In A Nutshell
On July 27, 1981, a six-year-old boy named Adam Walsh disappeared from a Sears Department Store in Hollywood, Florida. After an extensive search, his decapitated head was recovered from a Vero Beach, Florida, canal on August 10, 1981. After a long investigation, the police concluded that Adam Walsh was murdered by a drifter named Ottis Toole. However, in 2007, circumstantial evidence surfaced that linked serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer to the case.
The Whole Bushel
One of the most notorious murders in American history is that of Adam Walsh. In the summer of 1981, Walsh was kidnapped from a Sears Store in Hollywood, Florida and murdered. Two weeks after his disappearance, Adam’s head was found in a Vero Beach canal. The official cause of death was asphyxiation, and Adam’s head was the only part of his body ever recovered. In 1983, the story of Adam Walsh was featured in a television film that was watched by 38 million people. His father, John Walsh, became an advocate for victims of violent crimes and hosted the TV show America’s Most Wanted for many years.
Ottis Toole was an American killer that was convicted of six counts of murder. He suffered from mild cognitive delays (IQ of 75) and had a reputation for giving false confessions. In 1976, Toole confessed to killing 108 people with Henry Lee Lucas, but then recanted his statements. On October 21, 1983, Toole confessed to the murder of Adam Walsh, but wasn’t charged in the case due to a lack of evidence. He claimed to have decapitated the boy with a machete and disposed of the body by incinerating it in an old refrigerator. Over a period of several years, Toole confessed to the murder and retracted his claims multiple times. In 2008, with no new evidence, police announced Ottis Toole (died in 1996) as the murderer of Adam Walsh and closed the case.
In 2007, information surfaced that serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was living in Miami Beach at the time of Adam’s murder. In 1991, after Dahmer was arrested in Wisconsin and given a life sentence in Wisconsin and Ohio, two different witnesses came forward and identified him as being in the Sears Store on the day Adam was kidnapped. One man saw Dahmer grab Adam and place him into a blue van. Coincidentally, at the time of the crime, Dahmer worked at a food delivery shop and used a blue van.
During his killing spree, Jeffrey Dahmer’s youngest confirmed victim was a 14-year-old boy. In his pattern of murder, Dahmer would detach the head of his victims (similar to Adam’s death), crush up their bones, and (occasionally) consumed their flesh. His first confirmed victim was from 1978, and Dahmer claimed to have not killed again until 1987. In 1991, he was confronted with the evidence against him in the Adam Walsh case, but denied killing the boy. He was eventually given a life sentence in Ohio. However, had Dahmer been found guilty of murder in Florida, he could have faced the death penalty. On November 28, 1994, Jeffrey Dahmer was beaten to death in prison.