John Walsh’s father, Adam, disappeared 40 years ago.

IT has been 40 years since John Walsh’s son, Adam vanished from a Sears department store in Hollywood, Florida.

The fate of Walsh changed forever in just five minutes.

Adam Walsh was kidnapped outside a Sears in Hollywood, Florida


Adam Walsh was kidnapped outside a Sears in Hollywood, Florida

What happened to John Walsh’s son?

John and Revé Walsh lost their son, Adam Walsh on July 27, 1981.

Walsh and Revé went to Sears in the Hollywood Mall to check out a sale on lamps one afternoon.

Walsh found himself captivated by the Atari video gaming console that an older group of boys was playing with. Reve asked Walsh if he could see them play.

Revé made Walsh promise not to move from that spot while she walked a few aisles down to look for the lamp she wanted.

John and Revé Walsh lost their son, Adam Walsh on July 27, 1981


John and Revé Walsh lost their son, Adam Walsh on July 27, 1981Credit: AP

Walsh was left out of sight for five minutes and when Revé returned, he was gone.

John and Revé left no stone unturned and begged the public for their help in locating Walsh.

They offered him a $100,000 reward and his safe return to their friend.

“We are willing to negotiate ransom on ANY terms. Strict confidentiality,” The posters depicting the missing child are displayed. “Do not fear revenge! We will not prosecute. We only want our son.”

Just two weeks later after his disappearance, on August 10, a pair of fishermen found the boy’s severed head in a drainage canal along the Florida Turnpike near Vero Beach.

A family friend identified Walsh’s remains from the gap where his two front baby teeth were missing, with dental records confirming the identification.

The rest his body was not found.

Authorities discovered that the teenager Sears security guard had kicked older children out of Sears because they were fighting over an Atari console. 

Later, the 17-year-old guard stated that Walsh was almost certain to be one of the children forced out of the store.

According to authorities, she believed Walsh was in the store with one of the older boys. 

Walsh didn’t speak up and told the guard that Walsh was with his mother.

Investigators believe that Walsh was taken outside the store.

Who is responsible for Adam Walsh’s disappearance?

Theories for Walsh’s disappearance first pointed to notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, after witnesses claimed to have spotted a van similar to his in the parking lot of the mall.

Authorities later discredited Dahmer’s involvement in the crime.

However, in December of 2008, authorities announced that they believed to have found the culprit of Walsh’s disappearance and said they were closing the case.

Ottis Elwood toole, a drifter who was also a friend of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, was named as the murderer.

He confessed to Walsh’s murder in October 1983 as he sat in jail in connection with two other homicides. 

How did Adam Walsh die?

According to Toole’s confession, he abducted Walsh outside the Sears store and drove off with him. 

According to Toole, he told police that Walsh was screaming for his mom and that he hit him repeatedly in the face.

Dr. Ronald Wright, who conducted the autopsy on Walsh’s remains, uncovered that the boy was punched in the face near his eyes and had a fractured nose.

Toole said that Walsh was killed by Toole after he drove off the Florida Turnpike into a rural area. Then, he claimed that he dug up his body and buried it. 

He said he drove around for a few days with Walsh’s head on the rear floorboard of his car before throwing it into a canal.

A machete was found in Toole’s white 1971 Cadillac after his arrest, according to police reports obtained in 2018 by Local 10 News.

However, authorities later found that Toole’s Cadillac, along with bloodstained carpet removed from the car, had been lost.

Toole died before authorities could continue with the investigation.

Yet, then-Hollywood police Chief Chad Wagner announced they were certain that Toole was Walsh’s killer.

Revé said after the announcement that Wagner’s words “penetrated (her) soul.”

“The not knowing has been a torture. That journey’s over,” John Walsh said at the time. “A lot of horrible memories in this police department looking for that little boy. Now I think it’s only fitting that it ends here, in this police department.”

John and Revé founded the Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing Children in Florida just four days after their son’s funeral.

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