What happened to John Walsh’s son, Adam Walsh? Details of the 1981 murder

John Walsh talks about what he sees as failures in the investigation into the disappearance and homicide of Gabby Petito.

Walsh, an advocate for victims of violent crime and host of the TV show “In Pursuit With John Walsh” compared the FBI’s handling of the Petito case to the investigation into the kidnapping and murder of his son in nineteen eighty one.

“All of these mistakes were made in the case of my son Adam, and similar mistakes were made in this case,” Walsh said. “It’s pretty darn sad. “

What happened to John Walsh’s son, Adam Walsh?

Walsh went missing on July 27, 1981 while traveling to a shopping mall in Hollywood, Florida with his mother, Reve Walsh. He was later found murdered.

Reve had briefly left her 6-year-old son to watch a group of older boys play video games in the toy aisle of a Sears store while she shopped in another section of the store.

When she returned less than 10 minutes later, Adam was gone.

Adam Walsh was most likely kidnapped outside the mall.

Investigators later learned that a teenage security guard ordered the boys to leave the mall after some of the older boys caused problems.

It is believed that Adam may have been too shy to speak up and explain that his mother was in the store, so he left with the boys who then dispersed.

He is believed to have been abducted from the mall parking lot.

Adam’s severed head was found on August 10, 1981.

After a massive search for the young boy, two fishermen discovered Adam’s severed head in a drainage canal in Vero Beach, Florida, about 100 miles from Hollywood.

His body has never been found.

A coroner ruled that the cause of Adam’s death was asphyxiation. The state of the remains suggested that Adam had died several days before his head was discovered.

Ottis Ellwood Toole claimed to have killed Adam Walsh.

In October 1983, Toole confessed to kidnapping and killing Adam. At the time, he was being held in a prison in Raiford, Florida, serving time for two unrelated murders.

Toole also implicated his close friend, serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Toole claimed to have accompanied Lucas on hundreds of murders. Lucas, however, was in prison in Virginia when Adam was kidnapped, so he could not have been involved.

Police concluded that Toole had abducted Adam outside the mall and intended to return him to his Jacksonville home.

They believe they hit Adam after the child started to panic, knocking him unconscious before strangling him with a seat belt and beheading him with a machete.

Toole also claimed to have cremated the body in an old refrigerator upon his return to Jacksonville.

Investigators have lost crucial evidence of Adam Walsh’s murder.

Weeks after Toole’s confession, police announced that they had lost the bloodstained carpet from Toole’s car, the machete that was allegedly used and, later, the car.

They were also unable to locate Adam’s body, making it impossible to prosecute Toole without any physical evidence.

For the rest of his life, Toole repeatedly confessed and retracted his involvement in Adam’s murder.

His confession was deemed unreliable because he and Lucas often made false confessions about murders.

However, John Walsh said he believed Toole was his son’s murderer and several witnesses placed him in the Hollywood area that day.

Jeffrey Dahmer has also been linked to the murder of Adam Walsh.

In 2007, speculation grew that Dahmer, who died in a Wisconsin prison in 1994, may have murdered Adam.

Dahmer had been convicted of killing more than a dozen men and boys in 1991. His oldest known victim was 8 years older than Adam.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dahmer was living in Florida at the time of Adam’s murder and two witnesses claimed to have seen him in the mall that day. One reportedly saw a man who looked like Dahmer struggling with a young boy before putting him in a van.

However, Dahmer was asked about Adam’s death in 1992 and reportedly denied any involvement.

“I told you everything – how I killed them, how I cooked them, who I ate. Why wouldn’t I tell you if I did it to someone else? he said.

On December 16, 2008, Police in Hollywood, Florida announced that the case against Toole was strong enough to close the investigation into Adam’s death.

John Walsh became an advocate for victims of crime after Adam’s death.

By channeling his grief into his activism, Walsh has helped law enforcement locate hundreds of fugitives through “America’s Most Wanted.”

He also used the publicity of Adam’s case to locate missing children and solve other disappearances and murders.

Alice Kelly is the news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Based in Brooklyn, New York, her work spans everything related to social justice, pop culture, and the human interest. Follow his Twitter to find out more.

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