A stripper-turned-investigative reporter is missing and some think the disappearance is tied to the Russian Mafia.


Susan Walsh

Missing:

Gender: Female
DOB: 2/18/60
Height: 5’6”
Weight: 110 lbs.
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Bleached blonde
Defining Characteristics: Scar on her right wrist
Remarks: Last seen 7/16/96

CASE DETAILS

On July 16, 1996, Susan Walsh of Nutley, New Jersey, was in a hurry. She dropped off her son, David, with her estranged husband. She said she needed to make some phone calls and run a few errands. But Susan never returned. Police believe Susan Walsh simply chose to disappear. Others fear she may have met an untimely end.

She was proud of her work in the book

Susan grew up in a broken home. By most accounts, it was a bitter childhood. Still, Susan dreamed of being a poet. By the time she turned 20, she was far from her dream. She was, instead, a substance abuser supporting herself as a stripper. Still, she kept her hopes alive, using her dancing tips to pay her way through college. By the time she graduated in 1988, she’d traded stripping for a writing career.

According to Susan’s friend, Melissa Hines, Susan had been sober for over four years when she got married and became a devoted mother.

“Susan loved her son very much and she was always there for her son. The two things that meant a lot to her were her son and her career as a journalist.”

Eventually, she and her husband separated. Her writing jobs didn’t pay enough to support her son. According to journalist James Ridgeway, she went back to stripping, unable to resist the easy money:

“Susan would say she was like an addict and the whole sex business was kind of like an addiction and she was trying to break this addiction. She’ll talk endlessly on an intellectual level against dancing. And sometimes with great articulation you know, you feel like this is very profound stuff. And then you know, she’s out there doing it.”

Did Susan leave on her own

Eventually, Susan landed an internship at New York’s alternative newspaper, The Village Voice. Because of her background as a stripper, she was assigned to research the sex industry. She soon turned up a hot story: Russian mobsters in New Jersey were allegedly forcing young immigrant women to work like slaves in strip clubs. James Ridgeway described Susan as dogged in her work:

“Susan was a fantastic researcher. She really poured herself into this. She spent hour after hour, day after day. Then she got in this situation where some of the people were alleged to be in organized crime. The managers of these clubs began to side with the Russian women against the Russian manager, so it was like the two mobs meet. And Susan, then of course, loved this thing and she got right in the middle of it.”

Her lifestyle may have played a part

Susan earned praise for her Russian mob article, but she also received serious threats when it was published. But that didn’t stop her from taking another dark assignment, this time investigating vampire nightclubs. These clubs attracted kids who called themselves “Goths.” They were known for their outrageous black outfits. But some took it further, even drinking real blood.

Susan was attracted to the vampire world. She even started dating a man who claimed to be one of the undead. According to James Ridgeway, Susan wrote a detailed article, but she seemed to lose her journalistic objectivity:

“She believed a lot of the things that these guys were telling her, about how there were secret murders and so on and so forth in the vampire world. She would come and say to me, ‘I met these two guys and they got this van and it’s very scary and I don’t know whether I should go in their van.’ So I said, ‘Hey look, don’t go in the van, because they might not be vampires, you know’.”

Mobsters may have been involved

To Susan’s disappointment, The Village Voice never ran her vampire story. She went back to dancing full time. In a documentary made by a friend, Susan talked about the toll stripping had taken on her life:

“It’s draining me. I’ve been in it four and a half years, four years too long, I’d say, and I’m stuck in this conundrum because I feel so drained. And I’m damaged right now, I will admit that, very damaged from this business. I’m hurting very bad.”

Filmmaker Jill Morley was with Susan two days before she disappeared:

“She said she had bronchitis, emphysema, and an ulcer. She said she’d been in the hospital twice that week. She talked about her mood swings and being depressed and about just holding on to live.”

Forty-eight hours after Jill last saw her, Susan disappeared. Did she collapse because of her depression and poor health? Or was she out there somewhere, waiting for help? Susan’s friends had to consider darker theories. James Ridgeway said he believed Susan had become addicted to drugs:

“I think she went out and probably called somebody to come and get her and then she went and she may very well have O.D.ed. And she may very well have O.D.ed in the presence of someone who knew her and was frightened to do anything about it.”

Det. John Rhein of the Nutley, New Jersey Police Department, said that the police have a completely different theory:

“I believe Susan Walsh is alive. For some unknown reason to me at this time, she opted to leave her family and home, which she has a perfect right to do.”

A number of people, including an old friend, Melissa Hines, told the police that they saw Susan after she disappeared, getting into a limousine:

“I definitely think it was her. I’m positive that I saw Susan a month after she disappeared.”

Det. Rhein followed up on Melissa’s information:

“A license plate number that Melissa Hines provided to us, we did track down, we spoke to the owner and operator of that vehicle. He had been with a woman fitting the description of Susan. He did view photographs and felt he was pretty sure that it had been her. But again, we had no positive identification of Susan Walsh at that time.”

Melissa believes that if Susan is alive, she may be deliberately hiding out:

“Susan definitely felt that she was in danger. She was scared for her life and I think she was also feared her son’s life could be in danger too. Susan actually told me that she wasn’t going to make it in the next year. She felt that she was going to be killed.”

Floyd Merchant is Susan’s father:

“I believe there is a chance that the mob was after her. People in organized crime were concerned that Susan had information that would send them to jail. According to Susan, that was the case.”

Melissa Hines believes someone was following Susan:

“I thought at first that it was just her imagination, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I would see cars follow her, both of us, people follow my car, she was in my car. So definitely, somebody was stalking her.”

Who was it that could have been following Susan? No one knows. But now, years after she vanished, police believe she was murdered and the case remains open.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season nine with Robert Stack and in season four with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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30 Comments

  1. Wayne

    i viewed this case last night ,as i live in South Africa i do not know the status of the case other than what i have been following . The following might be of help: A)Does the father and son still stay in the same abode , if they have moved ,how long after Susan went missing ? . B)Was the month of July missing due to the fact that it had been planned and did not want to be found and not leave evidence / . C) are these “club s ” raided on a regular basis , where ever they maybe ? .Maybe she was “offered ” a better opportunity as a reporter else where .D) Why is the Mother not mentioned in the case ? . E) She has cousin s in Florida , without them knowing , did she not make for Florida and was harmed in anyway on route ? . F ) Did she ever mention a special place to go to unwind
    Isolated , and was taken advantage of ? . Melissa said that she think s that she was been followed while driving with Susan in the car , did she ever report this was she at any stage ever harassed as , well as any of Susan s other friend s and collegues ? . Greeting s From South Africa Wayne .

    Reply

  2. Anonymous

    I watched thi episode alot , I try to watch it as often as possible.When they said ,” Susan wrote for the Village Voice paper , I thought it to be nice,because lots of sweet people live in the Grenich Village area. But recently I found a website that explained that she wrote for Screw newspaper starting since around 1981 and they said she was really impressing the owner of the Screw paper, about a year before she dissapeared. How come they never mention this, they just say “She was a stripper, like if she is wacko? I feel more worried after I read this web story, is it really true, too?

    village

    Reply

  3. SassyChick

    Anyone try searching for her on social media like facebook? They’ve found lots of missing persons and people with warrants using social media. Maybe they might find something there? I found an individual that is the same age Susan would be today but without age progressed photo I can’t say whether or not it’s her. They have similar noses and cheek bones though.

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  4. kellie

    The husband still lives in the same house but in susans apt now there was a witness that worked at the pizza place across from the pay phone an said he saw her walk back into her apt but if u see the pizza place an where her apt is theres no way being inside the pizza place u can see someone walking back into the bld i think they should have questioned him more

    Reply

  5. Anonymous

    I saw this show again and I do believe her ex husband did it

    Reply

    • Geri

      I just watched it again tonight, too, and I agree with you. Her best friend said that whatever happened to her happened in that house, plus the ex will no longer cooperate with the cops. He did it!

      Reply

  6. Frank

    I remember when I saw one episode of Susan W. I remember they gave her address when she was very young , some street , near Longport Dr. in Wayne , NJ.I was scared , because,it is very close to my nieghborhood. They kept saying the Russian Mafia killed her and I thought that was very strange, because a fellow student lived close by was Russian and he always wore a Russian sickle belt buckle to school and he seemed kind of poor, so I just figured he couldn’t afford to buy a new one. He wasn’t a troublemaker,and he got good grades, but he wore that belt buckle all through school ever year and sometimes people would question him about it ,mockingly. I think Susan was in the same grade as his sister,maybe they were even friends. Another wierd, strange thing is that a female student there, became an adult film star, and she lived close to Susan’s house ,too. Anyway I wondered if they were friends, maybe that’s how she became a stipper and why people are quick to believethe Russin Mafia has some thing to do with her dissapearence, perhaps they are really too scared to question her husband? Maybe Susan was an alcoholic and ran off to be with the adult film star,who actually quit the buisnee 2 years befre Susan’s dissapearence, maybe they used drugs together in High School, and are really in love?

    Reply

  7. Sam Frank

    I have followed this case for years. I was born and raised in Nutley and still reside there. I never knew Susan Walsh but I remember when this happened. I was told a very interesting story about this case by the brother of her ex husband Mark. Several years after her disappearance I met Mark’s brother when he came to work for the same company I was working for. We struck up a friendship that continued for years until we lost touch after we both left that company. I asked him what he thought happened to Susan and he told me he knew exactly what happened to her. This is what he told me:

    Mark and Susan were separated and Susan was living with their son David in the apartment upstairs while Mark was living in one room in the basement. All Mark had was a bed, a dresser, a telephone and his few personal belongings. Susan would come down and use his phone frequently but he would not allow her to use it to call her boyfriends or her drug dealers. In exchange for using the telephone, she would allow him upstairs to use the kitchen to cook his meals. The day of her disappearance they had a huge argument about her using the phone so she went across the street to use the pay phone. When she returned from using the pay phone she did not go to her apartment, she went to the basement where she and Mark continued fighting. In a fit of rage he grabbed a frying pan and smashed her across the head with it, killing her. It was not intentional but nonetheless it was murder. He hid the body in his basement room and once her boyfriend had gone to work he took David to Staples. Later that night or early the next morning he took the body to a reservation where he was known to hike and disposed of the body. He returned and later that day reported her missing.

    He also told me that Mark did not have much money and when he visited his brother about a week before the disappearance Mark had shown him the new frying pan he had just bought and how expensive it was. When my friend went to see his brother after Susan disappeared he noticed the frying pan was gone. When he questioned Mark about it mark just said he must have misplaced it. He also told me that Mark removed the page from the calendar because there was something written on it he didn’t want the cops to see. I didn’t know what to make of his story but I told him he should go to the police if he was so sure that Mark had done it. He said he did go to the Nutley PD and sat with a detective and told him everything. The detective said they would investigate and they would be in touch, but he never heard a word from them. He said he called several times to see how the investigation was going but they just kept telling him they were still checking it out and would contact him. He finally gave up after not hearing anything. He said his brother became distant and remote from the rest of the family and concentrated on raising his son David.

    I don’t know if any of this is true and I’m not accusing Mark or anyone else of anything. This is the story his brother told me and he seems to believe it. I’ve never met Mark or his son but I find this theory pretty intriguing. I also wonder why the Nutley PD did not follow up. Or if they did maybe it was all a lie. One more fact about this story that is pretty interesting is that Mark Walsh and my friend are the younger brothers of Joe Walsh, the rock star. I’ve never seen that mentioned in any of the stories I’ve read about Susan Walsh.

    Reply

    • Scott

      I’ve been fascinated by this case for years as well, and always wondered why police were so quick to rule out her husband. Have you considered taking this information to the police? I really think you should. It seems quite believable to me. All of the vampire culture mumbo jumbo and mafia stuff is more than likely untrue. Occam’s razor 101. I wouldn’t be surprised if what happened is precisely what you’ve described.

      Reply

  8. Nevermind

    I have seen a woman in Phoenix Arizona who could pass as her twin. She likes meth and is dating my cousin, everything is secretive, she disappears for days and he can never depend on her to show up for any family get togethers. He had her picture on his fb page but I don’t see it now please contact me for more information.

    Reply

  9. Bill Blaski

    Can you provide an update please?

    Reply

    • unsolved

      Hi Bill – we do not currently have any new information regarding this case, but if and when we do we will be sure to update it above. Thank you.

      Reply

  10. whomever

    just what drug was she addicted to ? they are very vague about it — just saying she took substances. Well, there’s a big difference between valium, pot, etc, and, say heroin…..

    Reply

  11. Anonymous

    Did investigators ever try to run finger prints on the calendar that was missing the month she disappeared?

    Reply

  12. Joe Kulik

    Wiki says Susan got her BA from Paterson Univ/NJ ( with10k students) & had almost completed her MA at NYU when she disappeared. So how is a lady with these credentials “forced” to be a stripper? Aside from her formal education, the social contacts she made at these schools should’ve easily gotten her a better job. Looks to me like Susan was suffering from SEVERE Low Self Esteem as well. It is this SEVERE Low Self Esteem that probably got Susan “set up” to get murdered too. Think about it. She was 46 & still stripping when she “disappeared”. How many 40+ strippers have YOU ever heard of?? … joseph.kulik.919@gmail.com

    Reply

  13. Frank

    I remember seeing an old unsolved mysteries show about 20 years ago, and they mentioned that Susan was originally born from Wayne,nj. they showed a kindergarten photo of her and even mentioned the street she lived on and her father talked a while. I never really saw that episode again, and it seemed as if I was dreaming becauase I live close to that area. I dont ever seeing her though,she is older. But it seems scary though because a famous female porno star lived less then a half mile away. I look on other web sites and it never says she was born on Wayne, NJ,was I just imagining this? Thank You.

    Reply

  14. J.

    To the person who says they found her in NC please contact the police in Nutley NJ.

    Reply

  15. Anonymous

    She is on the Outer Banks of NC someone please help I dont know how to report this, she is a cat lady and she looks identical and is same age and still goes by Susan Walsh. She is here!

    Reply

    • Anonymous

      Omg! I hope to God that’s true! Her story on disappeared was heartbreaking and She seemed like such an amazing person who just had a hard time finding a job that paid enough money to support her child. That does sound possible too because I’m sure dancing and being around some of the slime balls who patronize the strip clubs is hard and having to listen to morons treat you like a piece of meat day after day must be extremely difficult and I’m certain it damages some of the dancers self esteem and could create mental disorders.

      Reply

  16. Anonymous

    What is to say she didn’t go to the mental health facility. The facilities aren’t allowed to release information about if someone is there or not.

    Reply

  17. Valerie M.

    How long did it take for anyone to alert the police that she was missing? It seems to me that within a day or two they should have been notified, but I think I read that it was 4 week! If it was 4 weeks..hmmm..makes me wonder why her ex didn’t notify police sooner…and nothing was missing..things you would take if you were going to disappear. No, she is no longer alive….I don’t buy that and I think the police put on blinders because of who she was and what others said about her…misleading things..thats why police need to investigate with an open mind. Sadly for Susan they did not.

    Reply

  18. Bill G

    I was one of two private detectives that investigated this case. We never felt that she ran away. The Essex County Prosecutors Office advised Nutley P D to not cooperate with us because they feared that it would turn into a homicide investigation. I guess that they were afraid of us muddying the waters? We had our own theory but no defining proof. She would have never left her son.

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  19. malissa

    I pray for susan safe return may God bless her where ever she is

    Ś

    Reply

  20. annistaisa

    I am not usually interested in cases like this. For some reason, i remember the original new reports as clear as day. I was a Goth at the time. To this day, her case has as importance in my subcouncious mind.I think there is more to this case then meets the eye. When i had a Goth band in the late 1990’s I met a ruff looking blond woman. She was older than me. She was very high and depressed. she was a smoker. There was a man with dark interest with her. He was one of the people who think they are undead. She acted like a victom of kidnappping. You can tell. They are careful at what they say and parionoid of the world around them. She was scared of what this dark man could do. So was i , so i left them alone. I always wondered about that encounter. It was in Chicago. I never told anybody about the encounter. I wote about it in my novels i now write. it was just very strange, and i always thought the two were related.

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  21. AJ

    Has anyone considered this? I was looking through the doenetwork and came across from this: right age and time of death https://identifyus.org/cases/full_report/6118

    Reply

  22. charmaine

    Omg is she still missing I hope they find her for her safe return

    Reply