Floyd's Threat

 

 

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The police reaction changed over time. Early on, detectives from the

local police said they do not have enough evidence to suggest foul play,

they still called in the Essex County prosecutor's office, which

routinely investigates homicides.

 

Friends and family claimed the police initially didn't take the

disappearance seriously, delaying a serious search for six days. Police

officials said they began the investigation within an hour of the

report.

 

"When the police heard she was a dancer, they thought she was some kind

of flake," Melissa said. "They tried to tell us she might have gone into

drug rehab."

 

Sue, as indicated in one report claimed she had made plans to enter

rehab to become "a better Godmother" to Melissa's child. "The whole

thing felt wrong right from the start," said O'Keefe early in the

investigation. "I've been trying to nudge them into taking this

investigation seriously, but something else seems to be nudging them the

other way, and I can't tell you what that is." When interviewed in July,

the nearly hysterical Martha said the police interviewed "Lots and lots"

of people, but could find no definitive answers.

 

"It's been abject terror, almost too much pain bear," she said. "The

only thing that's worse is not knowing where she is, would be knowing

she's gone."

 

But as quoted from an August account, police chief Robert Delitta said

he had followed very possible lead and left no stone unturned. Delitta

said Nutley detectives have spent long hour interviewing friends and

relatives of Walsh, but came up empty.

 

"There are all kinds of scenarios that could have occurred," Delitta

said. "We're just looking for a break."

 

But friends and neighbors claimed for months that the police were doing

enough to help. Sue's neighbors said the police never even bothered

interviewing them.

 

"They shouted up at me the first time they showed up," said Rizzo, Sue's

upstairs neighbor. "They wanted to know which apartment Sue lived in. I

told them. After that, none of us heard from them again."

 

Two weeks after Sue's July 16 disappearance, the police came back with

plastic gloves and proceeded to search the apartment, and according to

one source removed her computer and other possible written documents.

 

"But why was the computer the only thing they removed from that

apartment?" asked Weissman when confronting me and O'Keefe towards the

end of our association in November.

 

In summing up the information about the investigation at that point, we

saw no progress by the police -- though later we learned they had

searched extensively areas of Newark, even New York, as well as sections

of Newark. They had talked to Sue's live-in boyfriend, Christian and

questioned Sue's husband, Mother, father, friends and ex-boyfriends.

 

While media attention may have kept the police's nose to the grind

stone, it did not make information more easily to obtain. After the

filming of Unsolved Mysteries, we got little from official sources. Ray

Weiss, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office was not forthcoming with

a great deal of information, either, and even apparently withheld

information from Joel three months later after Unsolved Mysteries aired.

 

Joel in his research for the article destined to never appear in the

pages of New Jersey Monthly had requested information from the Newark

office of the prosecutor as to possible leads and sightings. The office

told him the program had produced no fruitful leads, a statement

contradicted by later reports. Joel never pressed the matter. But then,

he was trying to prove Sue dead, an ignored much more compelling

evidence to the contrary.

 

Even when the police later said flatly that they -- like the Dorothy

Allison, the psychic -- did not believe Sue dead, Joel refused to

believe, maintaining his agenda to prove Sue dead at all costs.

 

By the end of November, Floyd was apparently so frustrated he confused

who his friends were and who were his enemies, once more hinting aonce

more hinting at the kind of confusion Sue routinely inspired among those

closest to her -- making me wonder if Floyd was not secretly in

communication with Sue or did Sue's diaries that that much an affect on

him that she could shape his thinking in s

 

"Recent press accounts regarding the disappearance of Susan Walsh, a

36-year-old Nutley mother who vanished last July, are enraging the

family of the missing woman," wrote James Zoccoli in the November 26

edition of the Nutley Sun.

 

"Some creeps want to exploit this incident," Floyd told Zoccoli. "I'm

angry about the news coverage."

 

In a confusing passage, Zoccoli also wrote: "Merchant pointed to reports

published in area newspapers implying that authorities have not

adequately investigated the disappearance, and also that Walsh has a

long history of disappearing."

 

"She never disappeared before," Floyd told Zoccoli, though Floyd was

hardly in a position to know what Sue had done before he rescued her

from Show World, since Floyd was not around to witness anything since

his divorce from Sue's mother when Sue was two.

 

Floyd went on to say that my website had influenced the FBI, convincing

them to stay out of the case.

 

"The FBI has picked up on this," he said, adding that he had spoken to a

federal agent investigating the rumors.

 

"Merchant said he believes the charges are absurd, but added that if

true, the FBI should take over the investigation," Zoccoli wrote.

 

FBI spokesperson Ann Todd told Zoccoli that she had no information

regarding the matter.

 

"Right now it's a missing person's case," Todd said.

 

Floyd, aiming his accusations directly at me, said he had retained an

attorney to determine the legal liability of any publication that prints

false and misleading information regarding his daughter.

 

"I'm wondering if they're guilty of obstruction of justice," he said. "I

might try to interest the police in criminal charges against the

publications."

 

As I read this all this, I wondered if Floyd intended to file charges

against me with the same police he himself accused of not investigating

the matter thoroughly. But then, he appears more interested in forcing

the FBI into a case where it has no jurisdiction.

 

But the confused Floyd managed to show that he was not being mean in

this attack, a fact I have believed from the beginning. He told Zoccoli

that he was not interested in seeking damages against me.

 

The Nutley police, who have been picked on since the beginning over this

investigation, also took offense to some of the things said about their

handling of the matter. Nutley police chief Robert DeLitta said his

department consaid about their handling of the matter. Nutley polic

 

"We follow each and ever lead," he said, noting that the detectives had

logged long hours of overtime to locate Sue.

 

Floyd told Zoccoli that he believed Sue "was not herself" and that she

had fallen back into old alcoholic habits. While hopeful that his

daughter will still be found, he also feared she might be "gone

forever."

 

Unfortunately for Floyd, who I believe is a good wholesome person at

heart, he was striking out at everyone and anyone, without thinking

about who was really on his side. On one hand he accused the police of

not doing enough to find his daughter, on the other hand, he threatened

to use those police to attack reporters who were actively trying to

protect the public interest by finding out the truth behind Sue's

vanishing.

 

While accusing us of exploiting his daughter's situation, Floyd

cooperated wholeheartedly with Unsolved Mysteries -- called in by Red

Light's author, James Ridgeway -- and their plans to display Sue's

sexual interests on national television.

 

In desperation to blame somebody for Sue's disappearance, Floyd and

others have not only attacked the reporters seeking to find out the

truth but also the police.

 

While some evidence suggests the police may have been slow to

investigate the situation, and that politics interfered with the

investigation once it started, the police did investigate. While this

may have been the result of media pressure, outside agencies did get

involved, not to much to find Sue, but to determine whether or not a

crime had been committed.

 

When the police thought Sue might have met with foul play, they came and

questioned Mark and Christian, sought out Billy Walker, and checked on

the apartment where Sue lived. They checked public phone records to find

out who might have called her. When they found out one of the patrons

from a central New Jersey bar stalked her, they sent police detectives

there to check it out. When Sue sightings began, Nutley police sent

personnel to Newark, and then later to New York City.

 

The fact is that many of the participants in searching for Sue stopped

once Unsolved Mysteries came and filmed them for the January show. Part

of this giving up, may have been exhaustion. But this also fits the

pattern of behavior typical in missing persons cases.

 

"At first, everybody gets excited and runs around, looking here and

there," said an official from one of the missing person's networks on

the internet. "Then, they get used to the idea, and they get wrapped up

in their own lives."

 

The police, too, might have grown tired of chasing rumors, of Sue's

supposed appearance here and there, like some mad game of tag or hide &

seek, with Sue's blonde head popping up at this place or that, just to

keep people's interest.

 

But suggestions that the police made no effort to find Sue were simply

wrong. Early on, they invaded clubs in Central Jersey where they

confronted club owners like Carol Stella of "Shake Her Lounge" in

Dunellen. They talked to bartenders, they talked to patrons, they even

talked to the other dancers, without success. Nutley even called in the

Essex County prosecutor's office widening the scope of the

investigation.

 

Floyd and others claim the police have not done enough to find Sue. But

finding Sue has never been the purpose of the police investigation. The

purpose was to find out if a crime had been committed, and since no

evidence has surfaced to prove Sue left Nutley against her will, the

police had gone out of their way to pursue the case, offering far more

than they should in helping find Sue.

 

This conclusion contradicts editorials by O'Keefe in the Nutley Journal,

and probably didn't sit well with Floyd or Sue's friends. But it is not

the job of the police to find missing people, only to determine if

someone caused that person harm.

 

I learned this the hard way when after I searched and searched for my

uncle in 1985. When I found him on the Paterson police station steps

without shoes or blanket, I went and complained to then Mayor Frank X.

Graves Jr.

 

Graves was one of the most powerful men in the state and I knew him

briefly from my time as a reporter on the Paterson News, and knew him

better later when I worked for the Today chain of weeklies as the

Paterson reporter. He sat me down in his office and asked me honestly

what I expected the police to do?

 

"Find my uncle," I said. "That's why I filed a missing person's report."

 

"And you think because you file that report that every cop in every

police district will put down everything and start looking for your

uncle?" Graves asked me.

 

"Well, sort of," I said, only then thinking of just how silly my own

wishes sounded when repeated back at me by Graves.

 

"Well the police won't," Graves said. "That is not what we pay them to

do. We don't live in a police state. Police are paid to fight crime, not

keep track of our citizens. I mean, I feel bad for you and your family,

and the police can assist you when we can. But we can't do the work of

searching every nook and cranny until we find him."

 

The words shocked me, and I might even have said "But..."

 

Graves held up his hand.

 

"I'm not through," he said. "I don't mean to be unkind. But the police

get blasted again and again by citizens who criticize them unfairly.

Sure, you can go to the newspapers and embarrass my department by saying

your uncle got robbed on the police station steps. You can have them

publish his stocking feet on the front page. But that won't change

reality, it'll only cause morale problems among men and women already

overworked. If your uncle is sick, then it is up to the family to find

him help, up the family to put him in a hospital or find him a doctor

that will make him better. But to expect a town, state or even federal

government to protect someone from everything, especially something they

might do to themselves is insane. The police department isn't welfare,

here to rescue people from themselves, or even find them when they don't

want to be found. It is not our function to put out every police car to

search every street looking for missing people, especially when those

people are like your uncle and want to be missing. Without evidence that

a crime has been committed or the threat that a crime might be

committed, the police are helpless."

 

Graves said we in America lived in a free society and that under the

constitution, people had the right to go where they wanted and when they

wanted without interference by legal authorities.

 

"And that's true even if family members want them found," Graves said.

"You have no more right to restrict your uncle's freedoms than I do, and

you have no right to demand that the police department do so"

 

And this said in 1985 about my uncle could well be said again at the end

of 1996 about Sue. And though Floyd threatened to press charges against

me, and Joel began to stir up sources to prove Sue dead, her history

showed she had muddied the water herself, making it impossible to know

for certain whether she was alive or dead. But by pointing this out, by

telling the truth about her past, me, O'Keefe and others were providing

Floyd with one last chance at hope, the chance that Sue may indeed have

faked her own demise and was out there somewhere, waiting, watching,

perhaps even laughing, but alive. And by years end, she may indeed, have

been rubbing her hands in anticipation of how her life would be painted

on national TV.

 

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Obstruction of Justice

 

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