Adam Walsh would be thirty-something would he be alive today.
He isnâ€™t. He was only six when he was abducted from a shopping mall near Hollywood, Fla. His severed head was found two weeks later in a canal some 120 miles away. His body was never found.
His parents are John and Reve Walsh. They never recovered, but they moved onto another phase of their lives. John Walsh co-founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com) soon after to channel his energies. There were movies and news stories and Americaâ€™s Most Wanted, which John Walsh hostedâ€”all an effort to get criminals off the streets.
Now, after all this time, the Walshes may have the ultimate holiday giftâ€”the identity of the man who may have killed their son. Authorities in Florida just this week said theyâ€™ve finally solved the mystery surrounding Adamâ€™s death.
"For 27 years, we've been asking who can take a 6-year-old boy and murder and decapitate him.Â We needed to know," said John Walsh. "The not knowing has been a torture, but that journey's over."
Police said the man long considered the lead suspect, Ottis Toole, was conclusively linked to the murder, but largely with circumstantial evidence. He confessed on his deathbed in prison to murdering Adam.
I was a cub reporter when I first spoke to John Walsh. He was eager to talk to the press about the Center. Â He had a cause. He was friendly and approachable and one of the nicest sources Iâ€™ve ever had a chance to interview. He was accommodating and quick to return calls, to provide information for my story. At the time, I honestly didnâ€™t realize who he was. It was only later that IÂ made the connection -- Â this was the same John Walsh who most definitely was fighting an internal struggle, butÂ channeling that struggle to help others.
The case led to advances in police searches for missing youngsters and a notable shift in the view parents and children have of the world. Adam's death, and his father's transformation from a hotel developer to an activist, helped put missing children's faces on milk cartons and in mailboxes, started fingerprinting programs and increased security at schools and stores.
The Walshes, on network TV morning shows today, said they were grateful. He and his wife arenâ€™t bitter. They are relieved that this is not an unsolved crime. It took 27 years, but they perhaps now have a modicum of peace.
Thank you John Walsh for who you are and all you have done. I wish you and your family peace this holiday seasonâ€”because no one is more deserving. -- Deborah O'Mara, editor, SD&I magazine