For decades Americans have tuned into a show that has helped to catch more than 1,000 criminals.
“America’s Most Wanted” has made a real impact around the nation, helping hundreds of families and victims to find justice and closure.
Host John Walsh has fronted the show for more than 25 seasons but few know the heartbreaking case he has been trying to solve for his own family.
John Walsh’s own son was abducted and murdered when he was just 6 years old. His killer was never brought to justice but Walsh and his wife never gave up.
John Walsh’s wife Revé was out shopping with their son Adam at a store in Florida in 1981 when she lost sight of him.
After looking for over an hour police were called in. Teams of men with dogs and even a helicopter joined the search for the missing boy.
Two weeks passed before Adam’s remains – only a severed head – were found in a nearby canal.
The rest of his body was never recovered.
Adam’s murder became one of the most infamous crimes against a child in America.
This heartbreaking case was fraught with investigation issues and the parents could have easily given up and descended into the hell that parents of murdered children have to endure.
But instead they campaigned for changes in the way police investigate missing children’s cases.
They never gave up hope of justice for their precious son.
Their campaigning led to the introduction of featuring the images of missing children on the sides of milk cartons.
They are also responsible for the Code Adam program for helping lost children in departments stores and introducing a national database of convicted child molesters.
Seven years after his son was killed John Walsh was picked to host “America’s Most Wanted” as part of his quest for justice, not just for himself but other parents and victims.
FOX asked Walsh to host “America’s Most Wanted” in 1988, a program that prominently features cases in which children are harmed or missing.
‘Live in that hell’
Walsh admitted in a Nightline interview in 2009 that it wasn’t an easy job, “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.”
Convicted serial killer and pedophile Ottis Toole admitted to killing Adam just days before his death in 1996.
Walsh described the not knowing in his son’s case as “torture” and it was some comfort that they finally had some closure.
Walsh told “Nightline” that by declaring Toole the murderer, “justice was served.”
“I believe that I knew that Ottis Toole killed Adam before he died. He died eight years before they closed the case. But for Reve and I, and our family, it was the end of that chapter: it was finality,” Walsh said. “Not closure, that’s a bad word, you never get closure. It’s that finality, it’s that person that did that horrible thing to you is where they should be. Justice was served. I think that is all that average, good people ask for.”
Today Walsh is still helping victims find justice on CNN’s “The Hunt” and says he hopes Adam would be proud of what he’s accomplished.
Walsh has helped put more than 1,000 fugitives – serial killers, rapists and child abductors – behind bars.
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