Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Adam Walsh's 1981 Killing Solved

Hollywood police said Tuesday that a man long considered the lead suspect in Adam Walsh's murder has finally been conclusively linked to the crime.

"The direction of this investigation has always continued to focus upon Ottis Toole as the perpetrator of this horrific crime," said Hollywood Police Chief Chadwick Wagner.

Tuesday's announcement brought to a close a case that has vexed the Walsh family for more than two decades, launched the television show about the nation's most notorious criminals and inspired changes in how authorities search for missing children.

"For 27 years we've been asking, who could take a 6-year-old boy and murder him and decapitate him? Who? We needed to know," John Walsh said. "Today we know. The not knowing has been torture, but that journey's over. There were a lot of horrible memories in this police department, looking for that little boy, and now I think it's only fitting that it ends here in this police department."

The suspect, Ottis Toole, had twice confessed to the killing, but later recanted. He claimed responsibility for hundreds of murders, but police determined most of the confessions were lies. Toole's niece told the boy's father, John Walsh, her uncle confessed on his deathbed in prison that he killed Adam.

At the news conference, Reve Walsh, Adam's mother, thanked the people who worked on the investigation and called the news of Toole's being named a suspect "wonderful."

"It's a great day for children. It's a great day for my family. It's a great day for me," Reve Walsh said.

"Our heartfelt thanks to all the people who have helped us over the years," John Walsh said. "We've had so many good people help us look for Adam, change laws. Reve created the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children out of our grief, and we didn't do it alone. We had lots and lots of good people that helped us, lots of people here in South Florida."

The Walshes long ago derided the investigation as botched, and John Walsh has said he believed Toole killed his son. Still, he praised the Hollywood police department for closing the case, and said it was not a day to place blame.

The Walshes always believed Toole was the killer, although there was never enough evidence to charge him.

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

Adam Walsh went missing from a Hollywood mall on July 27, 1981. Fishermen discovered his severed head in a canal 120 miles away two weeks later. The rest of his body was never found.

Authorities made a series of crucial errors, losing the bloodstained carpeting in Toole's car -- preventing DNA testing -- and the car itself. It was a week after the boy's disappearance before the FBI got involved.

"So many mistakes were made," John Walsh said in 1997, upon the release of his book "Tears of Rage," which harshly criticized the Hollywood Police Department's work on the case. "It was shocking, inexcusable and heartbreaking."

Wagner said that when he reviewed the Walsh case earlier this year, after becoming police chief, he realized the flaws in the investigation and wanted to solve it. He said he contacted John and Reve Walsh in order to tell them his intentions and also to apologize for what he called "investigative mistakes" during the first years after Adam's death.

For all that went wrong in the probe, the case contributed to massive advances in police searches for missing youngsters and a notable shift in the view parents and children hold of the world.

Adam's death, and his father's subsequent activism on his behalf, helped put faces on milk cartons, shopping bags and mailbox flyers, started fingerprinting programs and increased security at schools and stores. It spurred the creation of missing persons units at every large police department.

It also prompted national legislation to create a national center, database and toll-free line devoted to missing children, and led to the start of "America's Most Wanted," which brought those cases into millions of homes.

"The not knowing is almost as bad as the knowing, but today's a good day. Today's a wonderful day. We can end this chapter of our lives. It's not about closure," John Walsh said. "See that picture of that little boy? We'll always be the parents of that murdered little boy. It's about justice. And for all the other victims who have not gotten justice, I say one thing: Don't give up hope."

It's good to know the Adam Walsh case is now finally 100% solved.


Big said...

Wow, I wasn't even alive 27 years ago. Good to see the case solved.

Pimp said...

The Walsh family will now have closure to a long painful loss of a loved one. RIP to Adam Walsh.