Here's the link for Tanya Middleton's murder. (Scroll down.) I was originally led to that August 21st article by the following summary on page 978 of the (printed and bound) New York Times Index for 1982:
"Update on subway death of passenger Tanya Middleton on June 12; cause has been changed from accident to homicide and suspect is being sought."
A more relevant question: "Why was it ever classified as "accident?"
Anyone who has any experience with the New York subway knows that young, fit passengers walk between cars on moving trains without fear that they might "fall off." There are safety chains in place and in order to "fall" from the train a passenger would have to unlatch that chain (like Tanya Middleton's killer) or climb over it.
But what did NYTP police officials routinely tell the media?
Three years later, Valentino, by then a Lieutenant, was playing the same tune with continued success: Man Dies in Subway In Fall From Train. Note that the Times described the death as an "accident."
One need not be a lawyer to understand the concept of contributory negligence. If the deceased voluntarily left the platform and walked onto the tracks or if he or she ignored the prominently displayed warning not to walk between cars while the train is moving (a warning safely ignored by many riders) any legal claims filed by survivors would be placed in a "nuisance suit" folder by the lawyers.
In my opinion, that’s what explains the behavior of the police and their supervisors in all unwitnessed track deaths. Instead of acting as law enforcers, dedicated to the safety of the riding public, whenever an unwitnessed violent death occurs the police act as flunkies for MTA lawyers and, based on this report, those lawyers have reason to be pleased with their junior partners in the NYPD.
Although the Transit Police Department was absorbed into NYPD in 1995 I am convinced that this intense and exclusive focus on protecting the MTA was successfully transplanted into the behavior of NYPD officials responsible for the handling of such incidents. I am confident that readers will be convinced by subsequent postings that unless criminal behavior is witnessed by other passengers, homicide is automatically ruled out in all violent track deaths and no serious police investigations are undertaken.
I could not find the 1991 “Body Is Found on Subway Tracks” article in the Times’s archives but here's an image of my clipping from the paper which can be enlarged by clicking.
© 2014 and 2016 by James Graham