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Adam Walsh Murder Case Solved

Patricia Sullivan

A serial killer who died more than a decade ago is the culprit who abducted and killed a 6-year-old boy in 1981, police in Florida said Tuesday. The boy, Adam Walsh, became the rallying cry for a movement that demanded authorities get serious about missing and exploited children.

It's hard to remember now how shocking the Adam Walsh murder case was in 1981. A six-year-old boy, left playing video games in Sears for five minutes while his mother was looking at lamps, was kidnapped and decapitated by a violent drifter.

For two weeks, while he was missing and before we knew of his death, the nation and South Florida, where I then worked, was mesmerized by every detail, and everyone had a theory. The mother who left Adam alone for just a few minutes, the teenaged security guard who evicted a bunch of bickering kids from the store, Mob-associated colleagues of his father's employer.... the tips were wacky and the police had a hard time keeping up. In the end, they botched the job, losing some key evidence.

Adam's father, John Walsh, went on to found a center for missing children, raising the issue in the public consciousness and before national lawmakers. He also has hosted a long-running show on the Fox television network. You could say Adam Walsh made a big difference, but the ubiquitous photo of that little six-year-old in a baseball cap, with a bat over his shoulder, is a reminder that every death counts.

By Patricia Sullivan |  December 16, 2008; 4:25 PM ET  | Category:  Patricia Sullivan
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