The disappearance of Adam Walsh, a six-year-old last seen at a shopping mall in Hollywood, Florida, in July 1981 was about the worst nightmare imaginable. Two weeks later, the remains of a child's head were found and identified as Adam. No one has ever been arrested for the crime.
For the most part, the case's narration has been told by the victims and local law enforcement. However, there has been another voice, an independent investigative journalist and author of five True Crime books about Florida, Arthur Jay Harris, who has continued to write about it for two decades. The deeply-researched story he tells, since corroborated by multiple forensic experts and a significant finding from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, disputes almost everything that everyone in the public has been led to believe.
In Book One, Harris builds a case that the taker of Adam was the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
In Book Two, Harris shows that the child who was found and identified as Adam is very unlikely to be him--and much more likely, Adam is alive.
Harris has seen all of the case's public records including many never revealed to anyone in the public but him and interviewed many primary witnesses who the police never found or adequately spoke to.
They include eight separate, credible witnesses, seven from the police file, who identified Dahmer as the man they saw at the mall with or near Adam when he was taken. He also proved by a police report in a nearby jurisdiction, and then multiple witnesses, that Dahmer lived and worked within twenty minutes by vehicle from the Hollywood shopping mall during the same month that Adam disappeared.
Harris reported his findings about Dahmer on television including ABC Primetime, Anderson Cooper, Nancy Grace, and in newspapers including The Miami Herald.
A year after Harris first reported the Dahmer connection, Hollywood Police instead declared at a press conference that a suspect they'd investigated and dismissed 25 years earlier was Adam's killer, after all. That was Ottis Toole, who John Walsh had long said he believed was his son's killer. But as the chief of police admitted in front of the Walsh family, they'd found no new evidence against Toole.
There could never be a trial because Toole had died more than ten years earlier, in custody, as had Dahmer.
Local news media in Miami railed against Hollywood's decision. A former member of Hollywood Police called the action "charity to the Walshes."
But the closing of the case meant that the case files of all the official agencies that investigated it now became public record. When Harris checked the files of the medical examiner's office that did the autopsy, he found--there was no autopsy report
How could that be? Nor was it in any other official investigative file. Did the chief medical examiner at the time, who did the autopsy (as a document confirmed), have a personal copy? He would not speak to Harris or The Miami Herald. Only when Harris made a public records request to the medical examiner's office, asking them to ask its former chief, did he get his answer: he said neither he nor anyone else in his office ever wrote an autopsy report.
And how could that
be? Every homicide professional Harris spoke to, including detectives, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and private investigators, had never worked on or heard of a murder case where an autopsy had been done but that didn't have an autopsy report.
But that wasn't the only essential document not in the medical examiner's file, or the files of any of the other official agencies that investigated the case.
Also missing were:
Photos of the autopsy;
Adam's pediatric dental chart, which was relied on to make the positive ID of the remains as Adam, and handled by three agencies;
Adam's pediatric dental X-rays, which if they existed apparently were never requested but would have been more definitive than just his dental chart;
A forensic dental report, considering that the ID was based strictly on a match of teeth.
Confirming that all of these documents are, in fact, not in the files is a letter of finding Harris received from the State of Florida Medical Examiners Commission, an agency of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Why would any or all of this be missing? At a homicide trial against any defendant, the prosecutor would never be able to prove the first element of the case--that the murdered child was Adam Walsh.
The positive ID was made by a match of a filling--the found child had one in a lower left molar, and Adam had one in the same tooth, according to his dental chart that was no longer in evidence. Still, a match of only a single filling is only enough for a presumptive ID, not a positive ID, said forensic dentists and medical examiners who Harris consulted. Besides, lower molars are very common places for children to have fillings.
Also, a family friend of the Walshes viewed the remains and made a visual ID. (The Walshes at the time were out of town and sent their friend.) But as John Walsh wrote in his book, the friend at first glance did not recognize the child. Only when its mouth was opened did he see "a small, emerging tooth" which he said matched what he'd seen when Adam had smiled at him, days before he disappeared.
From a local newspaper archive, Harris got a scan of an original print of 6-year-old Adam's last photo--his famous baseball picture. A close-up showed clearly that in it, he had neither of his top front teeth.
John Walsh wrote the baseball photo had been taken a week before Adam disappeared. The studio photographer who took the picture and others indicated it more likely was a month before. But Adam's last best friend said he last saw him a week or two before he disappeared, and he still had neither top front tooth.
A police last-seen-alive description says that Adam's left top front tooth was "partially grown in." Apparently it had erupted between when he was last seen by his best friend and the Walsh family friend.
When the child's remains were found, Adam had been missing two weeks. The medical examiner told the newspapers that the child (Adam, he said) had been dead for possibly all that time. Teeth do not keep growing after death.
The only photos in evidence of the remains just after they were found are the public record police crime scene pictures, which Harris got--and published, for the first time. They show the top left front tooth as a buck tooth, in "almost all the way," in the words of a forensic anthropologist who had examined the remains as a skull for Hollywood Police and took his own photos.
Harris showed the photos and all of the rest of the evidence to two forensic dentists and other pediatric dentists. They all said that children's teeth do not come in that fast. As one forensic dentist said, the chances that the found child was Adam were "No way in hell."
Because the medical examiner's case file wasn't made public for the first 27 years after the crime, it was never questioned, reported or shown that the top front teeth of the found child could not have matched Adam's.
All these years later, if that child isn't Adam, then who is it? And who were the parents, never informed that their child was found?
And how about the Walshes? After decades of grieving that their child was killed--and dedicating the rest of their lives to his memory--the desperate search for Adam apparently had ended too soon.
Where, then, is Adam Walsh? Could he still be alive?
A message Harris got on Facebook is the reason he came to ask those questions...