We've found a body!

 

 

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As a maintenance worker for the Popes Island Marina Dock, Jack Santos

usually took a tour of the facility in the morning just to make sure

everything was all right. He liked to check on each slip to make sure

the boats had survived the night without some freak accident. Perhaps

that's why when he reached Dock B, he saw something odd near Bay 63,

something glittering on the surface of the water that he hadn't seen

before, something making the water look greener than it had a right to

look.

 

Then, he thought, he saw a trash bag, and wondered if one of the patrons

had dumped their trash in the water instead of the bins near the

buildings.

 

So he leaned down to get a closer look.

 

"I thought to myself, that looks like a body," he told reporters later.

It was 8 a.m. and he still frowned, wondering just how those bags got

there. The police said later the dead woman was wrapped in two large,

green garbage bags which someone had closed with either tape or wide

streams of plastic. The body itself was wrapped in a green and white

blanket, covering the whole body and head when found. While the body

looked like a woman, this wasn't confirmed until the medical examine

unwrapped it. The body, however, could have been dumped in the water

elsewhere and pushed into the marina by the strong currents. The marina

itself is gated and locked, and only patrons had the key.

 

"I started screaming and yelling: `Come here, come here!" Santos said.

 

Martin S. Manley, the director of New Bedford's Harbor Development

Commission saw Santos waving his hands and running towards the main

marina building. When he had listened to the man's breathless report,

Manley called 911 and alerted the police.

 

The headline in the Oct. 31, 1996 edition of the New Bedford

Standard-Times read: "Woman's body found in harbor; police seek identity

of victim in trash bags."

 

"Investigators scrambled yesterday to identify the body of a woman found

wrapped in trash bags," wrote staff writers Natalie White and Maureen

Boyle.

 

The police promptly fingered printed the woman in order to obtain an

identification after her body was taken to Pocasset for a preliminary

examination by the state's medical examiner.

 

"That is one of the first steps," said State Police Lt. Patrick

Fitzgerald, who noted that the police were looking for clues to the

killer, showing the woman's photograph around the water front, hoping

someone would recognize her.

 

"Although investigators believed the woman suffered at least two

separate types of potentially fatal injuries, the official cause of

death has not yet been determined," the story said. As typical of police

in the middle of an investigation, the investigators did not release the

details of these injuries. "An autopsy is to be completed today at the

chief medical examiner's office in Boston."

 

Based on a preliminary examination, New Bedford Police Lt. Paul

Desrosiers said the body had most likely been in the water for one or

two days. The police checked missing person's reports for someone

matching the woman's description. This body was of a woman 5 foot 1

inch, weighing 125 to 140 pounds with medium-length strawberry-blonde

hair. She was wearing blue jeans and a tan, pullover multi-colored

sweater. One estimate placed the age near 45, although a later report

claimed she could have been any age over 30.

 

Six days later, the police had still not discovered who the woman was,

and the follow up story by Marueen Boyle's headline read: Tips

disappointment; murder victim still has no ID.

 

"For days, teams of investigators rushed from place to play, tracking

the stack of leads they hoped would lead to the identity of the woman

found slain near the boat slip," wrote Boyle. "And then the stack

dwindled to zero."

 

"We must have had 14 or 15 different possibilities over the weekend,"

said Detective Lt. Steven Forand. "We eliminated all of them. They were

all alive."

 

"It has been nearly a week since [the] woman's body was found in the

water, wrapped in a blanket and garbage bags," wrote Boyle. "It has been

a week of frustration for investigators whoBoyle. "It has been a week of

frustration for investigators who combed through local missing-person's

reports, searched through fingerprint files and t

 

"To have a victim, to have her physical description available, to be

able to have photographs of her, to have the information widely

disturbed and still not be able to identify her, it's unbelievable,"

Forand said.

 

"Information about the slaying -- including a detailed description of

the woman -- has been forwarded to police departments across the country

as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation," Boyle wrote. "But as

yet, no one has come forward with information that had led to her

identity.

 

The woman's description changed over the week, listing her as 5 foot 2,

about 125 pounds. She was wearing black, ankle-high tied shoes with

chunky style heels, blue jeans and a brown jersey under a white pullover

sweater. The sweater had multi-colored rectangular designs. She was also

wearing a ring with an emerald-colored stone on her left ring finger,

and her toenails were painted.

 

"It could be anybody," Forand said. "Someone must know her."

 

Nearly two months passed. Then Sue made her debut on Unsolved Mysteries,

and numerous people in New Bedford reacted

 

"Last night's broadcast of Unsolved Mysteries prompted dozens of calls

to city police," wrote Chris Gonsalves. "But detectives said the missing

New Jersey woman featured on the television program was not the woman

found dead on Pope's Island in October."

 

"We reached out and made contact with New Bedford police a while ago on

this one," said Nutley Detective Lt. Joseph Russonella. "The chief

discrepancy was scars. Our victim had suicide scars on the wrist. The

New Bedford body did not."

 

This was new information, although James Ridgeway, had mentioned seeing

bandages on Sue's wrists the night of the publisher's party in June,

1996.

 

"Police dispatchers here (New Bedford) notified New Bedford Detectives

Richard Ferreira and Victor Morgado around 9 p.m. after about two dozen

callers pointed out similarities between the New Bedford case and the

televised story of Susan Walsh," wrote Gonsalves.

 

Sue, as the story pointed out, was 5 foot 4 inches tall, weighted 120

pounds (though friends claim much less) and was 36 years old, and

apparently had suicide scars on her wrists from an attempt made early in

1996.

 

"Her case rang a bell with area viewers who knew of the unidentified

woman found wrapped in a blanket and trash bags near Pope's Island

Marina -- across from a strip club," wrote Gonsalves. "Police have

speculated the woman had some connection to Russia or Eastern Europe

because a ring found on the body was manufactured in Belaus and becomes

her legs and armpits were unshaved."

 

The police also said the woman had been badly beaten, then shot a dozen

times while she was on the ground. Her body was dumped in the harbor

within 36 hours of her death.

 

While the New Bedford police where fielding calls there, the story went

on, the Nutley Department had a full complement of detectives on duty to

handle the calls that came in from the rest of the country. In the end,

the Nutley police received more than 50 different leads.

 

"We've had a terrific response from a very wide area," Russonella said.

 

O'Keefe, when I told him of the New Bedford report, was outraged, and on

March 20, ran yet another editorial in the Nutley Journal.

 

"A story in the News-Standard of New Bedford in February makes one

wonder if important information in the case of missing Nutley mother

Susan Walsh may have been withheld from the public," O'Keefe wrote. "The

article by-lined by staff writer Chris Gonsalves noted the number of

telephone calls received by New Bedford police after the airing of a

segment about Walsh on the show Unsolved Mysteries. Callers were taken

by the similarity of the Walsh woman's description to a body found in a

bag across from a strip bar in October."

 

While the Nutley police had already discounted the New Bedford body is

that of Sue, the information about the scars on Sue's wrists was

absolutely knew information. This struck to the heart of the case, and

seemed to support Ridgeway and Joel in their assertion that Sue had died

as a result of depression.

 

"This information should have been on the fliers distributed to the

public," said O'Keefe. "The information is embarrassing, but it also a

distinguishing trait that may have helped concerned citizens better

identify the look-a-likes that have been confused with Walsh and

unnecessarily occupied police time. Too much of the Walsh matter has

been clouded in secrecy, both by the police and individuals. If finding

this woman is an end to be pursued, every possible bit of information

would be of great importance. Perhaps a new and more detailed statement

should be issued to the press and public that may actually help solve

the case rather than perpetuate the agony."

 

The number of responses to the first broadcast of Unsolved Mysteries

discouraged traditional Sue watchers.

 

"I thought she was going to make a grand return right after she got onto

TV," said Dorothy. "But now I think she might wait until the first

anniversary of her disappearance. Sue is like that. She's out there

somewhere basking in the glory of all this, and she won't come back

until she's gotten every bit of her money's worth."

 

While Unsolved Mysteries did everything most of us expected in the way

of tabloid journalism, it also raised the stakes in this game of nerves

with Sue. Instead of this being a local issue, now people began to

report Sue sightings as far north as Canada and as far south as Florida

-- and oddly, many of these reports followed a band down the middle of

America, where O'Keefe and I believe she fled -- out into the

mid-America dance circuit, that encompassed Cleveland, Columbus and

other parts of Ohio, Knoxville, Indianapolis, and Toronto. In fact, Sue

could have slipped into a dance circuit that took her to the deeper,

backwater sections of Canada where no one would see her for months.

 

Could have. Might have. If she could have found a way to keep in

personal contact with someone here, someone who could tell her the step

by step status of the search for her.

 

Sue could not have stood being out of touch.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------

No Expectations

 

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