With the recent disappearances of children, especially in Florida, I thought I would do a series of articles revisiting some old cases that garnered national attention. I thought it would be fitting to start with the Adam Walsh case.
In 1981, six year old Adam Walsh was kidnapped from a Sears store in Hollywood, Florida. No one knows exactly why he was alone but it is thought that he was caught up among a group of rowdy kids who were kicked out of a video arcade. It is then thought that he was outside and alone and was allegedly taken by a man named Ottis Toole. Toole was a drifter and was also a serial killer and an arsonist. He was even connected with another serial killer named Henry Lee Lucas and both are featured in the movie Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer .
It was two weeks after Walsh was kidnapped that they found his decapitated head in a canal in Vero Beach but his body was never recovered. This case garnered national attention and was even made into a movie starring Daniel J. Travanti as John Walsh. There was no physical evidence that pointed to anyone as the kidnapper/murderer and people even thought that it was Jeffrey Dahmer who did it. During one of his many stints in jail, Toole confessed to the kidnapping and decapitation of Adam Walsh but also recanted just as many times. Ottis Toole died in jail from a liver disease in 1996 and on a deathbed confession to his niece, he again said that he was the one who kidnapped and killed Adam Walsh
It wasn’t until 2008, however, that the Hollywood police department closed the case of Adam Walsh and deemed Ottis Toole as the perpetrator of the heinous crime. There was never any new evidence that came to light to implicate anyone else and there is no DNA evidence either. When the police closed the case, a lot of people were upset because they felt that the police department was naming a defendant who could not clear himself and since there was never any new evidence, people feel the police department was just settling. However, John and Reve Walsh are satisfied with the findings and they now feel that they have closure to the 27 year old case.
The kidnapping and murder of Adam Walsh was bittersweet because John Walsh brought missing children to the forefront. After battling legislative and bureaucratic red tape, John and Reve Walsh were able to get the MISSING CHILDREN ACT OF 1982 passed and then a couple of years later, the MISSING CHILDRENS ASSISSTANCE ACT OF 1984 passed. They also started the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center and soon merged with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on which Walsh serves on the Board of Directors. He has also brought hundreds of criminals to justice with his television show America’s Most Wanted. Many department stores, malls and supermarkets have adopted a universal alert system called Code Adam, in which if a child is reported missing, the stores lock their stores down and employees stand by every entrance and exit and look for the child that has been described as missing and is the precursor to the national Amber Alert system.
Nothing is foolproof however because over the recent years many children have been kidnapped and/or killed. Most recently, Caylee Anthony of Orlando, Florida and little Haliegh Cummings of Satsuma, Florida. We, as parents and non-parents alike have to be ever more vigil of our own children and other children alike. If you see a child crying or screamimg as he/she is being carried or dragged away, stop and find out why. You may be interfering with a parent but you also may be stopping a kidnapping as well. Write down plate numbers of suspicious vehicles; notify the police of a stranger hanging around your neighborhood or a playground. Be proactive instead of reactive. You may save someone’s child.