A year later
"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
It was something of a coincidence that Unsolved Mysteries repeated the
Susan Walsh Story nearly a full year after her vanishing from Nutley.
This produced a whole new flock of leads, similar to those that followed
the first broadcast.
The Nutley Sun as did the Herald & News and the Star Ledger, filed their
"year later" stories, a marker which normally means the newspapers could
freely forget Sue forever with few or no stories about her vanishing to
Nutley Detective Jack Barry told reporter James Zoccoli that NBC had
faxed him news of supposed Sue sightings, while others were mailed
directly to the Nutley police.
"Everything we get we follow though on," he said.
A Canadian nurse said one of the patients she treated looked remarkably
like Sue. A woman in Ohio -- where I believe Sue fled for a time --
claimed someone who looked like Sue tried to rent an apartment. One
report even included a map of St. John's Pass, St. Petersburg, Florida
claiming Sue could be found there (Sue had threatened to take her child
from Mark and flee to Florida just before her vanishing). Another
letter, Barry said, said Sue had been seen somewhere, but failed to say
"The writer," Barry told Zoccoli, "remembers seeing her, but can't
In a case full of odd coincidences, one coincidence by far seemed the
strangest. One of the reports Barry received claimed to have seen Sue at
the University of Sarasota, Fla. This person claimed to have met a Susan
Merchant there -- Merchant was Sue's maiden name. The police
investigated and indeed found a blond-haired woman that looked very much
like Sue. But Barry said it was not her.
"She was the closest one I've seen," he said. "She looked very much like
The detective said one problem was Sue's variety of appearances.
"She looks different in every picture we have of her," Barry said. "Just
the way she turns her head gives her a different appearance."
And with good reason.
Nearly all the photographs being used to find Sue came before she had
undergone plastic surgery. The most accurate representation of Sue's
face were done by Sylvia Plachy for Red Light and those had a dark,
artist tint that made them of little use for identification purposes.
Sue, constantly dissatisfied with the innocent looks she had inherited,
took yet one more example from Abbie Hoffman and underwent the knife.
She was still making regular visits to her friends, Gil and Daria, who
said she was not thrilled with her nose and other aspects of her face,
and decided to have the work done. This was after she had lost her job
in New York, and no one knows where she got the money to have the
extensive work done.
Barry said the police did visit various go-go bars where Sue had worked
part time as an exotic dancer. They also went undercover to Goth clubs
where she was known to go as a patron. But the detective would not name
the specific people he interviewed. But he did say if Sue is found in
New Jersey, outstanding parking tickets would allow police to hold her.
If found out of the state, the police could do nothing. If she turns up
dead, the town with the body would be responsible for the murder
In a companion article, Floyd vented his frustration. Every attempt to
find his daughter seemed to have come to a dead end, as well as a
significant amount of evidence supposedly implying "foul play."
Floyd said his health was failing on account of Sue's vanishing.
"I want to know what happened," he told Zoccoli, noting that he had
talked to a store owner that had seen her walking towards the pay phone
on the day she disappeared. This was most likely the pizza men, whose
testimony was on record early in the case -- but because that fact was
reported by me, Floyd ignored until a year later.
Floyd said his own investigation uncovered numerous men he called
"skunks," yet blamed the police not informing him as to whether or not
they interviewed one ex-boyfriend who had made threats against her --
probably Billy Walsh.
Again, Floyd seems to have missed much of what I reported, since I
reported the police interviewing him.
"I'm very angry," Floyd said. "I'm close to rage."
In fact, Floyd was so angry, he contacted that state Attorney General's
office, asking the state to take over the investigation. He noted in the
letter than Unsolved Mysteries had never encountered so many obstaclesHe
noted in the letter than Unsolved Mysteries had never encountered
But he didn't lay total blame on police. He said the false sightings
have hurt the investigation, contributing to the belief by the police
that Sue left of her own free will.
"I think these sightings are helping derail the investigation," he said.
"Some people see blond hair and suddenly they see Susan."
The Nutley police, however, said they have not given up looking for Sue.
In fact, along with the Old Bridge sighting, the police said Sue was
also sighted in Freehold.
On the day after the first anniversary of Sue's vanishing, the Herald
and News returned to take yet one more swipe at her before closing its
pages on the matter. The mysterious Robert Florida, who had misquoted me
a year earlier, no longer worked for the paper and the story was picked
up by Tom Troncone, a much more respectable reporter.
According to this July, 17, 1997 story, the police over the year since
Sue's vanishing had interviewed more than a hundred people as far away
as Tuscaloos, Ala., and were still no closer to finding her than they
had been the day she walked out of her Nutley apartment a year earlier.
Floyd, of course, continued his triad, based largely on the lies Sue had
told people before her vanishing.
"I think foul play was involved and the police don't think so, so I
think the case is dead in the water," he told Troncone. "I'm not holding
a lot of hope."
But the police weren't convinced Sue's vanishing had a sinister edge.
"We've spent hundreds and hundreds of hour on this investigation... I've
had detectives stake out street corners after midnight," police chief
DeLitta said. "Every name we've come across we have interviewed. We have
talked to more than 100 people."
The chief told Troncone that when Sue first vanished, his detectives
were in contact with people who claimed to have been maintaining contact
"But soon those people stopped talking to her," Troncone wrote, "a sign
police took to mean she may have moved out of the area."
"We believe that she was alive and well and being seen by certain people
up until last fall," Delitta said. "There are a lot of scenarios that
could have happened."
Floyd, however, read these scenarios differently.
"There are too many possibilities for me to pick one," he said. "There
are three or four people that could have (caused her disappearance.)"
And though he had called for the state to take over the investigation,
Floyd had not yet heard word from the Attorney General's office.
Floyd told Troncone he was considering hiring a private detective,
though apparently failed to say that two previous attempts had resulted
in detectives quitting.
New Jersey Monthly was scheduled to publish Joel Lewis' version of the
Sue Walsh Story in its July issue, but management yanked the story from
its board before it could go to press, and fired the editor who had
approved it for publication. In it, Joel said Sueyanked the story from
its board before it could go to press, and fired the editor who had
approved it for publication. In it, Joel said Sue's friends were divided
"I thought she would show up after the one year anniversary," Dorothy
said. "Now I think she'll wait for five years."
Glenn Kenny, Nicole Bushe and Joel himself believe Sue is dead.
In distorting the facts, Joel claimed the Newark sightings were "vague"
and never even bothered interviewing Sue's best friend, Melissa Hines,
who made one of these sightings.
"The story of Sue Walsh haunts because her life seems to stop so
abruptly," Joel wrote. "There is really not clue to what has happened to
her; all suppositions as to her fate are really in the realm of
deductive reasons and speculation. At this late date, spring (May, 1997
when he wrote his piece) in North Jersey with cherry trees and tulip
trees announcing the first few real weeks of spring, I find it hard to
imagine her, as some do, laughing in some dreary go-go joint in,
perhaps, central Idaho (more likely, Ohio), laughing at all the trouble
that she has managed to brew up."
Joel, with his usual flair for the dramatic, ended his piece with a
quote from Glenn Kenny that is so appropriate, I will end this book with
the same quote.
"Glen Kenny, who says he always felt a kinship with both Walsh's
intelligence and her difficulty into conventional society, remained
stunned about a friend who attempted to live out college day fantasies
about living on the edge and seems to have lost," Joel wrote.
"We use to tell each other that if neither of us found someone at age
forty, we'd have to get married," Kenny told Joel. "I don't think I'll
ever get a chance to see how that would've panned out."
The Susan Walsh Story