A Meeting of Minds
I scheduled the meeting for a Friday morning outside the Plaza Diner in
Secaucus. A few days earlier, the FBI and the Secaucus Police had
arrested a man for faking his own kidnapping. The police caught him
calling his own wife for a ransom from a telephone booth at a nearby gas
station. He had apparently done the same a year earlier, his wife paying
the ransom that time instead of calling the police.
It was poor note on which to start the meeting, because I already
suspected Weissman of committing some kind of hoax. Many of his facts
just didn't add up. Like how he first got involved, and the stuff about
While he told Melissa he own the cross Sue wore in a photo session for
the book "Redlight," and repeated the story to my editor. His story
changed later to say that it wasn’t the same pendant Sue had worn in the
picture, but one he had bought himself from the same St. Marks shop
where she had purchased hers.
O'Keefe, in the belief that Weissman worked for some other group, traced
the ownership of the whore house where Judy worked and Sue hid out,
hoping to find some connection to Weissman, and came up with one of
those eerie twists that plagues Sue's story from beginning to end, for
according to the deed, the whore house was owned by "James Joyce," an
ironic literary joke that Sue would have appreciated, though the
literary symbolism took on a more insidious dimension when we realized
as a legal document, the names were reversed, and the house actually
belonged to a Joyce James -- a possible relation by marriage to the man
who would later be mayor. She and Donald B. James had purchased the
house for $1 in 1963, at a time when the house had a much higher value.
While sales of this kind are common between family members, it was
unlikely that the James family was related to Theresa and Frank Bonassi
and James Julliano, who had owned the house previously and had inherited
it. They had acquired the house as an inheritance from Grace Julliano in
1951. At some point between 1963 and 1996 when Judy did business as a
prostitute here, Donald James named was dropped from the deed. In fact,
after reports of Sue's visit there, a fence was put up around the house
and a for sale sign.
"Whore houses like this can go on for decades, doing business in the
same place. But the minute a scandal starts, they close them up fast, if
it is a mob place," O'Keefe said, but said the situation had a
"political feel" to it, something that needed to be checked into much
Mafia or not, O'Keefe could not find a clue in this as to Weissman's
But even when he gave information, this seemed out of sync with what
Melissa and others already knew, leading me to suspect that he might
indeed be working for Sue, not her opponents, he, keeping track of our
activities, so she could keep one step ahead of us until she got what
she wanted, stalling searches long enough to get her fifteen minutes of
fame on Unsolved Mysteries.
In fact, as Newark Lt. Bono closed in on the whore house on 5th Street,
trying to capture Judy and Sue together, Weissman began spinning a whole
new scenario, claiming he had seen two dancers in New York City, either
one of which could have been Sue. One dancer resembled photographs
published in the local newspapers, but the other dancer, someone he
claimed to talk to frequently, seemed incredibly interested in the
investigation, asking for copies of all the news articles and reports of
what Weissman found out. He claimed both women were named Holly and that
someone should come check out the strip club scene in New York. He
seemed to think the Newark scene was a dead end.
Seeing Weissman for the first time on the steps of the Plaza Diner, I
was struck by how straight he looked, a tall man with greying hair and a
determined sense of purpose that made me uncomfortable. I had seen that
look before on the faces of men dedicated to uncovering the secrets of
UFOs and Alien Abductions. O'Keefe later described the look as that of a
man strung out on cocaine or some psychotherapeutic drug. I tended to
think the latter, and caught a subtle sense of mental instability about
him, which became more and more evident when he shushed me and pointed
me in the directiogreying hair and a det
"We can't talk out here," he said. "Too many people are watching."
O'Keefe, a shorter, darker man, who at that time sported a heavy beard
which made him look like a short Abe Lincoln, seemed nervous, too, and
said he feared observation as well.
"There are people back in Nutley who wouldn't want us to share
information," he said, giving me my first lesson in justifiable
Indeed, as we walked to the library -- less than a block away -- shadowy
figures I'd not seen in Secaucus before seemed to float down the
sidewalk on the other side. Not men dressed in black, but in blue-collar
workshirts. One coming from the North, the other from the south. Both
seemed to look at us. I would see both of them again. The blonde-haired
one would pass me an hour later as I sat in the window of the pizza
parlor, his gaze so hard I nearly fell off the stool. The other, a
darker haired man, I would see outside the O'Keefe's office a few
Sundays later when I went to drop off a document I had taken down off
the web. Then as on the day we met Weissman, the figure seemed to be
watching me and O'Keefe's office, and moved off when I walked towards
But inside the Secaucus Library, I felt as safe as I would in my office.
The space was too small for anyone to observe us unawares, though
everyone in the small library could hear everything we discussed, and
since we settled at one of the main tables, they could also see the
thick folder Weissman opened and the numerous documents he had acquired,
copies of newspaper articles, enlargements of photographs from Redlight
-- one detailing very clearly the cross he claimed to have. And pointing
to it, he said had purchased it in the same St. Marks Shop, the vendor
telling him he had sold another to a girl who looked like Sue.
Weissman also pressed me for information of a different kind, asking if
I didn't have some soft part in me for Sue, some sympathetic side that
would allow me to feel more forgiving towards her.
"I'm not angry at her," I said.
"No, but you've written all that stuff on the web, over a 100 pages," he
said, referring to the first notes I had put up in an effort to aid
investigators in finding Sue.
"You've made her seem like a ...."
Weissman didn't seem to have a word for it. I supplied him with one.
"Well, don't you think she's got a point of view, too?" he asked, his
face crinkling with concern, as he unfolded another document, a paper
with an hand-written outline of alternative plots, Sue as a bitch, Sue
as a mother, Sue as Floyd's daughter and so on. He seemed to be relaying
questions of me from someone else, and perhaps, if I had been kinder
then, I might have offered him a more sympathetic assessment of Sue --
and found him arranging a one-to-one meeting with her.
It was a mistake I've regretted since, thinking that maybe he had made a
mistake early on by admitting ownership of the cross, and feared the
wrath of the Nutley police who could and wound charge him with
complicity, even though Sue could not be charged. More than likely if he
was working with Sue, he simply didn't want to give that fact away so
soon, feeling us out for her to see if we were friends or foes, and if
not friends, his purpose seemed dedicated to muddying the water so we
could never find Sue for ourselves.
He was playing a dangerous game already, if his intention was to confuse
us, stringing us out in the wrong direction, and not give himself away.
Later, I would come to understand just how much a puppet of Sue he was
and how many of Sue's patterns had become evident in him. As with Sue,
Weissman tended to tell slightly different versions of the same story to
different people. Not everything he told me jived with what he told
O'Keefe or Melissa.
Melissa stopped talking to him entirely after Floyd and Ridgeway
cautioned her against him. I do not know Floyd's reasoning, but Weissman
told us he pursuing Ridgeway, questioning people associated with
Ridgeway's book, checking on places Ridgeway allegedly sent Sue to get
work. He seemed convinced that Ridgeway had "used Sue for his own ends"
then deserted her, and Weissman appeared in various New York City
offices -- as he had in mine -- unannounced, asking questions of
everyone about Ridgeway's association with Sue.
Weissman claimed that Ridgeway routinely took young writers under his
wing, used their sources, then sent them off after he obtained credit,
noting that almost as soon as Sue vanished, Ridgeway was already
collaborating with another female writer, and Weissman seemed determined
to dig up dirt that would incriminate Ridgeway.
The few people I questioned about Ridgeway's literary habits called him
"an opportunist," someone lacking something in ethical standards, but
not so brazen enough to step over the line into illegality.
During our meeting with Weissman in the Secaucus library, he went over
the details of his so-called Sue Sightings in New York City, that went
from Morning Side Heights to the Lower East Side, but seem to bring us
no closer to finding Sue than we were before. He claimed to have had
contact with two women, one of whom he believed to be Sue. This story
varied to such a degree between the various sources that it reminded me
of the stories Sue used to tell back in college, full of the same twists
and turns that needed alternative sources to make sense. Later, I would
talk to other people who had heard versions of this story from Weissman
and piece together the tale in a more coherent whole.
Tale of Two Sues