After a freelance journalist goes missing, people questioned if her articles had something to do with her disappearance.
Susan Walsh disappeared from outside her New Jersey home on July 16, 1996. She had left her apartment complex, which she shared with her 11-year-old son, to run a few errands and to make a phone call at a payphone. She never returned. Eerily, the month of July was torn from her daily schedule and calendar.
When she went missing, she was enrolled in a Master's program in English at New York University. The 36-year-old worked as an exotic dancer, in addition to writing as a freelance journalist.
She had recently investigated and wrote articles about New York City’s underground vampire community and the Russian mafia for the Village Voice. In the latter article, Susan wrote in-depth about a strip club ring. In the story, she accused Russian mafia members of forcing young girls into the sex industry. Her investigative reporting prompted many to fear that her disappearance might have been linked to the Russian mob.
"This opened up a threat to her," said her father, Floyd Merchant. He told CNN that Susan told him two contracts were issued for her murder after the sex ring story appeared in the Village Voice. Floyd said his daughter feared for her life and took up drinking again after 11 years of sobriety.
"The last time I met her she was worried about [someone] having her killed," her dad said. "She was coming apart at the seams."
A documentary Susan was in conjured up more potential worries: In "Stripped," a film about women working in the sex industry, Susan said she had a stalker. She was interviewed for the documentary just two days before she went missing.
Her estranged husband Mark was quickly ruled out as a suspect by police. He lived just below her. Her ex-boyfriend revealed to the The New York Post in 2006 that Susan once told him one of her other ex-boyfriends was stalking her. That article also made the claim that Susan’s husband Mark didn’t allow forensic testing of his home.
Susan was profiled on "Unsolved Mysteries" in 1997 and on "Disappeared" in 2012. She was also the subject of a 1998 book titled "Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today."
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Nutley Police Department at (973) 284-4940.
[Photo: The Charley Project]