America's Most Wanted has been watched by millions of North Americans since it first aired on Fox television network in the summer of 1987.
The idea of televising a national dragnet was inspired by others successful crime watch programs in Europe. After requests to host the show were turned down by recently resigned U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, and former Marine Corps Commandant General P. X. Kelly, the network approached a man named John Walsh.
Walsh had already advocated for new legislation in America that would protect missing children and created the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, but it was the tragic loss of his son that would make him the perfect fit for the role....
Read his story on Page 2...
On the afternoon of July 27, 1981, Revé Drew Walsh brought her son Adam to the Hollywood ("Sears") Mall in Hollywood, Florida.
She had intended only to inquire about a lamp that was on sale, and left Adam at a kiosk with Atari 2600 video games. He joined several other boys who were taking turns playing the games.
When Revé returned at about 12:15 p.m., Adam was gone.
Frantically, she searched out the store manager, who informed her that a scuffle had broken out among the boys over the Atari.
A security guard asked the older ones if their parents were there - they replied that they were not and so, the guard had thrown the boys out of the store. It was speculated that Adam, being just six years old, was too shy to speak up.
Desperate to find her young son, Adam's mother searched the toy department and and his name paged over the Sears public address system. Though, by that time, he was long gone...
After 90 minutes of searching in vain, Revé called the Hollywood Police at 1:55 p.m.
After an initial investigation, police determined that Adam had been abducted by a loner named Ottis Toole, a drifter who lured Adam away from the Sears entrance and into his 1971 Cadillac.
The promise of toys and candies encouraged the six-year-old boy to climb into a stranger's car and be driven away on Interstate 95 toward Toole's Jacksonville home.
Investigators speculate that Adam was likely compliant at first, he probably began to panic the further they drove away from his home town.
As police determined that Toole had punched the young boy in the face, and then, knocked him a second time, completely unconscious. While Adam was unconscious, Toole drove to the Radebaugh Road overpass, where he strangled the boy to death then decapitated him with a machete.
On August 10, John and Revé Walsh appeared on Good Morning America offering a $100,000 reward for Adam's safe return.
Shortly after their broadcast plea, the severed head of a young boy was confirmed to have been that of Adam Walsh.
The evidence collected against Ottis Toole was ultimately lost by police, including a bloodstained carpet from Toole's Cadillac, the machete used to decapitate Adam and even the car itself.
Since DNA profiling was relatively new in the early '80s, there was no way to determine whose blood was found in the Cadillac.
Tool confessed to and retracted accounts of his involvement in Adam's death multiple times. As a result, he was never charged in the Walsh case, even though all the evidence and witnesses placed him at the scene of the crimes.
Toole died in prison in 1996 at the age of 49. He was serving a life sentence for other crimes, but before his passing, his niece told John Walsh that he confessed to her Adam's murder.
In 1997, Hollywood Police Chief Rick Stone completed an exhaustive review of Adam's case and concluded that he found evidence to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Toole had murdered Adam.
Finally, on December 16, 2008, Hollywood, Florida Police Chief Chad Wagner closed the case, announcing that the police were satisfied that Ottis Tool was the murderer.