An Associated Press

Links to a.d.sullivan & info on Susan Walsh

 

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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

Melissa.

 

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

gigs."

 

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

Russian Mobsters.

 

"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

places."

 

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

users."

 

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 scene.

 

"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

dangerous people."

 

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

subject matte

 

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

the family."

 

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

in danger.

 

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

that?"

 

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

deplorable.

 

"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

Walsh."

 

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

body."

 

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."

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