On July 27, 1981, Adam Walsh disappeared from the Sears department store in Hollywood, Florida. His mother had left him at an Atari game machine with several older boys for a few minutes to shop in the nearby lamp aisle. Upon returning to retrieve her son, she realized that all the boys were gone. A 17-year-old female security guard had explained later that the group of boys began fighting over whose turn it was to play next, and told her their parents weren’t nearby. 6-year-old Adam, being too shy to speak up, was escorted with them out of the store.
On August 10, 1981, the severed head of Adam Walsh was found by two fishermen in Vero Beach, Florida (100 miles away from where he was abducted). In 1983, convicted killer Ottis Toole was in prison for other crimes and confessed to the abduction and murder of Adam Walsh. Like many of his “confessions,” Toole later recanted and confessed several times to this and other crimes. He offered information as proof he committed the crime, like picking up Adam outside of the store where the security guard had led them, and leading investigators to where he had left the head. Upon investigation of his car, which witnesses claimed to have seen, large amounts of blood were found. For example, in the back seat, where Toole claimed to have left Adam Walsh’s head, a large blood stain was recovered. Still, Toole killed a confirmed 6, while claiming to have killed hundreds. Could this blood stain have been from Adam Walsh?
With the amount of evidence piled against Toole, although he recanted his confession (it is questioned whether or not he made a deathbed confession), the Hollywood police labeled Toole the killer publicly, closing the case in 2008. Many witnesses described both Toole and the car he was driving that day. Despite this, several witnesses would later come forward describing serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer as the one they say abducted Adam Walsh. After Dahmer’s arrest in 1991, many recognized him from the television news stories.
In the book, Frustrated Witness: The True Story of the Adam Walsh Case and Police Misconduct, Willis Morgan describes an encounter he had in a Radio Shack store at the Hollywood Mall the very day Walsh was taken, later believing it to be Dahmer. Several other witnesses claim to have seen a blue van and a man fitting Dahmer’s description throwing a young boy, they later believed to be Walsh, into it. It would later be revealed after Dahmer’s arrest that he had been in the area at the time of the kidnapping.
After his honorable discharge from the army for his drinking, Dahmer received a one way plane ticket to anywhere in the U.S. Not wanting to return home and disappoint his father, Dahmer asked for a ticket to Miami Beach, Florida (about half an hour from Hollywood). He had times where he slept on the beach and others where he rented hotel rooms. Eventually, he got a job working at a pizza/sub shop where most of his salary was spent on his alcohol dependency. Here, the shop owned a blue delivery van, fitting the description given by witnesses. This delivery van also did not have a passenger seat, but instead a milk carton in its place. Later, two truck drivers would report spotting a van at the side of the road. They describe seeing a man with a bucket, pulling something round out of it, and throwing it into the canal nearby. They described that van as also not having a passenger seat. This siting was near where Adam’s head would be discovered.
More disturbingly, it is necessary to note Dahmers M.O. He was arrested in 1991 for the murder of 17 young men and boys, the youngest being 14. He had also been arrested previously for exposing himself and masterbating in public in front of young boys. Upon his arrest, many heads were found preserved in his home, a favorite trophy he liked to keep. At this time, in 1981, Dahmer had also killed previously, in 1978. Dahmer claims that he had not killed since, until his next known victim in 1987. When asked about Adam Walsh, Dahmer said,
“I’ve told you everything—how I killed them, how I cooked them, who I ate. Why wouldn’t I tell you if I did it to someone else?”
Dahmer never confessed to kidnapping and killing Adam, and Ottis Toole remains the publicly cited killer of the 6 year old. John Walsh, Adam’s father, did not believe that Dahmer was involved.
Still, perhaps Dahmer was active at the time. Just weeks before Adam Walsh was taken, Dahmer and his boss at the sub shop called the police to report a dead body found behind the shop. Dahmer had taken out the trash and came back to tell his boss that he’d had to step over a dead body to put the trash in the dumpster. Could this be a coincidence, or another example of Dahmer bringing his victim’s bodies back to a familiar place? Dahmer was interviewed by police and gave a statement, but was not further investigated in this case.
The evidence supporting that Ottis Toole kidnapped and murdered Adam Walsh are compelling, as well as his own confession. Still, the circumstantial evidence suggesting Dahmer may have been involved is as well. In the eyes of the Hollywood Police and the Walsh family, Ottis Toole was the killer of Adam Walsh. Adam’s body was never recovered.
- Report Summary by Detective Mark Smith (37 pages)