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Adam Walsh
Born November 14, 1974
Hollywood, Florida
Died July 27, 1981 (aged 6)
Hollywood, Florida

Adam John Walsh (November 14, 1974 – c. July 27, 1981) was an American boy who was abducted from a Sears department store at the Hollywood Mall in Hollywood, Florida, on July 27, 1981, and later found murdered. Adam's death earned national publicity, and Adam's father, John Walsh, later became an advocate for victims of violent crime and the host of the television program America's Most Wanted.[1]

Convicted serial killer Ottis Toole confessed to the boy's murder but was never tried for the crime. Although no new evidence has come forth, on December 16, 2008, police announced that the Walsh case was now closed as they were satisfied that Toole was the murderer of Adam Walsh. Ottis Toole died of liver failure on September 15, 1996.[2]



On July 27, 1981, Adam's mother, Revé, let him watch a small group of older boys play video games at a Sears store in Hollywood, Florida while she walked a few aisles away to shop for a lamp. When Revé returned to the video game section, she was frightened to find that Adam and the group of boys were gone. She was gone for about seven minutes.

She then told a Sears associate, who announced over the intercom for Adam to meet his mother at one of the information desks. Revé later said that she had no confidence that Adam would be able to locate the desks. Adam and his mother were never reunited.

There are claims that a security guard threw the children out of the store for bickering over the video game, and perhaps Adam was confused and thought he had to leave too. Investigators think Adam had been mistakenly associated with a group of older children who were causing trouble and told to leave the shopping mall. It is suspected that Adam was abducted near the front exterior of the store after the other boys went on their way.[3][4]

Adam's severed head was found in a Vero Beach, Florida canal on August 10, 1981; the rest of his remains have never been recovered.[2]


Adam's kidnapping and murder prompted John Walsh to become an advocate for victims' rights and helped to spur the formation of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). As a result of his advocacy, he was approached to host the television program America's Most Wanted.

The Code Adam program for helping lost children in department stores is named in Walsh's memory.

The U.S. Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act on July 25, 2006, and President Bush signed it into law on July 27, 2006. The signing ceremony took place on the South Lawn of the White House, where leaders from both sides of the political spectrum joined John and Revé Walsh. The bill institutes a national database of convicted child molesters, increases penalties for sexual and violent offenses against children.[5] It also creates a RICO course of action for child predators and those who conspire with them.[6]


  • Jeffrey Dahmer, arrested in Wisconsin in 1991 after killing more than a dozen men and boys, was also named as a suspect in the Walsh murder. Some have suggested a Dahmer link to the case for many years, but the allegations earned widespread publicity only in early 2007. Dahmer was living ieeereeren Miami Beach at the time Adam was murdered and two eyewitnesses place him at the shopping mall on the day that Adam was abducted. Dahmer preyed on young men and boys (the youngest being eight years older than Adam), and his modus operandi included severing his victims' heads. Since this rumor has surfaced John Walsh has said that he has "seen no evidence linking his son's unsolved kidnapping and slaying to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer."[7]
  • Ottis Toole, repeatedly confessed and then retracted accounts of his involvement. Toole, allegedly a confidante of convicted serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, was never charged in the Walsh case, even though he provided seemingly accurate descriptions on how he had committed this crime. Police investigated Toole for the Walsh murder, but lost important evidence in the case, including the bloodstained carpet from Toole's Cadillac.[2] In September 1996, Toole died in prison at age 49 of cirrhosis of the liver while serving a life sentence for other crimes.[3] Afterwards, Toole's niece told John Walsh that her uncle made a deathbed confession to the murder of Adam.[3][8] Toole's confession, however, had been viewed with skepticism, since he and Henry Lucas confessed to or implicated themselves in over 200 different homicides, many of which it has been proven they did not commit.[9]

Case closed in 2008

Although no new evidence was presented, on December 16, 2008, the Hollywood, Florida Police Chief Chad Wagner announced, with John Walsh present, that the case was now closed. An external review of the case had been conducted and police announced that they were satisfied that Ottis Toole was the murderer.[2][9][10]


  1. ^ "Americas Most Wanted - About John Walsh". Americas Most Wanted. Archived from the original on 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2008-12-17.  
  2. ^ a b c d "Police Expected to Close Adam Walsh Case". New York Times. December 16, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-16. "In October 1983, Mr. Toole told the police that he had abducted Adam from the mall and drove for about an hour to an isolated dirt road where he decapitated him (his body was never found). Investigators lifted bloodstained carpet from Mr. Toole’s white Cadillac. But DNA testing then was not as advanced as it now, and investigators could not tell if the blood was Adam’s. When a detective assigned to the case in 1994 went to order DNA testing on the bloodstained carpeting from Mr. Toole’s car, the carpeting and the car were found to be missing."  
  3. ^ a b c "Ottis Toole on America's Most Wanted". America's Most Wanted. Retrieved 2008-12-16. "Adam didn't tell the security guard his mother was in the lamp department; he followed the older boy out the west exit of Sears into the parking lot. John and Revé believe Adam didn't tell the security guard about his mother, because he was a timid child and mindful of authority. Knowing their son, they believe he may have been too scared to say anything. Whatever the reason, 6-year-old Adam Walsh was now standing outside of Sears at an entrance he was unfamiliar with, quite possibly waiting for his mother to find him."  
  4. ^ "Police: Drifter killed Adam Walsh in 1981". CNN. Retrieved 2008-12-16. "Police believe a 17-year-old security guard asked a handful of rowdy kids who were playing video games in the toy department to leave the store. Investigators believe Adam was grouped in with those kids, who left him alone outside the store. That was the last time he was seen."  
  5. ^ "President Signs H.R. 4472, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006". White House. 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-10. "Fourth, the bill I sign today will help prevent child abuse by creating a National Child Abuse Registry, and requiring investigators to do background checks on adoptive and foster parents before they approve to take custody of a child. By giving child protective service professionals in all 50 states access to this critical information, we will improve their ability to investigate child abuse cases and help ensure that the vulnerable children are not put into situations of abuse or neglect."  
  6. ^ "Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act" (Rich Text Format). Retrieved 2008-12-17.  
  7. ^ "Did Dahmer Have One More Victim? Witnesses Say They Saw Dahmer In Mall Where Adam Walsh Disappeared". ABC News The Milwaukee February 1, 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-17.  
  8. ^ "John Walsh's Tears of Rage tells the story of the Adam Walsh case". Washington Examiner.  
  9. ^ a b "1981 Adam Slay Solved". New York Post. December 17, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-17. "But Toole also claimed he committed hundreds of murders, and cops determined he was lying about them."  
  10. ^ John Holland (December 17, 2008). "Adam Walsh case is closed after 27 years". Los Angeles Times.,0,4962413.story. "Police simply took another look at 27 years of tips, psychic revelations, often-botched police work and a serial killer's chilling admissions and decided it was time. Time to ease the suffering of the Walsh family and time to point the finger at the man Hollywood Police Chief Chad Wagner said had been the prime suspect all along: Ottis Toole."  

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