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1981

Child found decapitated

The severed head of six-year-old Adam Walsh, who disappeared from a shopping mall two weeks earlier, is found in a canal in Vero Beach, Florida. Two years later, career criminal Ottis Ellwood Toole, then an inmate at a Raiford, Florida, prison, confessed to Adam’s abduction and murder. However, investigators were unable to locate Adam’s body where Toole claimed to have buried it and without any physical evidence the Florida state attorney couldn’t prosecute the case. Toole died of cirrhosis of the liver and AIDS in 1996 in a Florida prison, where he was on Death Row for another murder. On December 16, 2008, the police department in Hollywood, Florida, announced that the case against Toole was strong enough to close the investigation into Adam’s death.

In the wake of Adam Walsh’s kidnapping and murder, Congress passed the Missing Children’s Act, giving the FBI greater authority to track the disappearance of children. A television movie about the case, Adam, aired a week before Toole confessed to the crime. John Walsh, Adam’s father, became a national spokesman against crime. He went on to host America’s Most Wanted, a television show that profiles fugitives whose capture is sought by the FBI. Since it debuted in 1988, some 1,000 criminals have been caught as a result of viewer tips.

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