A stripper-turned-investigative reporter is missing and some think the disappearance is tied to the Russian Mafia.
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.
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.
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:
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 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:
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:
Filmmaker Jill Morley was with Susan two days before she disappeared:
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:
Det. John Rhein of the Nutley, New Jersey Police Department, said that the police have a completely different theory:
A number of people, including an old friend, Melissa Hines, told the police that they saw Susan after she disappeared, getting into a limousine:
Det. Rhein followed up on Melissa’s information:
Melissa believes that if Susan is alive, she may be deliberately hiding out:
Floyd Merchant is Susan’s father:
Melissa Hines believes someone was following Susan:
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.