Adam Walsh, the missing child case that changed America
Adam’s kidnapping and murder is one of the most published in America. It has also brought forth some of the best systems in the world to find missing kids. John Walsh, Adam’s father through his grief vowed that he would do everything in his power to help other parents, so they do not have to go through what he had to. Through all the success John had in his life the only case he could not solve was Adam’s.
John and Reve Walsh was a typical suburban couple with a cute six-year-old boy. John has waited his whole life for Adam. Adam was a blessing in their lives and was always full of life and joy. Not once had John and Reve imagined to start a day without their little ray of sunshine. Adam did not die in vain and through his death helped save countless other children.
The day Adam Walsh went missing
An ordinary day in the Walsh household, Reve and Adam was at home when John phoned Reve and told her about the sale in the newspaper he saw. They were looking for a specific lamp, and that morning he saw the lamp was marked off.
Reve and Adam went to the local Sears store on 27th July 1981, they arrived at the store in the middle of the day, and it was busy with many shoppers around.
Adam was a big fan of video games, close to the entrance the games department had a display of a new game called Asteroids. Adam asked his mother if he could go and play the demo while she went to the furniture side of the store. She told Adam to wait for her, she kissed him, and that is the last time she ever saw him alive.
When Reve arrived at the furnishing department, the store clerk told her that they had not received the particular lamps, and he will call her as soon as the lamps arrive. She left her details with the store clerk and hurried over to the games department to collect Adam.
Her little boy was nowhere to be found. Reve starts to look all over, asking the store clerk to announce Adam’s name. How can he be missing in the middle of the day in a crowded shop? Across the road is the Hollywood Police Department. This police department would feature heavily in the Adam Walsh case with both good and bad publicity.
This was the world before the Amber Alert and before we had the forensics of today. After frantically searching every inch of the Sears store, the police arrived two hours later. The police searched the area in and around the store and could not find Adam.
Adam’s head found!
Two weeks after the kidnapping, a head of a young boy was discovered in a sewer. Only after comparing dental records, is it confirmed as Adam’s. His body was never found.
There is some debate about whether or not the head belongs to Adam. According to some records, the test the medical examiner ran on the teeth was absent. According to some sources, the test done on the teeth of the boy can serve as a presumptive ID, and the molar that was tested could have had cavities; it would certainly have made it difficult to test. Apparently, no one can or wants to confirm where the tests are. It seems however that Reve and John firmly believe that the boy was their son.
Some sources claimed that Reve and John were not present to ID the head others say they were.
Adam’s father is the main suspect
After the head had been identified the process of investigation began, the police started with the immediate family. The police suspected that John killed his son.
Joe Matthews was an active homicide detective; he worked for the Hollywood Police Department for twenty-seven years. He told the then chief of police that he knew that John and Reve are not involved in the murder of their son, and he believed that the investigation is taking a wrong turn. He was fired because of that remark, yet Joe continues to support John in his aid to find the murderer after he was fired and gave the family emotional support. When John had been cleared of murder charges, the police turn their attention on Ottis Toole. The investigators did blood tests and searched Ottis’s car and house for evidence of Adam. The test was negative, and they ran it a second time, and it was negative as well.
When John had been cleared of the murder charges, the police turned their attention to Ottis Toole. The investigators did blood tests and searched Ottis’s car and house for evidence of Adam. The test was negative, and they ran it a second time, and it was negative as well.
The Police turn their attention to Ottis Toole
Ottis Toole, already convicted of other crimes claimed that he killed Adam. In one of Ottis’s hearings, he told the prosecutor that he loved to kill and rape, and thinks he is good at it. Ottis also mention that he likes to play mind games with the police. In one of his
murder cases, Ottis claimed he killed two women and went into detail about the murders.
The police could find no definitive proof that Adam was in Ottis’s car. John and Reve believed that the Hollywood police made so many mistakes that it was almost impossible to get a conviction, the lead detective on the case was Mike Smith. Mike believed that Ottis murdered Adam, he did not even investigate any other possibilities.
Ottis told the investigators that he was outside the Sears store that day of the disappearance and saw Adam and other boys fighting over the game on display. Then a security guard asked the kids to wait outside the store. It was at that moment Ottis claimed he approached Adam, he told Adam that he would buy him sweets if he would follow him.
Ottis said he wanted to take Adam home, but during the car ride Adam started to cry. Ottis punched Adam in the face, he then turned off the road and used a machete to decapitate Adam. Ottis claimed that he drove around with the head for a while and then toss it into the canal. Ottis confessed 24 times that he killed Adam and his story changed many times too. In one confession he said that he raped Adam. Ottis told the police he would lead them to where he had buried the rest of Adam’s body, but the police found nothing.
Help and save others
While the investigation was ongoing John and Reve started their crusade to help other people.
John became an activist for missing children, and from 1988 to 2011, he hosted the television show, America’s Most Wanted.
While John worked on America’s Most Wanted he and Reve started the Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing and Exploited in Florida 1981. With more investors, it became the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 1990. In 1982 The Missing Children’s Act was passed because of John and Reve’s work in the organization.
Adam’s case went cold since the police had no new leads and Reve decided to call Joe Matthews and asked him to work for them as a private investigator. Joe went through ten thousand pages of information and saw that the police made lots of mistakes.
The Adam Walsh case finally closed.
Joe found a roll of undeveloped film the police never bothered with. On the film, Joe believed there was evidence against Ottis Toole. On one particular photo, Joe thought there was an imprint of Adam’s face against the window of Ottis’s car. In one of the confessions, he told the police that he threw Adam’s severed head against the window. With this new evidence, the police department felt that they could close the case after 27 years.
On the 16th December 2008, Ottis Toole was named the murderer and kidnapper of Adam. An interesting fact, Ottis died September 1996 of cirrhosis while serving a life sentence for other crimes. The new chief Chad Wagner of the Hollywood Police Department in Florida apologized to Reve and John. Chad said that his department made lots of mistakes and hopes by closing the case it would give Reve and John closure.
With the new legislation, the FBI formed a new national database containing information about missing children. With the efforts of Reve and John, more than a thousand criminals were captured in the 25 seasons of America’s Most Wanted.
Big retailers such as Walmart started to implement Code Adam in 1994; it mobilizes all the store clerks when a child is reported missing. On the 27th July 2006, President Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act bill. The bill is a national database with convicted child molesters; it also increases penalties for sexual and violent offenses against children.
Something that is less well known today is a 1983 television show called “Adam.” The show was such a success that it had 38 million viewers on the first night of airing. After the film was broadcast, they would show pictures of missing children. They started a hotline for missing children, and their photos were shown, and some of the children were found because of the show. There was one happy ending for an American rapper Bizzy Bone. His step father abducted him when he was a child; and he was reunited with his mother in 1983 when a neighbor recognized his photo.