"Psychic detective" John Monti searches for Tiffany Sessions

by Gary P. Posner

On the afternoon of November 1, 1991, Ch. 10 news director Mel Martin called me about John Monti, a "psychic detective" from New York [who has since relocated to Clearwater]. Monti had scheduled a press conference for 6 p.m. in Clearwater to announce his intention to solve the case of Tiffany Sessions, the young woman who mysteriously disappeared several years ago while jogging in Gainesville. Martin, who has consistently demonstrated his dedication to the rational and balanced presentation of paranormal claims (and who hosted TBS's appearance before the Society of Professional Journalists in June) told me that he did not wish to report about the press conference without input from the Tampa Bay Skeptics. I thus arrived at the studio at 8:30 p.m. to review videotape of the press conference and to tape my reactions. The fifteen seconds of air time that I received on that night's 11:00 news was better than nothing  which, predictably, seems to have been the value of Monti's "psychic" detective work.

Three days later, Monti appeared on Ch. 13's Eye on Tampa Bay,  along with the mother of Tiffany Sessions (neither the police nor Tiffany's father would have anything to do with him). The mother explained that although she had been disappointed by the "psychics" that she had previously consulted, she felt confident that Monti, who seemed to have more specific information than did the others, would be successful. The two of them would travel to Gainesville, and spend November 6 and 7 searching for the missing woman.

My only knowledge of Monti, other than from these TV appearances, was from a June 1 newspaper article in the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press (faxed to me from CSICOP in response to my inquiry), and from my subsequent conversations with New Jersey law enforcement officers. The article discussed Monti's arrival in the town of Sayreville, where 5-year-old Timothy Wiltsey had disappeared at a carnival about one week earlier. Monti, who claims an envious track record of "psychic" sleuthing (and of private readings for members of the Kennedy and Cuomo families), purported in the article to have visions of the child running toward the kiddie rides, falling, and being "picked up and carried [by a woman] to a white car . . . across the street. . . . The woman took the child, took a left turn on Washington Avenue, then the first right . . . and went in to one of the cellar level apartments in the complex." The night before the newspaper article was published, Fox TV's America's Most Wanted  program had spotlighted the case.

During the Eye on Tampa Bay  show, I remarked (by phone) that Monti had failed to solve the Wiltsey case just a few months earlier. But Monti would not accept responsibility for his failure: "The mother did not want to find the child. . . . [A] New York Times article stat[ed] that the mother was suspicious [sic] of doing something with the child. . . . I can do so much as a psychic, but I'm not going to tell parents what to do with their kids -- I can't take their kids away from their parents."

I did not have an opportunity to follow up on the air, but, after placing another call to New Jersey, I prepared a TBS "Press Release" which I faxed on November 5 to the Tampa Bay and Gainesville TV stations and newspapers. In it I noted that Monti's "job" had not been to take the already missing boy away from the parent, but to solve the case via "psychic power" (not by reading the N.Y. Times). I also reported upon my conversation with Detective Sergeant Ray Durski of the South Amboy, N.J. Police Department, who told me of Monti's efforts:

He gave us about four different locations that we checked out. He had strong feelings that the boy had been in an abandoned building on our main thoroughfare. We went through the entire building and found no articles of clothing that he suggested we might find. The following day he suggested an area near a railroad track where he had strong feelings that there was someone who had committed suicide, and that he could be in that wooded area. We searched that area and there was nothing there also. He then contacted our South Amboy First Aid Department and gave them strong feelings that we could possibly find a body in a landfill area adjacent to the waterfront. They then conducted a search with over 100 people and they found nothing there. After that, he came back again, and he stated that he sees the boy running away from the mother's house in the direction of the railroad tracks. Of course we checked that area, too, and came up with nothing.

Durski added, "We more or less believed in him to a certain extent, and we didn't discount any of his leads. He came on strong at first [but] I don't think he helped us whatsoever. After all the publicity and the news coverage subsided, so did he."

When I asked about the mother's refusal to cooperate with Monti, Durski responded, "I think what happened was that after the first meeting at the grounds [where the boy disappeared], I think more or less that the mother became very skeptical of him. She watched [from her car] what he was doing and I think she probably didn't approve of what he was doing." About Monti's allegation that the mother doesn't want the child found: "That's a new twist." Does Durski agree that her behavior has been suspicious?: "No, I don't."

Monti's search for Tiffany Sessions also appears to have been unsuccessful. Ch. 8 reported as much on November 7, although the reporter noted that Monti was still optimistic that he was on the right track. If he employed the same "shotgun" approach with Mrs. Sessions that he did in New Jersey -- creating so many "leads" that one of them, in retrospect, will likely be considered close enough to be a "hit" if and when the body is found -- John Monti may one day return to claim credit for having contributed toward solving the case.

For her family's sake, I wish Monti had succeeded in locating Tiffany Sessions, and would have voted to award him TBS's "$1,000 Challenge" prize had he done so. But I could have predicted (and did) that Monti's famed "psychic power" would fail him once again.

This article appeared in the Winter 1991-92 Tampa Bay Skeptics Report .

Read our follow-up report on this case

A Dallas Observer  article (June 7, 2001) about a Monti case in Texas

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