Adam John Walsh was born on the 14th November 1974 in Hollywood Florida to parents John and Reve Walsh. On the afternoon of July 27th 1981 Reve took 6 year old Adam to their local shopping centre The Hollywood Mall. They entered the Sears department store just before midday. Reve wanted to look at a lamp and little Adam was mesmerised by an Atari video game stand. As she wouldn’t be gone for long and was only a few aisles away Reve decided to leave Adam with a group of other children who were all playing the video games together. After she left an argument broke out between the group of children over whose turn it was to play next. A store security guard intervened in the scuffle and asked where their parents were. The group of kids who seemed to be older than Adam and possibly in their early teens replied they had come to the store alone so the security guard assuming they were all together then sent the group of kids outside of the store. Adam followed along possibly too scared and too shy to speak up to say that he wasn’t with the group and was waiting for his mother. It is believed after they went outside the other kids left together leaving 6 year old Adam on his own out in the open in a place unfamiliar to him.
At 12:15pm, just a few minutes after leaving Adam, Reve returned to the Atari stand to find that all the kids had disappeared. She began looking for her son and was soon told by a store manager about the scuffle that had happened and that all the children were made to leave the store. They then put out an announcement over the store’s speaker to try to locate him while Reve continued looking for her little boy. Coincidentally while looking she ran into her mother in law Jean who was Adam’s grandmother. They both continued to look for him together however after 90 minutes of searching and multiple announcements made over the speakers they found no trace of him. At 1:55pm that day they called police and reported 6 year old Adam Walsh missing.
Several days went by without a trace of the little boy until on the 10th of August a small severed head was found in a drainage canal approximately 2 hours away from The Hollywood Mall where he had vanished. Hoping it wasn’t Adam the next day John and Reve made a public appearance on national television offering a $100,000 reward for Adam’s safe return and said they still held hope their little boy was alive. A short while later the coroner ruled the cause of death of the remains was due to asphyxiation and that the person had died several days before the discovery. The remains were then positively identified to be that of Adam Walsh. To this day his body has never been recovered.
For a long time there was little evidence and no real suspects for the murder however 2 years after Adam’s death a convicted murderer by the name of Ottis Toole confessed from prison that he murdered Adam Walsh. He explained to police that he abducted Adam by luring him into his car telling him he had toys and candy. Toole originally said Adam was docile and placid but quickly began to panic. He then punched Adam in the face which he said just made the situation worse and frightened the boy more so he continued to beat the little boy until he was unconscious. He drove north on the Florida Turnpike to a deserted service road where he realised Adam was still breathing and then strangled him to death with a seatbelt. He dragged the boy out of the car and decapitated him with a machete. He left the head at the scene for unknown reasons but took the body to his home where he put it in an old refrigerator and then burned it. He claimed his reasons behind the brutal abduction and murder was that he wanted to adopt Adam to be his son. He also said that after the abduction he realised it wouldn’t work due to the close loving relationship Adam showed to have with his parents so instead he had to kill him.
Toole had a bad reputation in prison and was well known for confessing to crimes and then later recanting his statements. It is reported he did the same thing in this case and that he confessed to killing Adam many times only to later claim he was lying however many parts of his confession were true. It was confirmed that both a machete and a carpet covered in blood was found inside Toole’s car and witnesses had placed him in the area of Hollywood which was some 4 hours away from his home in the days leading up to Adam’s death. While in police custody both items of evidence went missing and testing could not be done to determine if the blood belonged to Adam. At the age of 49 in 1996 Ottis Toole died in prison while serving a life sentence for other murders.
In 1983 a television film adaptation of the case was premiered. Each time it was broadcasted photos and descriptions of missing children was aired on the programme and a hotline was created taking calls for any tips for missing children. Out of the 55 children that the television programme showed a total number of 13 children were located due to the hotline. The Code Adam program was also set up in department stores and helped to locate lost children. If a child is missing inside a store or is found by a store employee an announcement is made over the intercom. If a child is lost or missing all the store’s doors will be locked and an employee to be positioned at every exit until the child is found.
In 2006 the US Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act which created a national database of convicted child molesters. They also increased sentences for criminals of sexual and violent crimes that involve children. John Walsh has also since gone on to be involved in criminal investigations, human rights and activism for children’s rights as well as creating and hosting the very popular program America’s Most Wanted. It became the longest running crime reality show in the history of Fox and was reported to contribute to the capturing of more than 1,000 criminals.
In 2007 there was widespread publicity that serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was a suspect in the unsolved murder of Adam Walsh. He was living in Miami Beach at the time of the murder and eyewitnesses claimed to have seen a blonde strange man with a protruding chin in both the toy section of the Sears store where Adam was playing as well as being in the carpark and seen throwing a child into a blue van. After his arrest in 1991 both witnesses had positively identified him as the man they saw the day of Adam’s death. The delivery store where Dahmer worked at the time also had a similar blue van matching the one at the scene. He was also infamously known for beheading his victims. Back in 1992 police had interrogated him for the crime where he stated, “I’ve told you everything, how I killed them, how I cooked them, who I ate. Why wouldn’t I tell you if I did someone else?” John Walsh has since publicly stated that he has seen no evidence linking Adam’s murder to Dahmer and that focusing on him as a suspect is a waste of time.
It was widely known that police made mistakes in Adam’s case even from the beginning. When Reve initially contacted police reporting him missing she waited 2 hours for the police to arrive. In missing persons cases especially child abduction cases the initial hours are the most important. Statistics say within the first hour of a child being abducted 46% of the time the child is already deceased which is then nearly doubled when it reaches the 4 hour mark where it rises to 76%. Along with the delays and the lost and misplaced evidence it was thought that the case would never be solved however on the 16th December 2008 Hollywood Florida Police Chief Chad Wagner who was also a friend of John Walsh announced with John present that the case of Adam Walsh was officially closed. Further review of the case had been conducted and they were satisfied that Ottis Toole was the only ever suspect in the murder of Adam Walsh and that even though he is now deceased they have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that he was in fact the killer.