Susan Walsh: Found or Missing? Is She Dead or Alive?

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One day in July 1996, Susan Walsh seemingly left home to make a phone call but didn’t return when she said she would. This led to an extensive investigation to find her whereabouts, but the police were impeded by little evidence regarding what happened. One of the cases featured on Paramount+’s ‘Never Seen Again’ is Susan’s. So, if you’re curious to discover what led to her disappearance and the recent updates in that case, here’s what we know.

What Happened to Susan Walsh?

Susan Walsh was born in February 1960 and grew up in a middle-class family. After high school, she studied English and Communications at a state university in New Jersey. At the time, the aspiring journalist wrote for the college newspaper and graduated sometime in 1984. Susan intermittently worked as an exotic dancer to finance her Master’s degree at New York University. Furthermore, she had been interning for The Village Voice as a journalist.

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On July 16, 1996, a then 36-year-old Susan dropped her then 11-year-old son, David, with her estranged husband, Mark Walsh. They lived in the same apartment complex in Nutley, New Jersey. Reports indicated that she was to go to a nearby payphone to make a phone call and meet someone. However, Mark didn’t remember seeing Susan leave the house, and she didn’t return after that. As a result, her family reported her missing soon after, with the authorities mounting a desperate search.

Is Susan Walsh Dead or Alive?

The authorities learned that nobody had seen Susan Walsh make the phone call, and there was no record of an outgoing call from that payphone. It appeared that she had seemingly vanished into thin air. In the time leading up to that, things had been looking up for Susan. As part of her work with The Village Voice, she published an article that alleged Russian mobsters were controlling immigrant women, forcing them into sex work.

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Sometime after the article was published, Susan’s behavior began to change. According to her father, Floyd Merchant, she believed there were two contracts out there to have her killed, and she had started drinking after staying sober for over a decade. It was reported that Susan also took Xanax and stopped taking medication for her bipolar disorder. As per reports, she had become increasingly paranoid and talked to friends about being stalked apart from being targeted by the mob.

Susan had also been working as a researcher for a book that looked into the corrupt ways of the sex industry. In June 1996, at a publisher’s party, James Ridgeway, the co-author of the said book titled ‘Red Light: Inside the Sex Industry,’ remembered her wrists being bandaged; he was worried about Susan’s drug and alcohol use. But despite all of this information, the authorities had little to go on when it came to Susan’s whereabouts.

Based on an article Susan wrote for The Village Voice, some reports speculated about Susan’s connection to an underground vampire subculture in New York City, New York. At the time, she had been reportedly working on a tip from James regarding blood going missing from local hospitals. There were also allegations of people in the subcultures drinking human blood. As per reports, Susan got quite immersed in that subculture, leading to her work losing objectivity. Her piece on the same was also not published by the editors. However, nothing concrete connected Susan’s disappearance to it.

While Mark was never considered a suspect, there had been conflicting reports regarding whether he let the authorities carry out forensic testing at Susan’s apartment. All the police found was that the July page from her calendar was ripped away. Over the years, the authorities have stated they didn’t think her death was connected to the Russian mob. The family has maintained she would never leave her son behind, and given that her belongings were still at home, it doesn’t seem likely Susan left of her own accord.

In 2006, the police announced they were pursuing new leads, and an ex-boyfriend of Susan’s, Christian Pepo, mentioned she was being stalked and harassed by Billy Walker, another ex, in the time leading up to her disappearance. Christian claimed Susan had a recording of Billy threatening to kill her and alleged she had a plan to get rid of him. For now, the case remains open, and as of 2009, the authorities had not ruled out the possibility of Susan still being alive. In September 2020, her half-brother, Arthur Merchant, filed a lawsuit against the Nutley Police Department for information regarding the investigation. Before that, her father had hired a private detective to look into the case.

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