Adam Walsh case closed; police say killer died in 1996

Police in Hollywood, Fla., announced Tuesday afternoon that the 1981 abduction and murder case of 6-year-old Adam Walsh has been closed.

John Walsh, Adam's father and the host of the television program America's Most Wanted, joined Adam's mother, Reve Walsh, and Hollywood Police Chief Chadwick E. Wagner to make the announcement.

The revelation comes more than 27 years after Adam went missing from a department store. Two weeks later, his severed head was found.

The police said Adam was murdered by Ottis Toole, a drifter who confessed and recanted to the murder before dying in prison in 1996.

The case has remained in the national spotlight since Adam disappeared on July 27, 1981.

Reve Walsh left her Hollywood home with Adam that morning to run some errands.

They arrived about noon at a Sears and the mother left Adam at a video game while she walked to the lamp department. When she returned about five minutes later, her son was gone.

Reve searched the aisles, had Adam paged and then police were called. A teenage security guard would later report she had thrown Adam out of the store along with several other children who were bickering.

Then on Aug. 10, two fishermen found Adam's head in a canal near Vero Beach.

The abduction and murder set off an epic manhunt. The case netted hundreds of leads and dozens of suspects — including serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer — but not one arrest. And prospects that the case would be solved at one point seemed dim after key evidence was lost and Toole, a prime suspect, died in prison.

In October 1983, Toole told police he abducted Adam and drove a white Cadillac for about an hour to an isolated dirt road and decapitated the boy.

Details in the story changed, but Toole would lead police to the Hollywood Mall and correctly identify the spot where Adam had been ejected from the store. He also took police to a dirt access road near mile marker 126 on the turnpike, where he said he had buried the body, and to a canal near mile marker 130, where he correctly pointed out the place Adam's head was discovered.

The medical examiner's report matched key elements of Toole's account: Adam had been face down when decapitated. His head was sheared off with three to five knife strokes.

Police, however, could not find Adam's body where Toole said he left it and there were allegations his confession was tainted by a Jacksonville detective seeking a book deal.

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