A true crime author has posited that kidnapping and murder victim Adam Walsh may never have been murdered at all.
In 1981, Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old son of Reve and John Walsh, disappeared during a shopping trip at a mall in Hollywood, Florida, reports Uproxx. Two weeks later, the young boy's head was discovered in a Florida drainage canal, but the rest of his body was never found.
In 2008, authorities determined that serial killer Ottis Toole was behind Adam's death, although Toole was never convicted because of a recanted confession and a lack of DNA evidence, NBC reports. According to police, Toole had made confessions about hundreds of murders, most of which were determined to be false. Toole's niece said that on her uncle's deathbed in 1996, he admitted to killing 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 Chadwick Wagner, chief of the Hollywood Police Department at the time. "Ottis Toole has continued to be our only real suspect."
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John agreed, saying that he "believed for years" that Toole was responsible for his son's death. After Adam's murder, John became an advocate for victim rights as well as the host of television show "America's Most Wanted," which investigated unsolved crimes.
True crime author Arthur Jay Harris doesn't believe this is the whole story.
Harris theorized the culprit wasn't really Toole, but instead famed serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Seven witnesses reported seeing Dahmer at the mall when Adam disappeared, and a police report stated that Dahmer lived and worked 20 minutes from the mall at the time.
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Harris has an even more shocking theory: The head found in the canal did not belong to Adam.
"What’s new in the case, and no less outrageous, is this: The dead child they said was Adam is overwhelmingly likely not him," Harris said. "And the only reason we could possibly know this is because when police closed the case investigation in 2008, 27 years after the murder, all the official agency case files finally became available, for the asking."
According to Harris, the identity of the child's head cannot be proven in court, opening the possibility that it didn't belong to the missing Adam. The head was previously identified as Adam using dental records and a visual identification from a family friend. Because the rest of the body was not recovered, there were no fingerprints to conclusively prove the remains' identity.
Harris also cites missing evidence to back up his theory. He said that the autopsy report and Adam's dental records and X-rays were not available when he requested them. While the severed head had a filling in the lower left molar on the cheek side, just like Adam, Harris said that is one of the most common places for children to get fillings.
"Medical examiners I spoke to said that match was good enough for only a 'presumptive ID,' not a 'positive ID,'" said the author.
Harris said that if the child isn't Adam, he has no idea who the remains belong to. According to Harris, a man contacted him six years ago claiming to be Adam Walsh. "Under a different name, of course, and grown up with a different family," explained Harris.
While Harris said that he couldn't say for sure whether he was actually Adam or not, the man reportedly knew "all sorts of specific things that only old friends can know about each other -- that he could not have gotten from the internet or anywhere else."
When asked why he continues to spend so much time on a case from 1981, Harris said that he is "fascinated by seeing the process of how cases get resolved -- or not."
"Maybe I'm full of s*** and he’s not Adam," said Harris. "The Walshes don't have to meet him before any comparison testing. But as someone in the story said to me, even if there’s a half of a half of a half a percent chance that he’s their son, wouldn't any family want to know?"