Along Comes Unsolved Mysteries
Sue seemed to have vanished entirely in the time spent chasing
Weissman's ghosts. I heard rumors of all kinds, that she went to Ohio to
join the midwest dance circuit, something on which a woman could spend
months without being identified. This circuit took dancers into the cold
upper reaches of Canada, and indeed, some reports surfaced after
Unsolved Mysteries did its two broadcasts. I also heard rumor that Sue
had taken on another assumed name and began performing for Mistress Rena
Mason and her Erotic Travesty Show, someone for whom Sue allegedly
danced in the past, and someone Sue had interviewed for "Redlight."
By this time, Floyd was really pissed at me. He claimed the FBI wouldn't
step into the case because of my reporting.
"It's because of your statements," he told me over the phone. "You said
she's faking it, and they won't investigate."
Although I thought at the time I was the only one who believed Sue
faking it, I learned later others also agreed, like Dorothy Ryan and Ron
Goldberg, both who knew her at school, both of whom were very familiar
with this routine. Yet something odd struck me about Floyd's behavior.
The FBI I learned later would not step into the case because they could
find no criteria for doing so. The FBI does not have resources to help
find missing or kidnapped people, such as the Critical Incident Response
Group (CIRG), which was formed to handle hostage situations or those
instances of terroristic activity which requires a response in an
emergency situation. But the FBI is sharply restricted as to what kinds
of cases it can take on. While most people believe the FBI can handle
any violation of federal law. They cannot. They can only investigate
something if authorized by Congress or the President or the Attorney
General. Even then, they would not be answerable to local authorities,
everything would be turned over to the Justice Department which would
then deal with the information.
O'Keefe believes the FBI would love to step into the case and is
monitoring it closely to see if Sue's case fits any of the various
categories in its jurisdiction. The FBI, for instance, does counter
intelligence, this includes dealing with foreign agents and espionage.
The FBI is also commissioned to investigate organized Crime and illicit
drug importing. Yet for all Sue's screaming about the Mafia for all
those years, no one has yet produced one scrap of evidence -- outside of
her own outlandish statements --to say she had actually made contact
with mobsters. Without such evidence, the FBI could not and would not
step into the case. The FBI can also pursue fugitives wanted as a result
of FBI investigations, escaped federal prisoners, and some probation and
parole violators. They investigate people fleeing to avoid prosecution,
including parents stealing their own kids, crimes on Indian reservation,
theft of government property, interstate transportation of stolen
vehicles, or stolen property or theft of interstate shipments. They
investigate the assault, kidnapping or killing of the president, vice
president or members of congress. They deal with bank robbers, burglars,
and larcenists to some degree. They are responsible dealing with the
sexual exploitation of children, tampering with consumer products, crime
aboard aircraft and extortion, and yes, they deal with kidnapping. But
they do not deal with missing people.
If Sue was kidnapped, then someone would have to produce a ransom note
or phone call or some other clear evidence that she had been taken
against her will, then prove she was taken across state lines. Several
principle sources in the Susan Walsh Story report being hassled by phone
calls, all or most of them from out of the state.
"That could be reason enough for the FBI to step in," O'Keefe said.
"Provided someone complained."
While the FBI did not seem interested, NBC's Unsolved Mysteries was.
They in fact stepped into the case very early, looking to open their
1996 Fall season with Sue's story, and ran smack into a legal roadblock
with the Nutley police refused to cooperate.
In fact, two people from Unsolved Mysteries called me as early as
August, setting up an interview for me to appear on the show. I decided
against this for several reasons. I show. I decided against this for
several reasons. I didn't like the angle and I suspected the
When they called me the first time, I asked how they had come across me
and the case.
"Oh, we read about it on the wire," the woman said, referring to the
Associated Press report that had come out early in August.
In his unpublished manuscript on the missing Sue, Joel claimed that I
was furious at Sue.
"Sue Walsh is alive," I supposedly told Joe unequivocally. "She vanished
as part of a publicity stunt to get attention for Ridgeway's book and
will return when she is good and ready."
As with some of the earlier reporter who misquoted me, Joel missed my
point entirely. I told him and other reporters that early on I thought
it possible this was a publicity stunt, something Sue and Ridgeway may
have contrived to enhance sales. But I also told Joel that this
perception changed as the story developed, something Joel conveniently
ignored when attempting to sell this story to New Jersey Monthly. After
careful examination of the facts (as I knew them) I came to believe that
Sue fled to draw attention to herself not the book, because she felt
robbed by Ridgeway of credit she believed was her due. But I do believe
Ridgeway used Sue's vanishing to his own advantage, to make sure his
sales benefited from Sue's tragedy.
I learned later, that Ridgeway -- in a supposed attempt to help Sue --
reached out to his contacts at NBC and brought in Unsolved Mysteries
himself, a self-serving move that only strengthened my conviction about
his lack of character. I also learned that Unsolved Mysteries intended
to sell the same tripe being pushed by newspapers, and I wanted no part
of it. Unsolved Mysteries eventually loosened the legal hold on
information with a threat to go to court, but by then, it was too late
to go with the story for Fall.
But the anticipation of their arrival drove everyone crazy. Each of the
main witnesses in the Susan Walsh Story polished up their act for a
possible performance on Television. Although their representatives
invaded Nutley (one even came to Hoboken to see me but I had a story to
cover and missed him) throughout September, they actually didn't start
serious film interviews until October, just about the time Sue stopped
appearing on Newark streets. The Nutley Sun ran a small piece in Frank
"Tuesday: We had a surprise visit from Eric Tayler (Orechio misspelled
Taylor) representing the popular television series `Unsolved Mysteries,'
which is based in Burbank, California, regarding t`Unsolved Mysteries,'
Orechio went on to say that internationally known psychic, Dorothy
Allison, had a vision that Sue was alive.
"But one of our staff members (Barbara Mackey) envisioned Susan Walsh as
a murder victim whose body was left at the north end of Newark's Branch
Brook Park, near the Belleville boarder."
This last may well have been wishful thinking on Orechio's part since he
also provided Sue with a column in 1995, and if the pattern of Sue's
behavior with other of her publishers held true with Orechio, he might
well have had reason to wish her silence permanent.
"Our Nutley Sun Editor, Jim Zocolli (also a classmate of Sue's for a
while) investigated the scene and was subsequently approached by Eric
Taylor (he spelled it correctly this time) of the Unsolved Mysteries
program requesting that they visit the site."
Paul O'Keefe in the Nutley Journal responded to the Orechio story.
"I had spent the night before with my old friend Jack, Daniels, that is,
and I don't think he'd make it with this crowd.The chief and
commissioner were having a bite. Unfortunately, it was out of my head,"
O'Keefe wrote. "I'm a gumshoe in the bucolic burbs, Nutley to be
precise. The chief wanted action on the missing Susan Walsh girl. The
only action I had seen in the last few weeks was on the tube. The chief
was not amused.
"My attitude was flat, and so were my feet, as I left the chewing out.
They wanted result either with the Walsh case or my personnel file. I
knew it called for maximum effort.
"I went to the office, closed the door, got out my tarot cards and Ouija
board. They both made hits. The cards say she is alive somewhere, the
board said she was dead. I phoned the chief with the news that Walsh was
alive or dead. It was our first big break.
"Then the phone rang. It was the local publisher. He said a local
psychic envisioned the Walsh girl alive. There was more. A staff member
of his had a vision that she was dead.
"It was the magic key I sought. I phoned the girl's family to report the
breakthrough. She was alive, or she was dead."
O'Keefe then went on to ask if the situation had gotten ridiculous.,
noting the circus-like atmosphere the case had taken on. He wondered if
Unsolved Mysteries was actually coming to town to help find Sue or not.
He also noted the competition between psychics at the other newspaper
which allows the paper to have the scoop at predicting Sue's fate either
"Something is rotten in this investigation," O'Keefe wrote. "Every
newsman from Northern New Jersey has heard the reports of people who
know the Walsh woman and have reported seeing her. These are not people
unfamiliar with the woman. It is difficult to believe that the police
and prosecutor have not received the same reports."
O'Keefe said these matters should be investigated before calling in "a
television program dedicated to promoting the superstitions of the
supermarket tabloid set."
"If this woman is a live as the sightings seem to indicate, calling in a
national tabloid show would be one way to make a woman who obviously
wants to be left along perhaps disappear from this area of the country
Something the Nutley police later said happened just about the time this
editorial came out.
"What is the goal of the search for Walsh," wrote O'Keefe, "to find her
or to make her run farther away?"
O'Keefe questioned the value of hawking contradictory psychic
predictions in solving the case, and pressed the police -- who at that
point -- seemed unwilling to tell the press what they knew. This changed
later. The police, in fact, seemed to become the most consistent and
cooperative factor in the whole Sue case, certainly more consistent than
the people who professed to love Sue like Floyd, Hardin or Ridgeway.
The question at that time, however, revolved around just how many people
had actually reported seeing Sue and how reliable were there accounts.
If Sue was alive and the Nutley police knew it, why were so many other
people still harping on her possible murder or kidnapping?
Vinnie Gaglione, the owner of Spellbound Bookstore in Nutley, knew Sue
very well and talked to her several times before she vanished. She
handed him the same line about the Russian Mafia and gothic Chic stuff,
and hinted strongly that she was going disappear.
"When she was saying this stuff, all I did was ask her when she was
going to take off," Gaglione said. "It was so obvious that was what she
was planning to do."
But Unsolved Mysteries didn't want to hear this angle, and seemed to
intentionally ignore any evidence suggesting Sue might be out there
laughing over the folly of her friends and family, just as Joel Lewis
later ignored every opinion that disagreed with his own. During his
early interviewing Joel even joked saying: "Well, I hope she doesn't
reappear before my story comes out in New Jersey Monthly."
The story never appeared.
Unsolved Mysteries didn't joke. They just didn't interview anyone who
said Sue had intentionally walked off, as if they had been instructed to
tell one story, and one story only -- the same story the tabloids sold.
Perhaps this was for better TV ratings, or book sales for Redlight.
Joel, who eventually interviewed Ridgeway, at the insistence of New
Jersey Monthly (he had also failed to interview Floyd and other
principals in the case until the editors of New Jersey Monthly
insisted), claimed the Village Voice writer truly believed Sue was dead.
"He was very sad about what happened to Sue," Joel told me.
Everybody's in Show Biz