Florida police announced Tuesday that they now know the identity of the person responsible for the decapitation of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh’s 6-year old son, who was slain in 1981. The suspect being charged with the crime is Ottis Toole, a known pedophile who died more than a decade ago in prison on other murder charges. The announcement Tuesday brought closure to a case that has been open for more than two decades, launched the television show searching and capturing the nation's most notorious criminals, and helped to bring about changes in how authorities search for missing children.

Ottis Toole had reportedly twice confessed to killing Adam Walsh, but later denied those confessions. However, Toole's niece told father John Walsh her uncle confessed on his deathbed in prison that he killed Adam.

"Our agency has devoted an inordinate amount of time seeking leads to other potential perpetrators rather than emphasizing Ottis Toole as our primary suspect," said Hollywood Police Chief Chadwick Wagner. "(But) Ottis Toole has continued to be our only real suspect. If Ottis Toole was alive today, he would be arrested for the abduction and murder of Adam Walsh on July 27, 1981."

"I had no doubt," John Walsh said. "I've never had any doubt."

Adam's death, and his father's activism on his behalf, helped put missing children’s faces on milk cartons, increased security at schools and shopping malls, and created Adam Walsh Law, which:

  • Establishes a comprehensive national system for the registration of sex offenders.
  • Establishes three tiers of sex offenders.
  • Requires all jurisdictions to enact criminal penalties for sex offenders who fail to comply with registration requirements.
  • Requires sex offenders to appear in person to verify their registration.
  • Imposes a fine and/or term of imprisonment for up to 20 years on sex offenders who knowingly fail to register.
  • Makes registration as a sex offender a mandatory condition of probation and supervised release.
  • Eliminates the statute of limitations for prosecutions of child abduction and felony sex offenses against children.
  • Directs the Attorney General to provide technical assistance to jurisdictions to help identify and locate sex offenders relocated due to a major disaster.

For more information on child abduction laws, visit, or visit LawInfo’s Legal Resource Center.