Rebecca Schaeffer

13 Crimes That Shocked the World and Changed Our Culture Forever

The Abduction and Murder of Adam Walsh

The 6-year-old was kidnapped from a Sears in Florida in 1981 and his severed head was found about 120 miles away from his family’s home 16 days later. The rest of his remains have never been found.

His son’s killer still unknown in 1988, John Walsh became the host of America’s Most Wanted, a show that probably served as rather dour background noise once a week for a lot of us when we were kids. None of us realizing until much later that it was personal for Walsh. He had been in the hotel business but after Adam’s murder he completely devoted himself to criminal justice. Victim advocacy and hunting down the worst criminals—more than 1,200 of whom were captured thanks to AMW. The show, along with CBS’ 48 Hours, also helped pave the way for Hard Copy. Dateline and the bevy of other predator-catching, mystery-solving shows whose numbers have only multiplied in the days since.

In 2008, the Hollywood (Fla.) Police Department officially identified serial killer Otis Toole, who died in prison in 1996 while serving life for other crimes, as Adam’s killer.

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