Obstruction of Justice
Of course, O'Keefe wouldn't let the year die without making some comment
back at Floyd, whose accusations made both of us feel about as bad as
the police did, potential allies turned in on each other because
someone, somewhere was twisting the truth.
"I had resolved not to write again about missing Nutley woman Susan
Walsh until she makes her triumphant return after Unsolved Mysteries
gives enough people their 15 minutes of fame," O'Keefe wrote in his
December 5 editorial. "But upon reading comments by the woman's father
last week, this observer feels obliged to make his thoughts known. If
somebody takes offense, so be it."
O'Keefe, in this editorial, said his instincts said this disappearance
was "somehow tainted by a hoax."
"When the deception began, who is abetting it and such I cannot tell,"
he wrote. "Somebody out there is systematically lying about this
O'Keefe said he believed Walsh was alive, working at dance bars in New
York and keeping abreast of news coverage.
"I also believe that either a friend or relative has been in contact
with her since she was first reported to have disappeared," he wrote.
"My dealings with people on this matter convinced me that some level of
scripting is going on. When I spoke to Walsh's father by telephone
recently, he referred to a reporter from Secaucus as a bottom feeder and
added that he likely thought the same of me. I told him I was sorry he
felt that way, but the door is always open here."
Then, O'Keefe noted Floyd's less than veiled threats published in the
"I could only wonder why he has not availed himself of meeting me,"
O'Keefe wrote. "After all, if the reporting angers him, he should talk
to the writers."
O'Keefe went on to note my contact with Rob Hardin and how
coincidentally, Hardin had used the exact same words in describing me:
"Such phrase repetition is what makes me believe the words come from
somewhere else," O'Keefe wrote. "This is not the only example of such
word patterns when friends or family speak of Walsh."
While not noted by O'Keefe in this editorial, the same phrase describing
why Sue wouldn't have left on her own was spewed from the mouths of
almost every source from Glen Kenny to Floyd. In nearly every case, the
same exact words were used: "She was too fond of her son," as if each
source had heard this repeated so often by Sue that they automatically
took to repeating it.
Perhaps this repetition came from Sue's efforts to over-sell her
feelings, constantly bragging about the boy, playing the role of caring
Mutant, a boyfriend who contacted me via the internet, said she had
brought her son several times to meet him for coffee and chats in New
York in 1991.
"She really seemed to care about the boy," he said.
James Ridgeway confirmed this saying he had often seen Sue and the boy
"She really loved her son. She would often bring him up to the Voice
offices and you could see that they had a strong bond," Ridgeway told
Joel. "He was very bright and well-behaved and Sue would always tell us
how he was doing in school. I just couldn't see her walking out on him."
"She'd never, ever walk out on that child," Village Voice editor Karne
Durbin told the Associated Press. "They had a really nice relationship
and she was extremely fond of him."
Glen said as much.
"She loved her son, she spent all her free time with him. I really can't
see her walking away from him," Glen told Joel. "She tried hard
mediating between being a good mother, which she was, and her
Martha Young agreed: "Susan would never go away without calling her son,
David. He's the love of her life."
All of Sue's friends said she was too devoted to the boy to commit
suicide, an early report in the Newark Star Ledger claimed.
"Everyone who knew Walsh, moreover," wrote Robert Florida for the Herald
& News, "ruled out suicide or flight. They said she would never leave
Even Billy Walker against whom Sue filed for a restraining order agreed,
saying she would never kill herself because she was too devoted to her
"She was just trying take care of the two things that mattered to her
most, her kid and her career," Hardin told the Times of London.
"Her son was everything to her," said Eric DeJesus, one of the bounty
hunters who searched Newark streets for Sue. "Everything there is."
Floyd on more than one occasion claimed her son as the primary reason he
believed Sue not faking her flight.
"I just can't imagine her leaving her boy," he told the Nutley Sun in
And I might have believed all these people-- in fact, I wanted to
believe Sue was a good mother -- except as with everything else Sue had
done in the years leading up to her disappearance, she seemed to have
repeated with her son in the 1990s a pattern of behavior she had
displayed with her cousin Bucky a decade before. As with her son David,
Sue's cousin Bucky also suffered from emotional problems, and as with
her attention to David, Sue took Bucky everywhere she could, to school,
to jobs, bearing him as a kind of custody duty. As with David, Sue often
displayed great public affection for Bucky, cooing over him as if she
was his mother.
Bucky was actually only a few years younger than Sue, but acted most of
his life as a child, and during the early years, he and Sue suffered
many of the same terrible turmoil, battling the same monstrous family.
Often, they found themselves sleeping at their grandmother's house,
because neither Sue's mother wanted her nor Bucky's mother wanted him.
Like David, Bucky seemed well-mannered at times, though would often seem
off in space, someone not totally in touch with the planet earth. Sue
would bring the boy to parties, drag him to classes, sit him in the
corner of Willowbrook Mall where she sometimes worked taking public
opinion surveys. Sometimes people even asked her if he was her son.
But for all the surface affection Sue showed Bucky in public, she abused
him in private or in the presence of trusted friends. She made fun of
his intelligence, making crude jokes about him, even whilShe made fun of
his intelligence, making crude jokes about him, even while professing
her love. She also encouraged friends to mock him, too. As he grew
older, Sue and her girlfriends played a game called: "Shock Bucky," in
which they would talk about or invent exaggerated sexual exploits they
supposedly at engaged in, getting their amusement from how red his face
could get as they described every move in explicit deta
For the most part, Sue grew indifferent to Bucky, even though when
younger they were very, very close. Part of the reason she created
distance from him was because he grew older, and grew more like a man in
body, than in mind.
Had the same thing happened to her own son? Had he grown too old to be a
child to her, suddenly looking and sounding the part of a man?
So over the months after Sue's vanishing, these protests of Sue's
friends and family about Sue's devotion only raised questions in me
about her behavior with Bucky, how she had seemed so kind to her cousin
at times, and yet so vicious at other times. Had Sue learned to mask
this vicious side of herself, selling her caring loving nature full-time
with friends and family the way she had sold that side of herself in
public when dealing with Bucky?
And then. as with Elvis sightings and UFO reports, people claiming to
have seen Sue, and this nagged at both O'Keefe and myself.
"During the past few months," wrote O'Keefe, "several individuals have
reported sighting the woman. One in particular reports meeting Walsh, or
someone who is very much like her, many times in New York bars. The
woman reportedly is very up on news about this case, and is interested
in the stories clipped from newspapers and brought to her by this
O'Keefe pressed for the police to check out each report, taking
photographs along to prove Sue is still alive or debunk these claims as
"I get the strong feeling that calling in tabloid television is a
conscious attempt by an individual or individuals to get face time on
the tube," he wrote, though like myself, his prediction of Sue's return
after the first broadcast did not come true. She did not return after
the second broadcast in May.
But O'Keefe did warn Floyd via this column about the issue of
"obstruction of justice," noting that "if an individual has contact with
the Walsh woman and knows for a fact that she is alive, he or she is
obligated to inform the Nutley police department. Any willful action
that keeps police buys looking for someone who is already found could
very well qualify for obstruction of justice or a similar charge."
O'Keefe suggested the police should investigate this possibility.
"One thing should be done now before the tabloid broadcast," he wrote.
"The police should formally ask those whose comments regularly appear in
print whether they have had any direct or indirect contact with Susan
Walsh since she was reported missing. These questions should be preceded
with the advisement of what happens to those who pass false information
to police. I believe somebody would crack and tell police the real
After numerous phone calls and visits from concerned people, O'Keefe
said he believed the disappearance could be a hoax.
"If it is not, it become one somewhere along the line after publicity
blue the story out of proportion," he wrote. "It has been goof publicity
for a bad book. It has supplied name recognition to several people. It
has given the opportunity for being on television to a few egos. It has
also been done at the expense of a young boy, Walsh's son, who will have
to deal with even more horrid images of supposed vampire cults, Russian
Mafia, strangers in suits and the ugly reality of his mother being
involved euphemistically named adult industry. But hey, that's show
And if there was any doubt as to who benefited most from Sue's
vanishing, reviews of Red Light: Inside the Sex Industry, dispelled
them. Powerhouse Books called it "An eye opening look inside the
American sex industry by Village Voice photographer Sylvia Plachy and
Voice writer James Ridgeway. Red Light is based on three years of
research involving over one hundred sex industry workers, who spoke and
"...Eminently satisfying...(Plachy's photos) depict the brutal banality
of the most transgressive behavior." said a New York Times Book Review.
"A thinking person's romp through the diverse incarnations of the sex
industry of New York and environs...a fun an candidly informative read."
said a review in Spin
Plachy (pronounced "Plah hee") is staff photographer for the Voice, and
is the author of Unguided Tour (Aperture). Her photographs have appeared
in Newsweek, Artforum, The New York Times Magazine, Grand Street, Wired
Ridgeway is the Washington correspondent for the Voice, and the author
of fifteen previous books, including Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux
Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and The Rise of a New White
All these books were produced with the use of interns.
Powerhouse had even produced a limited edition of 50 including
gelatin-silver print, signed and numbered. Indeed, after the book's slow
start, sales picked up significantly, so that by mid-March, 1997, when
Joel interviewed Ridgeway and after the first broadcast of Unsolved
Mysteries, Red Light had sold nearly 20,000 copies, a huge amount for a
minor publishing house.
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