John Walsh
Jade Small
Jade Small
April 11, 2024 ·  4 min read

‘America’s Most Wanted’ Started With A Father’s Quest To Solve His Own Son’s Murder Case

Do you remember the pictures they printed on the outside of milk cartons that showed missing kids in the area? Would you be interested to know that the man responsible for that is none other than John Walsh, the host of the show America’s Most Wanted? Most people do not know that John Walsh has had a big part to play in the investigation process of missing children because his child went missing and was murdered in a gruesome and horrifying way. Since then he has made it his mission to improve the investigation process and the laws that help find missing children. The good news is, his case has finally been solved and the murderer was found!

The Day Lil Walsh Went Missing

In 1981, John Walsh and his wife had a six-year-old son named Adam Walsh. On the 27th of July that same year his wife, Reve, and son were out running some errands in town. This was a normal daily activity, but one can never be too careful. They were in a department store and, as you can imagine, shopping with a young child can be tricky. Reve needed something in a different aisle that was probably too full, so she popped in there for a few moments to grab what she needed.

When she came back to her shopping cart, Adam was not where she had left him. She, along with the police searched, and even some dogs and a helicopter joined the team. Alas, it was to no avail. Little Adam was gone. In an interview with Tuesday News, John Walsh said: “Who could take a 6-year-old and murder and decapitate him? Who?”

adam  walsh
Adam Walsh. Image via Facebook

Two weeks later, the parents were beside themselves when their little boy’s head was found in a canal decapitated from his body. Needless to say, John and Reve were heartbroken over the tragedy. The world shared their remorse, and they made the headlines across the nation. The Walsh couple were determined to catch their son’s murderer, and they worked actively to do so. If they could not have their son back, they at least wanted the justice that he deserved. This is how the TV show, America’s Most Wanted came to fruition.

Read: Mom Who Kept Children Alive by Breastfeeding Them After Boat Accident, Died | She Drank Her Own Pee to Save Her Kids

The Beginning of America’s Most Wanted

john walsh america's most wanted
Wikimedia Commons

They started a campaign that ultimately lead to the introduction of the Missing Children’s Act and the development of the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. The latter was the organization that printed the missing children’s pictures onto the outside of milk cartons. This was a huge help in the spread of awareness to share information on any missing children. John Walsh also became the host of the TV show, America’s Most Wanted, which has reportedly helped to catch over 1000 culprits.

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The Case Was Finally Closed

The family had a long life of searching for their son’s murderer. There were a few suspects, one of them being Ottis Toole, but it was easier said than done for the police force to finally apprehend him. The determination of John Walsh and his wife had finally paid off, and in 2008 Toole was finally named the killer, and the family could put their mind at ease. “We needed to know. We needed to know. And today we know. The not knowing has been a torture, but that journey’s over.” Said John Walsh.

Toole was not caught the conventional way. Part of the work Walsh did was to improve how the police force investigated and arrested perpetrators. He had confessed to several crimes, but there was no evidence and the police thought he was lying. Toole’s niece met up with John Walsh to tell him that her uncle, Ottis Toole, had finally confessed truthfully that he had murdered Adam Walsh when he was on his death bed. The case was finally closed. 

No matter the peace of mind that finding the true killer of their boy, John opened up and said: “I’ll always be the parent of a murdered child, Adam will always be in my mind. Your heart is broken. It doesn’t matter if it was six months ago or 27 years ago. Your heart is broken. People deal with it differently. Some descend into hell in different ways and you live in that hell.”

See the 3:00 minute mark for the story.

Keep Reading: 7-Year-Old Finds Her Photo on a Milk Carton, Doesn’t Understand She’s a Missing Child


  1. Police: 1981 killing of Adam Walsh solved.” NBC News. December. 16, 2008
  2. The Show America’s Most Wanted Started With A Father Hoping To Solve His Son’s Murder.Do You Remember. Lauren Novak.