Adam John Walsh disappeared from a the mall in Hollywood, Florida on the afternoon of July 27th, 1981. He was six years old and it's believed that he got kicked out of the Sears store with a group of older boys. On August 10th, a severed head of a child was discovered in a drainage canal and it was identified as Adam. There were a few suspects early on, but nothing panned out. It took 27 years for the police to find the killer, Ottis Elwood Toole. He confessed, but later recanted and died in prison. After the case was closed, it was discovered that an autopsy wasn't performed, and several pieces of evidence disappeared, including a whole ass car! Even though the case is closed, some people believe that another serial killer was involved, Jeffrey Dahmer. And what if the skull that was found, didn't even belong to Adam?
Adam John Walsh was born November 14th, 1974. On the afternoon of July 27th, 1981, Adam's mother, Reve'(Ravay), took him shopping. The two headed to the Hollywood Mall in Hollywood, Florida. When they arrived, they entered through the north entrance and went into Sears. Reve' wanted to look at a lamp that was on sale and as you may expect, that wasn't Adam's jam, he was six. The Sears store had a kiosk with Atari video games on display and there were several other boys playing the games. Reve' left Adam at the game station and she headed to the lamp department, which wasn't far from the video games. Around 12:15 PM, she headed back to the game and discovered that Adam and the other boys were gone. Apparently, the boys weren't playing nice. A store manager heard a fight break out over whose turn it was at the game, and a teenage security guard kicked them out. The security guard claims that he asked the older boys if their parents were at the store and they said they weren't.
Adam's parents say that their son was very shy and he wouldn't have responded to the security guard. It's possible, that the lack of response, would have made the guard assume, he was with the older boys. The guard made all of the boys leave the store and they headed out the west entrance. It's believed that the older boys just took off and left Adam by himself. So, at this point, a six-year-old is in an unfamiliar place, got kicked out of a store, and went out a different entrance than the one he entered with his mom. Adam's mother started searching for her son right away. She checked the Sears store and the toy department, then had him paged over the intercom system. She ended up running into her mother-in-law, Jean and the pair continued the search. After searching for more than 90 minutes, the police were called and this would have been at 1:55 PM.
This escalates so quickly. On August 10th, a severed head was discovered in a drainage canal along the Florida Turnpike near Vero (VEERO) Beach, almost 130 miles from Hollywood. The head was discovered by two fisherman who saw the head floating. Divers were sent to search the canal and on the morning of August 11th, Adam's parents appeared on national television to announce that they had hope Adam was alive and there was a $100k reward for his safe return. Shortly after this, the remains were identified as Adam's. The coroner ruled that the cause of death was asphyxiation and they were not able to find the rest of his body.
Adam's parents, John and Reve' do believe that the Hollywood police department botched this whole case. This isn't a surprise, but Adam's father was the prime suspect at the beginning of the investigation. He was cleared pretty early on though.
There was another suspect. Jim Campbell, who was a landscaper and family friend and lived with the Walsh's for two years. He had an affair with Reve' and moved out two weeks before Adam's disappearance, police wondered if he killed him to get back at her. He did take a lie detector test and passed, but he didn't have a good alibi for the hour of Adam's abduction. The police strongly thought this was their guy because it looked like a good motive. They allowed Campbell to volunteer to answer phones at police headquarters. Their main suspect, was answering phones to collect tips on the case. In May 1995, some articles were posted in an Alabama newspaper that tossed out a new theory. A family friend named Michael Monahan could have murdered Adam as a favor to his friend, Jim Campbell to get back at Reve. Monahan was on probation after a federal conviction for the extortion of a stockbroker who was later found murdered. Monahan passed a lie detector test regarding the abduction.
It took 27 years for the police to name the person that killed Adam Walsh. Ottis Elwood Toole confessed to the crime, but he later recanted. He was a convicted serial killer who actually confessed to dozens of murders and died in prison in 1996. Toole was a notorious confessor and this confession came with demands. He sent a letter to John Walsh offering to show where Adam's remains were, for a fee. He also sent letters to several publications asking for money in exchange for an interview and details of the murder. Anyways, Toole says he was at the Sears store the day Adam went missing. He was told to leave the store and was later seen outside the front entrance by witnesses. Police believe that he convinced Adam to get into his car and maybe promised him something that Adam would have wanted, like toys or candy. Adam may have gotten upset during the drive and then Toole drove to a deserted road to strangle him with a seat belt and cut his head off with a machete. Investigators searched Toole's home and found a pair of green shorts and a sandal that was similar to what Adam was wearing. Police say they feel confident that Toole was the murderer and the case has been closed.
Over the years, Toole did confess to many murders that he had nothing to do with. Toole confessed to killing Adam in 1983. He said he grabbed him from the mall and drove about an hour before decapitating him. Like I mentioned earlier, he did recant, but his niece says that when he was on his deathbed, he admitted that he murdered Adam, but what if he didn't? And what if the head that was discovered, wasn't even Adam's? Toole couldn't describe Adam's hair or clothes and during his first confession, he couldn't even identify him from photos. He claimed to have buried the body near mile marker 126 of Florida's Turnpike, but nothing has ever been found. Even though he couldn't pick out Adam's photo, Toole seemed to have a lot of information correct. Information that only the killer would know. Investigators later discovered that he may have been fed details about the case from a Jacksonville detective who was trying to cut a book deal with Toole.
After Toole's confession, his face was plastered all over the news and a girl said she recognized the gap between his front teeth. She was pretty sure this was the man who approached her at a Kmart around the time of Adam's abduction. He was pushing a shopping cart and said to her, “Let me take you for a ride in this basket.”
When Toole originally confessed to the murder, lab experts tested the Cadillac and they did find blood on the front and rear floorboards. They ended up removing seven squares of carpeting that had bloodstains. DNA testing wasn't available at this time, so it couldn't even be tested. In 1996, a detective wanted to test the DNA....but the carpet was missing. It turns out that the carpet had been signed out years earlier from someone who initialed J.G. The detective that matched those initials was located and he said he didn't recall signing the evidence out. There was also another problem, the car was missing too. Now, how the fuck did they lose a whole ass car?
The official investigation was kept under wraps for 27 years. It turns out that Adam was identified by a dental match and this was based on just a single filling in a lower molar where kids commonly get cavities. It's possible that it may not even be the same molar and Adam's parents never made a visual ID. A family friend did the visual ID, but there was no torso or fingerprints, and obviously no DNA because it was the 80's. The head that was discovered, was brought to the nearest morgue and they didn't have a forensic pathologist that was trained in autopsies. The office had an arrangement at the time, where they would send cases to another location to a forensic pathologist that was experienced. While the remains were at the Vero Beach morgue, they did an external examination and wrote a document titled, “Preliminary Autopsy Examination.” An autopsy is defined as a dissection and this wasn't performed. Dr. Wright is the trained forensic pathologist that should have performed the autopsy and was credited by the media for doing so. There is no autopsy report.
A movie was made about Adam's story and the day it premiered on TV, Toole, who was in Florida prison for murder and arson, told a detective that he killed Adam. So, this is what actually sparked the confession. The Hollywood police couldn't wait to close this case because the case was ruining their reputation with tourists. Toole and his partner, serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas, kept confessing to murders. Police actually lost count, they were confessing to hundreds of murders. In an attempt to remind Toole of the murders, they ended up feeding him the information about the case. Toole claimed that both he and Henry Lee Lucas killed Adam Walsh. Police found out that it was impossible because Henry was in jail when Adam was kidnapped. Toole was pretty much like, never mind, I did that one by myself.
There is someone else that is suspected of killing Adam and that's the Milwaukee Cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer. There's a police report that proves Dahmer was working 20 minutes from the spot Adam disappeared. There's a true crime author named Arthur Jay Harris that actually uncovered this little tidbit. When the police closed the case and decided Toole was the murderer, the files became public record. The author read through them and found seven separate witnesses who identified Dahmer as the person they saw at the mall on the day of the disappearance. Six of the witnesses said they saw Dahmer with or near Adam, but police didn't seem interested in this.
The Miami police report says that Dahmer worked at a Miami Beach sub shop. At the time, he had a blue van for the deliveries. Two of the witnesses at the mall said they saw a man take Adam into a blue van. For the first month, police tried to follow this lead and they asked the public to watch for any blue vans and they tracked down tons of them.
Two Publix truck drivers called a tip and reported that they saw a blue van parked off the Turnpike near mile marker 131 just after midnight on August 7th. One of them saw a man with a flashlight near a canal, standing by the blue van. The drivers looked at the vehicle to see if they were maybe fixing a flat tire, but there wasn't any visible issues. They noticed that the van seemed to be missing the front passenger seat. The police told both callers that this had nothing to do with the Adam Walsh murder. Dahmer's boss from the sub shop, says the blue van had a milk crate for the passenger seat.
Dahmer was arrested in Milwaukee in 1991 and he had 11 severed heads in his apartment. None of them were as young as Adam, but he had an arrest history of masturbating in public parks in front of kids as young as age 12. His U.S. Army bunk mate also said he'd been caught by military police doing the same thing with small children. A composite sketch was released for the attempted kidnapping of a 10-year-old at another South Florida Sears just two weeks before Adam's disappearance and there are definitely some similarities to Dahmer. Police asked Dahmer if he killed Adam and he said, “Nothing to do with it.” They believed him.
A witness that was at the mall the day of the disappearance has a very interesting story. Janice Santamassino drove to the mall with her kids and she saw a blue van there. She remembers this well because she almost slammed into the back of it and it was parked illegally outside of the west entrance of Sears. She headed inside and was looking for sandals for her daughter, Lori. She was being a typical kid and asked to play an arcade game instead. Janice watched her daughter head towards the game and was standing next to a boy wearing an oversized hat, shorts and a striped shirt. As they were leaving the toy department, Janice looked down an aisle and saw a disheveled man and their eyes met. She was instantly uncomfortable and grabbed her daughter's hand. Later, she heard the intercom call for Adam Walsh and saw a distraught woman and man at the customer service desk. Janice noticed that the boy from the video game and the creepy guy from the toy aisle were both gone. As soon as Janice saw Adam's face plastered all over the TV, she knew that was the boy she saw at the video game. Several witnesses reported that they didn't receive a callback from police after they described the person they saw at the mall. If the description didn't match Toole, they were dismissed. Another witness, Jennie Warren, says she saw Adam and his mother at the mall and noticed a man at the video games wearing beige khakis or army fatigues and was standing next to Adam. When she saw a photo of Dahmer, she knew it was him.
Dahmer didn't emerge until 1991 after his arrest on charges involving decapitation. Once this happened, people that were at the mall when Adam disappeared, called in and said they were sure it was Dahmer that they saw. Witnesses that were in the parking lot, saw a man toss a child into a blue van that was parked illegally, and took off, but other witnesses saw Toole's Cadillac in the parking lot that day.
A detective did go visit Dahmer to ask if he had anything to do with the murder of Adam Walsh. He told him he was discharged early from the Army due to alcoholism and had no vehicle, never went to Hollywood, and worked long hours at a sub shop. He said he didn't kill children, but he didn't want to rot in prison. He said he would admit to the murder if it meant he could get a death sentence. The detective decided that Dahmer wasn't responsible for the murder because he would have confessed if he was.
If Detective Hoffman would have looked into this further, he would have realized that Dahmer was a liar. He was often sent home from working at the sub shop due to his drinking. His boss also says that Dahmer had access to a blue delivery van and eight people were able to confirm this.
The author, Harris, that was researching this, discovered that there was never an autopsy report for Adam. Remember how he was just identified by that cavity? Well, his dental records were missing and a forensic dentist was never consulted for this. This could have never been brought to trial as a homicide case because they literally had nothing. There's something else super strange with the head they discovered. In the photo of Adam that was used for the missing picture, he was missing his top, two front teeth. This photo was taken shortly before the disappearance and Adam's best friend confirmed they hadn't grown in yet. The skull that was found, had one of the top teeth and it was grown in pretty good, like almost a full tooth. It was also a bucktooth. I'm pretty sure teeth don't continue to grow when you aren't alive....It's very possible that this skull belongs to another child who wasn't identified and their family would never know the truth. And what would that mean for Adam?
IS ADAM ALIVE?
The author, Harris, thinks it's possible that Adam is alive. A man approached the author years ago and claimed he was Adam, but had a different name and a different family. The author wanted to clear his conscience and basically told this guy that he intended to prove his story wrong. The man told him he would find a misidentification. He went to the medical examiner's office and this is where he actually discovered that Adam's parent's didn't ID him, a family friend did. Then he found out there wasn't an autopsy report. How could this guy have known about any of this? The author says he did everything he could think of. He asked Adam's best friend from childhood to speak with this guy. The man that claimed he was Adam knew all sorts of things that only his friends would know about him and it's not information from the internet. Apparently, this guy tried to speak with the Walsh's and they didn't want to hear it. He met with the Hollywood Police for about an hour and they didn't write a report, take fingerprints, DNA, NOTHING.
Harris mentions that mitochondrial DNA results were used to compare to the Adam Walsh skull. The summary report says that DNA is consistent with the DNA from a tooth on the child. This ended up being overturned because the test results were contaminated and couldn't be used.
Adam Walsh became the literal poster child for a movement to stop child-snatchers. This forced people to rethink the way things were done. That ridiculous 72-hour waiting period before police will do anything to help, suddenly seemed outdated. This case also shifted how people thought about child abductions. Previously, people believed that children were abducted by family members or someone they were close to. This ended up causing a panic in the 80's. Kids were afraid of stranger danger and parents were becoming more paranoid.
Adam's parents started the Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing Children, four days after their son's funeral. This was started in their garage. During the investigation, Adam's parents tried to get the FBI to help and they discovered that they wouldn't get involved in a case until there was proof that a kidnapping actually took place. Because of this, they lobbied for the Missing Children's Act and in 1982, this required entry of missing children data into the FBI's National Crime Information Center database. In 1984, John Walsh co-founded the federally-funded National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and four years later, he began hosting America's Most Wanted. By 1994, large retailers began implementing Code Adam. This would be the alert used for all employees to know that a child had been reported missing. In 2006, George W. Bush signed The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which expanded the national sex-offenders registry and created a national child-abuse registry.
John Walsh and his son, Callahan currently host the Investigation Discovery series In Pursuit With John Walsh. The family does firmly believe that Toole was the one that kidnapped and murdered Adam and there's really nothing that can be done because he's dead.
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When this boy was abducted from a mall, the crime became an all-time mystery