Obstruction of Justice

 

 

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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

matter."

 

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

Nutley Sun.

 

"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:

bottom feeder.

 

"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

mother.

 

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

together.

 

"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

unconventional lifestyle."

 

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

her son."

 

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

son.

 

"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

November.

 

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

individual."

 

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

myth.

 

"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

story."

 

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

biz!"

 

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

posed candidly."

 

"...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

and Doubletake.

 

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

Culture.

 

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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A National Broadcast

 

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