The Associated Press is reporting that the Hollywood, Florida, police department announced in a news conference that police have closed the case on Adam Walsh, the son of America’s Most Wanted TV show host John Walsh. On July 27, 1981, 6-year-old Adam went missing from a Hollywood mall which is directly across the street from Hollywood police headquarters. It was later determined that the boy had been kidnapped and murdered.
Two weeks later local fishermen came upon his severed head in a canal in Vero Beach, which is 120 miles north of the mall; however, the rest of Adam’s body never was found.
At the news conference Hollywood police Chief Chadwick Wagner declared that young Walsh’s killer was Ottis Toole, a drifter and serial killer who died in prison on September 15, 1996, while serving five life sentences. Toole had twice confessed to killing young Walsh, but afterward he later recanted his confessions.
In October 1983, Toole claimed that he had abducted Adam from the mall and then drove for about an hour to an isolated dirt road. That is where Toole claimed he decapitated young Walsh.
Toole’s niece told John Walsh that Toole admitted to Adam’s murder while on his prison deathbed, but even a deathbed confession was suspect because of Toole’s previous confessions.
Police investigators removed bloodstained carpet from Toole’s white Cadillac. But DNA testing in the early 1980’s could not determine if the blood belonged to Walsh.
Because of advancements in DNA testing, however, in 1994 a detective tried to order further DNA testing on the bloodstained carpeting, but both the carpeting and the car were then missing.
Police claimed that Toole was always their prime suspect in the Walsh case, and they had conclusively linked Toole to Adam‘s murder. However, the police refused to be more specific about their evidence.
The police stated they had no DNA evidence proving Toole was the killer, but they said that an extensive review of the Walsh case pointed only in the direction of Toole, who is the one that John Walsh, himself, has always suspected too.
“Our agency has devoted an inordinate amount of time seeking leads to other potential perpetrators rather than emphasizing Ottis Toole as our primary suspect,” Chief Wagner said. “Ottis Toole has continued to be our only real suspect.”
The New York Times reported that Chief Wagner stated that the police conclusion was not the result of any new evidence, but rather the result of an accumulation of circumstantial evidence over the years. “What was there was everything that was in front of our face for years,” said Wagner.
The Video is courtesy of CBS news:
The publicity surrounding the Walsh murder and John Walsh’s subsequent hosting of his TV show America’s Most Wanted changed the way America viewed strangers.
Mount Holyoke College sociologist and criminologist Richard Moran told the Associated Press that John Walsh “ended up really producing a generation of cautious and afraid kids who view all adults and strangers as a threat to them and it made parents extremely paranoid about the safety of their children.”
John Walsh said at the news conference that although he and his family would never fully get over young Adam’s death, they could finally move on.
But, Walsh added, “it’s not about closure; it’s about justice.”