saw something go by them over the side of the iconic structure, said Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Joe Pentangelo.
When workers looked down, the spokesman said, they saw a man and the woman in the water.
The couple floated about 1,000 feet down the Hudson River before New York fire and police responders were able to pull them out at 12:09 p.m., Pentangelo said. After rescue workers administered CPR, the pair was taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where they died one minute apart from each other a short time later.
About 1:15 p.m. Monday, police in the village of Suffern, New York — about 35 miles northwest of the bridge — received a call from a man who said he had just found his uncle dead, Suffern police said in a statement. The medical examiner’s office later ruled the death a homicide by asphyxiation.
The victim was identified as William Valenti, 70, who was living at the residence with his niece, Nicki Hunt, 40, who also went by Nikki Circelli, and her boyfriend, Gary Crockett, 41, according to police.
Investigators learned of an ongoing family dispute between Hunt, Crockett and Valenti, police said. Hunt and Crockett had allegedly taken money from Valenti’s bank account without his authorization, according to police.
At the homicide scene, officers found a note which they interpreted to mean that the couple may have left the house intent on harming themselves, police said. Valenti’s vehicle was missing.
On Monday evening, Suffern police dispatcher Jeremy Kaufer spotted a media story about New York authorities trying to identify the couple who jumped to their deaths from the George Washington Bridge, according to the police statement.
On Tuesday, Suffern detectives traveled to the New York City morgue with members of the New York and Port Authority police departments. A positive identification of Hunt and Crockett was made, police said.
Valenti’s vehicle key was located on Hunt, police said.
According to Suffern police, both Hunt and Crockett had prior criminal cases, but the disposition of charges was not known. Hunt had faced grand larceny and forgery accusations, while Crockett had been charged with possession of narcotics, police said.
“The investigation is continuing but at this time we believe that Hunt and Crockett are responsible for the death of William Valenti,” the Suffern police statement said.
The George Washington Bridge is a double-decked suspension bridge spanning the Hudson River and connecting Manhattan in New York City to Fort Lee, New Jersey.
According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 15 people jumped to their deaths from the bridge in 2013. The bridge is about 212 feet above the river at mid-span. There were were 49 successful interventions, where potential jumpers were stopped by police or passers-by.