We've found a body!
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
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
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
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
"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,"
"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
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,
"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
"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.