Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Murder of America's Most Wanted Host's Son Solved After 27 Years

Nearly 30 years after the 6-year-old son of America's Most Wanted host John Walsh was decapitated, Florida police have found the murderer.

Police determined Ottis Toole, a serial killer who died more than a decade ago, killed Adam. Toole had actually confessed to the killing twice but later recanted. Because he claimed responsibility for hundreds of murders, police concluded that most confessions were untrue. Toole's niece told Walsh that her uncle admitted that he killed Adam on his deathbed in prison.

"Who could take a 6-year-old and murder and decapitate him? Who?" John Walsh said at a news conference on Tuesday. "We needed to know. And today we know. The not knowing has been a torture, but that journey's over."

For years, Walsh has said he believed Toole was the killer. Now, Walsh -- who launched the America's Most Wantedtelevision series about the nation's most infamous criminals in response to his son's unsolved murder -- praised the Hollywood police department for closing the case, despite a botched investigation that prevented Toole's conviction for that particular crime years ago.

"This is not to look back and point fingers, but it is to let it rest," he said.

Adam went missing from a Hollywood mall on July 27, 1981, and two weeks later, his head was discovered in a canal 120 miles away. The rest of his body's remains were never found.

During the investigation, many crucial errors -- including the loss of bloodstained carpeting from Toole's car -- caused the FBI to get involved.

"So many mistakes were made," John Walsh said in 1997, after releasing a book that criticized the Hollywood police department's work in finding Adam's killer. "It was shocking, inexcusable and heartbreaking."

The case, despite its tragedies and missteps, brought about changes in how authorities search for missing children. Walsh's activism, in particular, led to putting faces on milk cartons, starting fingerprinting programs and increasing security in schools and stores. Before Adam's death, not all police departments had missing persons units, but now they have been created at all stations.

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