Whose spin do you believe?





On Thursday, Sept. 26, the Nutley Journal once more launched itself into

the fray, with an editorial questioning what the police were doing to

find Sue.


"The search for missing Nutley woman, Susan Walsh, has entered a new

stage of supposition and rumor," the editorial said. "The past month has

seen a spate of reports made in the public newspapers of sightings of

the woman."


The newspaper went on to say that the police needed to update the public

better as to what was going on.


"Many of these reported sightings have without doubt been reported to

police and prosecutors yet the posters around the area maintain the

same: she is listed as missing and a possible homicide. This is not

exactly reassuring for the family and friends of the woman."


The editorial suggested that the public could help the police if



"Perhaps the investigation could move forward from Ouija boards and

psychics to the more efficient method of checking reports of sightings

and letting the public help," the editorial said.


"Without the basic knowledge of the facts of the Walsh case, we are

grasping at straws. A missing mother is no small matter."


On Sept. 27, Sue was positively identified as the occupant in the back

seat of a car in Newark, in the company of a prostitute named Judy. The

three people spent the night out somewhere, though no one knows where,

and the one occupant in the car said she would not talk about Sue, only

that Sue had been "high" On that same night, when I was walking down

East 4th Street in New York, I thought I saw her and called out her

name, but when I turned to call again, the blonde-haired woman I thought

was Sue had vanished.


Melissa said she had evidence now that Sue was staying with Judy above a

house of prostitution on East 5th Street. She said she had gone down

there looking and that an off-duty Newark cop had picked up the case

after the bounty hunters fled.


"He's checking out the case," Melissa said.


According to the woman who had seen Sue with Judy, both were scared.

Melissa lost her source of information on Sept. 27, when Judy and Sue

paid that woman a visit, talking her into taking a ride, then drove off

for 24 hours. When the prostitute returned, she refused to reveal any

more information, saying she'd been told to keep quiet. This woman later

denied everything.


For Sue, this was the longest time she had ever disappeared and had to

be getting restless. One long time observer of Sue's said Sue would be

climbing the wall like a caged animal, needing to get out on the street

again, which may explain the sightings --though other former friends say

Sue is capable of teasing her searchers, like a came of cat and mouse.

The change of seasons may also have made her more eager to get back,

since the cold weather could make these street scenes less frequent and

escape less easy.


Sue also might not have been able to trust her resources to last for any

extensive length of time. In school and later, she used such safe houses

for a few days, not a few months, and she may have reached the breaking

point with Judy, the way she obviously had with Malik. Unless she got

out on the street or in the clubs, she might not find a replacement for

Judy or another house in which she can move.


Her stories, however, may have also driven Judy crazy. Since Judy was a

local street walker, she had to get in and of strange men's cars. With

Sue whispering of plots and conspiracies, stirring up terror in Judy for

possible retaliation by the Russian Mafia, Judy was likely living in

abject fear, afraid that a gun may be waiting with every car. How long

could she stand the tension before she asked Sue to leave? Even then,

she'd have to live with the dread that someone might come looking for

her later to punish her for helping keep Sue out of the grips of the



Sue, of course, had very little to fear from the police, except

discovery. While the police said they could arrest her on outstanding

traffic tickets if caught in New Jersey, no one could touch her if she

was found outside the state.


Presumptions by some friends that she would waltz back a schmooze her

way through the consequences of her disappearance seemed less and less

likely as the months past, some of us skeptical at first, began to

wonder, maybe she was dead after all.. Who could stay away for so long,

especially with all the media attention focused on her? Over the next

six months, the media attention would grow as NBC's Unsolved Mysteries

took the stage. And yet some of us truly skeptical people still believed

at this point that Sue was out there, waiting to make her grand

reappearance, relying on the relief of her friends and family to save

her, friends and family who would flock around herseemed less and less

likely as the months past, some of us s


What about this bi-polar disorder people keep saying she has? Or the

drug and alcohol use?


The most ardent supporter of this view was still Rob Hardin, who by this

time had discovered by web site and believed my intentions ill. Despite

the fact that no one had found a body, Hardin believed Sue had somewhere

because of her depression, poor health, drug use and alcohol. He

believed her talk of stalking, mobsters and the Russian Mafia, signs of

her disease.


"If she's been seen on street corners in Newark; I need not tell you

what this location means. She isn't faking anything: she's either sunk

or sinking," Hardin said.


Joel Lewis, singing the siren song for possible freelance work through

Ridgeway, alluded to his own background as a social worker, a profession

he gave up a year ago to push his writing career.


"Based upon my experience in social work, Sue displayed all the symptoms

of a bi-polar disease," Joel said, but was hard pressed to come up with

a diagnosis, and dismissed any evidence contrary to his option, calling

patterns established in college hopeless out of date. But then, Joel

also dismissed reported sightings, including one by Sue's best friend,



Some people -- not close friends now -- believe this is part of the act,

something she had been selling people for years, a routine she has so

well developed that she can even fool doctors into believing her.


"Fugue," a term used by several of Sue's closest friends is one of Sue's

favorite words, part of a spiel she used to give when wandering around



"She used to tell people how depressed she was, how bad things were, how

things were getting weird and confused, and how she sometimes felt like

she was wandering around in a fugue, spaced out so bad she didn't know

how she would get back," one woman from school told me. "Sue always

talked about being disassociated and things were too intense to for her

to handle."


But Sue was not alone in this. Someone, one of her principal friends,

was probably involved with the disappearance, someone she had sworn to

secrecy, from whom she is getting information about the investigation.


"Sue may be a master manipulator, but she is not a pro in disappearing,"

one former school mate said. "If she's out on the street, then someone

is telling her where the policstreet, then someone is telling her where

the police are looking for her so she can stay away from that plac


Sue has always worked this way, using a group of people to get what she

wants, former school mates say. She likes to come into a scene where

marginal people are managing to make things work marginally well, and

after she is done, friend is fighting friend, and nothing is getting

done, and Sue gets the benefits.


"Men hang on her every word and women think she is being stalked by all

the men," said someone who knew her on the school newspaper. "She would

create a gender conflict which got everybody mad at everybody else. No

one could get anything done because they were all wrapped up in Sue's

problems. They can't go to work, because she needs a ride or a place to

stay. They miss appointments because they have to do something for Sue.

It's like being possessed. I won't say it's evil, but it reminds me of

that movie, Alien, where the creature shoves out from a person's chest.

She gets that deep inside people. She hands over responsibility for her

life and upkeep, people will lend her books, buy her glasses, break

dates, do anything and every thing in order to help Sue. They are so

worried about Sue, they forget to live their own lives. Oh., Sue will

show up, and people will be relieved, but she won't get anything she

deserves out of this."


Indeed, the Nutley police said they had only a few outstanding traffic

tickets with which to hold Sue if she is found in New Jersey. If found

outside the state, no one can hold her on any charge.


"While all this seems petty, it's not. Sue has power, says one former

victim. "She gets to feel real good and very important when she does

this, people bend over backwards for her. She gets material things,

money, clothing, places to stay, and their attention confirms her own

ideas about who she is and what they should be doing to serve her."


Is she sick? Despite Joel, Ridgeway, and others, opinion began to shift

towards my belief that Sue vanished on her own, if not part of a

publicity stunt to promote "Redlight," then as an effort to call

attention to herself and perhaps embarass Ridgeway for denying her



A year after Sue's vanishing, the Nutley police would tell the Herald

and News that Sue sightings suddenly stopped in the fall of 1996.


"We believe that she was alive and well and being seen by certain people

up until last fall," said Nutley police chief Robert DeLitta, who does

not believe that anything sinister happened to Sue. "We've spent

hundreds and hundreds of hours on this investigation...I've had

detectives stake out street corners after midnight. Every name we've

come across we've interview. We have talked to more than 100 people."


DeLitta told the Herald that when Sue first vanished, his detectives

were in contact with people who claimed to have been maintaining contact

with her. But Soon those people stopped talking to her, a sign police

took to mean she may have moved out of the area.


While Joel's version of the Susan Walsh Story is moving, it is nearly as

fictional in its conclusions as Sue's own stories were. His

investigation often ignored eye witness accounts in favor of the

Ridgeway theory that Sue was ill and sinking into a fit of depression,

as well as drug and alcohol abuse. To Joel, Sue was undoubtedly dead.


"I talked to the Essex County prosecutor's office and they said there

were no report of seeing Sue after Unsolved Mysteries broadcast," Joel



Either this was wishful thinking on Joel's part (in order to convince

himself of his own theory) or a mistake on the part of the public

relations people in the prosecutor's office in Newark. Nutley police

reported more than 50 leads after the first broadcast of Unsolved

Mysteries on Jan. 31, 1997, and then 30 more after its rebroadcast in

May. None, however, brought them any closer to finding her.


Joel also mistakenly believed Sue's father, Floyd was a psychologist,

rather than a retired engineer, and thus gave more credence to Floyd's

belief that Sue suffered from bi-polar disease.


"My own research showed a pattern of such behavior," Joel said. "And

after a point, she may have slipped into a depression and not come out."


But others who knew Sue in college said Sue was a self-proclaimed

manic-depressive, using symptoms she had seen in others to mask her

insidious behavior. Was Sue sick?


But others who knew Sue in college said Sue was a self-proclaimed

manic-depressive, using symptoms she had seen in others to mask her

insidious behavior. Was Sue sick?


"Not in the way people are saying," said one former class mate. "She may

have a borderline personality. But she's not as depressed or wrung out

as people say."



Looking for Judy



Sue Walsh story: 1998 menu

Spielberg menu

Main Menu

email to Al Sullivan