July 27, 1981
6-year-old Adam Walsh is abducted outside a shopping center and murdered
Adam and his mother had been shopping together at a store, but separated while she continued to shop and he played games on an Atari with other boys. When his mother returned, Adam was gone.
It was determined later that a security guard asked the boys if their parents were nearby and escorted them out of the store when the boys replied their parents weren’t present. The Walshes believe Adam was too shy to tell the security guard he was not with the group of other children and was led out with the rest of the boys. Adam’s severed head was discovered by fishermen 2 weeks later.
Serial killer Ottis Toole confessed to the murder, claiming to have kidnapped Adam from the store entrance by luring him into Toole’s car. Adam was compliant at first but began to panic, prompting Toole to punch him in his face then knocking the child unconscious when he began to scream.
Toole claimed to have then driven to an isolated location where he raped the boy for approximately 2 hours, then strangled Adam with a seatbelt after Toole noticed Adam was still breathing. Toole then cut off Adam’s head with a machete, incinerated his body in an old refrigerator to destroy evidence, and kept Adam’s head in his car for a few days. After remembering the head was still in his possession, he discarded it in a canal.
Though Toole confessed, there was little more than circumstantial evidence to support his claims. He also recanted his confession and so was never convicted of Adam’s murder. Toole died in prison of liver failure in 1996.
Adam’s father, John Walsh, became an advocate for victim’s rights and later went on to become the host of the television show America’s Most Wanted. Additionally, Adam is the namesake for the code used in retail stores for a lost child, Code Adam.