An Associated Press
Links to a.d.sullivan & info on Susan Walsh
In between these two issues, I was contacted by Sarah Christian of the
Associated Press, who had picked up my messages of inquiry about Sue on
the Usenet section of the Internet. Once the details of Sue's vanishing
began to unfold, I sent messages out into various areas, biker chat
areas, strip club Usenet sections, hoping I would run across people who
had heard word of Sue or had seen her after July 16. At the same time,
Hardin did as much, though he made the mistake of posting his messages
into some very politically correct Usenet areas like the battered
women's message area, where he was treated like a stalker. I got myself
deep into trouble as well, especially with the bikers, who disliked my
references to gang bangs and sex slaves -- the myth of 1970s skin
magazines Sue read when in high school. Sue loved reading about how
dangerous bikers were, and for a while was reportedly a groupie around
the East 3rd street headquarters of the Hell's Angels in Manhattan, a
place one witness placed her as late as 1991. But biker groups have long
been struggling with improving their image, doing charity work. While
parties with biker groups can still be a strange experience, they are
hardly the mass orgies Sue fantasized and the gang rape she conveyed to
The AP reporter caught one of these messages, e-mailed me, and then gave
me a phone number where I could reach her. She caught me during the
change of heart, and before I became the great evil investigator who
sought to ruin Sue's reputation, and the sole persistent voice claiming
the whole disappearing act had been staged by Sue to gain attention,
fame and possibly a contract to do a book.
In fact, the AP reporter was rather shocked to hear what I had to say,
but printed my opinion side by side with the more acceptable theory that
she was either dead, a drug addict on the street, or kidnapped by a mad
raper. The AP article also had the pleasurable side effect of putting my
name inside the pages of the Jersey Journal, a newspaper against which
my paper competed nearly head to head.
The AP article covered much of the same ground as previous articles,
though managed to interview Village Voice editor Karen Durbin, who
emphasized Sue's love for her son, David.
"She'd (Sue) would never, ever walk out on that child," Durbin said.
"They had a really nice relationship and she was extremely fond of him."
According to Durbin, Sue worked for the Voice for about a year,
researching for "Redlight." Before this, Sue had worked at the newspaper
as an intern, and then did some freelance writing for the Voice. Durbin
described Sue as a pretty-cheerful woman who had lived a hard life, but
seemed to be making a go of it as a writer." But some friends, Durbin
reported, said that in recent months Walsh was losing a lifelong battle
with depression, and that even when things were going well, she drifted
towards dangerous situations.
"This is not a woman who had no options. That is why everyone was
utterly frustrated," said Rob Hardin (though he was unnamed in the
article, referred to only as her former boyfriend. "She is someone who
could always have a good job, who had options to pursue real journalism
Hardin went on to sell the Martha Young theory that Sue was a manic
depressive who had not taken her medication for years. The AP article
went on to say that Sue told friends she was being stalked and feared
"She had developed contacts in the Russian Community in the Brighton
Beach section of Brooklyn while researching an article about immigrant
women lured into the exotic dance trade," Sarah Christian wrote.
At which point, I stepped into her story with both feet: "But Al
Sullivan, a reporter for the Secaucus Reporter, who knew Walsh at
William Paterson College and was her editor at the school's literary
magazine, said that the stalking stories -- and even the disappearing --
were not new for her. Sullivan said Walsh told stories of being stalked
back in college, and she often disappeared for days when she was in
trouble or when someone was angry at her."
Floyd admitted that the stalkers and Russian Mobsters were likely
imaginary, though he attributed these to Sue's use of alcohol and
prescription drugs. Yet he did admit "her work and possibly her dancing
brought her into contact with" all types.
"She probably lost contact with reality and then what happened, who
knows?" Floyd said. "There are probably people -- who know what terrible
people -- involved with her lift right now because she was in the wrong
The Nutley police told this AP reporter that the case is being
investigated as a homicide, as they routinely do in missing person
cases, but would not comment further.
A friend of Sue's, who I have not been able to identify, said the police
were then pursuing leads in the Manhattan vampire scene.
"The scene is often harmless, with participants dressing up and
pretending to be vampires," the AP reporter wrote, "but sometimes the
game goes further and can include the drinking of human blood. Some
critics say it is a lightning rod for unstable personalities and drug
The story went on to say that some who knew Sue claimed she was deeply
involved in the subculture and had friends who were, too. But Durbin and
Sue's family said she was only researching the story, not involved in
"The vampire thing is absurd," Durbin said. "There are a bunch of kids
who go to clubs. I think the connection is just tabloid nonsense."
Ridgeway, however, when he appeared on Unsolved Mysteries six months
later, disputed this claim, saying she was far closer to the scene than
he cared, one reason for his rejection of her vampire story idea. He
claimed she was unreliable. He may have had a point. Sue was living with
a 21-year-old self-professed Goth at the time. And Floyd, later, told me
that he detested the vampires.
"Someone needs to do something to stop them," he told me, "They are very
This, of course, was information, he had gleaned largely from reading
one set of Sue's diaries. He did not say how he got them. He did not
seem to know that Sue kept many such documents, many of which contained
different information, names switched, details exaggerated. He also
seemed unaware of Sue's ability to lie, even in print, and that her
diaries in the past had been used as a tool of manipulation -- that she
would deliberately leave them in places where they could be read. She
might have left this volume with Floyd for safekeeping in anticipation
of her vanishing, so that she could control some aspect of how people
would react when she was gone -- and Floyd, as predictable in his
reactions as ever --reacted in the exact way she predicted.
Floyd, however, told the AP reporter that the police thought Sue was
probably alive but not in her right mind. He said it is possible Sue was
being held against her will or was too sick to get home.
"Or maybe she's under the impression she's done a terrible thing by
leaving her son and (is) afraid to come home," he said. "The main
message we want to get out to her is that no one is pointing fingers.
When you play with chemicals, no one is in commands of themselves. We
just want to love her and nurture here and get her some medical care."
On the same day the AP report hit area newspapers, an editorial on the
case by Paul O'Keefe appeared in the Nutley Journal, with a headline
saying: "Police need help to find a missing mother."
"Reports on a missing Nutley woman are beginning to become ridiculous,"
O'Keefe wrote. "Walsh had an unusual lifestyle as a go-go dancer and
journalist. The subject matter of her research was unusual, which has
prompted wild speculation on what may have happened to her, including
increasing allusion to the Russian Mafia in Brighton Beach and blood
drinking cults in New York. As a writer, this is most disturbing to me.
If I ever become my subject mattego-go dancer and journalist. The
The subject matter of her articles is in one way the main point of her
disappearance, O'Keefe pointed out
"The fact that a precocious 11-year-old boy is missing his mother is the
problem," he wrote. "The fact that a woman has vanished who was trying
to achieve something despite her personal setbacks is the problem. The
appetite for a salacious story as the expense of solving those problems
is regrettable. I have spoken to Walsh's mother at times on the
telephone, and can assure readers that these news stories are agony for
O'Keefe suggested that editors of other newspaper cease their attack on
Sue's character and start helping the police locate the woman.
Nearly from the beginning, news reports of Sue's vanishing have been
consistently derogatory almost as if they had been written by one person
or based upon a single press release issued by someone who didn't want
her taken as a person with serious information or in any way, seriously
While early reports came via the two Nutley Weeklies, the feeding frenzy
started when the daily newspapers stomped into the scene, made it
impossible to keep the focus on finding Sue. At one point, WCBS and WINS
all news radio stations did hourly reports on her vampire connections.
Neighbors and friends, of course, expressed their outrage at the way the
matter was handled, and yet could not explain the consistency of the
attacks on Sue's credibility.
"She's as normal a person as any of us," one of Sue's other neighbors
said. "She just happens to dance for a living. Why do the papers have to
make her out to be a slut."
Some friends were aggravated by the way the Newark Star Ledger almost
immediately sensationalized the story, while others were upset by the
betrayal by the North Jersey Herald & News, whose reporter came around
pretending to befriend them.
"He said he wanted to help us find her," Melissa said. "Then he went and
printed that lurid picture. How is anyone going to recognize her from
The primary purpose of both papers seemed designed to make a circus of
Sue's vanishing, not help in her rescue.
While Nutley suffered from a sudden national exposure to ridicule, as
the news stories inevitably connected its name to bikers, vampires and
explicit sex. Yet, this connection may have seemed preferable to some,
who seemed to want this version of Sue's story emphasized over some
other possible story she could tell if found alive.
Was there some deeper secret the town father wished to keep secret, some
connection they had with Sue none of them cared to admit? Sue was
attracted to power and her six years in Nutley posed a significant
opportunity to acquaint herself with local authorities, seeking out
those of actual importance. But in all the reports, so such connection
was mentioned -- except for a short note in the Nutley Sun, saying she
and her son had done a column in that publication a year earlier.
What happened? Why did that column suddenly stop when Sue wanted to
write more than anything, when her journalistic career with the Village
Voice and other projects was just beginning to expand?
O'Keefe found the press' effort to sensationalize Sue's vanishing
"I traveled last week to interview a go-go bar owner off-the-record on
the Walsh disappearance," he wrote. "The realities of this kind of bu
this kind of business far outweigh the surface attractions. Almost all
dancers are doing it for one reason: money. They need money to either
raise a child on their own -- the most common reason -- or support
habits. Neither purpose is in any way a reflection on the woman. At
least this observer cannot fault them for that. Before one condemns an
addict, go without your morning coffee for
O'Keefe said one bar owner gave him a rough outline of the go-go
industry. Various agencies supply dancers to the bar. Sue investigated
the Russian community at Brighton Beach because a few of the agencies
there had grown quite big.
"Walsh had reportedly concluded that the Russian agencies were engaged
in what amounted to slavery," O'Keefe wrote. "The conclusion from this
that many have drawn is that the Russian Mafia may have caught up to
Walsh. This theory lacks something. When has this type of agency
business ever been characterized as anything else other than a kind of
slavery, except when Demi Moore is doing a jiggle movie? They would not
target Walsh for that."
Mobsters, O'Keefe pointed out, are in it for the money. They rarely
kidnap or kill when the result would bring police attention to their
activities. This would affect the bottom line too much.
"They also tend to warn people when they are angry, rather than kill,"
O'Keefe wrote. "Nobody has yet to recount any such warnings given to
To O'Keefe the stories of men stalking Sue made more sense, and he
suggested the police point their investigation in that direction.
"There is also the possibility of suicide, although where is the body?"
he wrote. "Suicide do not usually concern themselves with hiding the
Sue, he noted, "might also have just chucked it all and disappeared on
purpose. Leaving the son behind in his illness does not seem to back
that up much."
A Problem with Florida