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Jeffrey Dahmer's Dirty Secret: The Unsolved Murder of Adam Walsh - Book One: Finding The Killer Paperback – July 15, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


A must read for any true crime buff! Harris did an extensive amount of research on the case, and after reading this I can't see how anyone other than Dahmer killed little Adam. I also give Harris credit for addressing the flaws in some of the witnesses accounts rather than ignoring those issues or glossing over them. As someone who has read a vast variety of true crime books, I give this one the award for best research. -- Michelle Tooker, Goodreads

Arthur Jay Harris did finally find details in those same police files which further confirmed that Jeffrey Dahmer actually killed Adam Walsh. This is my own me it was as clear as day. This book is absolutely full of interesting information, most derived from this writer's own investigation. He followed up on so many leads, quite a few which produced amazing results...all the information eventually unravels into the amazing conclusion that Jeffrey Dahmer did kill Adam Walsh. -- Yvette Kelly, True Crime Book Reviews

Harris has meticulously reviewed thousands of court documents and news articles to lay a foundation for his book. He has interviewed prosecutors and investigators, and talked to more than a handful of witnesses who say they saw Dahmer at the mall the same day Adam disappeared--accounts that were either ignored or never taken seriously by the police... Harris makes it clear why Toole could not have killed Adam, but why Dahmer could have been the real killer. -- Jane Smith,

From the Author

            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...
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: BookSurge Publishing; Revised edition (July 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439236275
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439236277
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,893,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author



True crime writers primarily pursue the question "Why?" Why did somebody commit the crime? How could he get away with it for so long?

In my true crime books, I pursue a different primary question: about the case's outcome, I ask, "Are you sure?"

Every true crime story has loose ends that naggingly just don't fit into the constructed narrative. They make for a challenge: stay with your narrative and ignore or play them down, or follow them and risk your narrative.

There is an essential messiness to true crime that a reader of it must both resist and embrace. But that's why we read it, right? If you want everything well-tied up at the end, read crime fiction. To start, give up on the idea that a story must have a bottom. How can there not be a bottom? Yes, theoretically there is a bottom, but to us on the outside looking in, it's just not accessible. In reality, what we think are story bottoms are really false bottoms; beneath them, if we dare to look, are more bottoms. That wisdom, I should add, did not come to me easily. My stories are always less about the crimes themselves than my endurance to stay on the rollercoaster rides to find the truth. Countless times I'm upended, and I never see it coming.

Yet the job of a guide, narrator and investigator, such as myself, remains to organize that mess. However, I also scrutinize the work of the other guides, narrators, and investigators on the story. When I approach a story, I look for, then follow, significant pathways not taken: people who law enforcement couldn't get or weren't then ready to talk; witnesses who weren't asked everything important; and things the authorities were blind to or simply missed.

Then there are the stories in which the official investigators suppressed facts. On those, I am unrelenting in pursuing public records (always politely, politeness is essential in all information gathering). In obscure files and from additional reporting based on them, I've discovered a few rare things that were never known outside of law enforcement.

Always remember that to some extent, every interested party in a crime story is intentionally misleading us. They tell mostly true things but withhold or lie about other facts that are contrary to their interests. Trust only the people with no skin in the game not to intentionally mislead.

In each of my books, I first bring you up to speed by composing the story from what's on the record, then I make a narrative switch to first person and have you follow my investigation. When I pick up the right trail, it becomes obvious. I always advance my stories, including Speed Kills and Until Proven Innocent, but the two books in which I made the most significant (and contrarian) contributions are Jeffrey Dahmer's Dirty Secret: The Unsolved Murder of Adam Walsh, and Flowers for Mrs. Luskin.

And now, because it seems obligatory in such biographical summaries, among the television shows I have appeared on with my stories include: ABC Primetime; Anderson Cooper 360; Nancy Grace; Ashleigh Banfield; The Lineup; Inside Edition; Catherine Crier; Snapped; City Confidential; Cold Blood; and Prison Diaries.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mister The Plague on August 10, 2013
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I recently had the opportunity to talk to Art Harris at some length about his outstanding work covering the Adam Walsh case -- work that goes back over 15 years and includes his two books as well as articles in the Miami Herald and other newspapers. Art is very gracious with his time, intensely knowledgeable, and eager to talk about and hear various ideas on the subject from knowledgeable and perceptive readers.

I conveyed to Art a few main points: first, as a former newspaper reporter myself, the quality and breadth of his research and reporting on this subject is just about jaw-dropping; second, in spite of his fine efforts, I don't think Jeffrey Dahmer killed Adam Walsh, though the reporting about Dahmer's presence in South Florida at the time of Adam Walsh's disappearance which he has done on his own as well as with David Smiley in The Herald has been extremely provocative, merits an award for journalism, and should have been followed up by the authorities; and lastly, the holes he has punched in the case against Ottis Toole as Adam's killer are grave and substantial. I make this last point as someone who still leans slightly in favor of Toole as the prime suspect in this case.

A couple of reader-related points: one of the compelling aspects of the Adam Walsh case is its extraordinary complexity. Art's work deals with that complexity as it exists. His books on the case are in-depth, detailed and about as exhaustive as is possible with a case as enigmatic and elusive as this one. If you want a glib, grand-standing, pseudo-literary treatment of the Adam Walsh case that glides over the case's innumerable inconsistencies in order to neatly nail the official perp to the wall, buy "Bringing Adam Home" instead.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Eddie Weinert on July 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Hollywood, Florida police say they've solved the Adam Walsh murder -- but do they really think that? They should read this book -- of course, they won't like it much. The most logical conclusion is Jeffrey Dahmer did it. Police are stuck on Ottis Toole, but the only support for that is his not-credible confession, which rightly got dismissed in 1983. The police never acknowledged they had any witnesses who saw Adam taken from the toy department of a Sears where his mother had left him alone. But by combing deep through the police's own files, Harris found six witnesses who repeatedly had tried to be heard. Police had asked them whether they'd seen Toole. They hadn't -- and were told Thank you very much, now go away. Harris asked whether they'd seen Dahmer. Two had already told police that's who they'd seen, two more absolutely confirmed it, and two more came close, with emotional reactions to seeing Dahmer's picture and recognizing it as who they likely saw taking Adam out of the store. Harris has more supporting the Dahmer argument, but what more do the police need to start honestly considering this? Although this book has a lot of new information about Dahmer, it's less a regular true crime story about violence and more about a close examination of a police investigation -- one gone very, very wrong beginning on the day of Adam's kidnapping to the day they closed the case -- on Toole! Harris is a first-class reporter and has thoroughly documented the book with material from the police case file, supplemented by his own 13-year investigation. It took that long because the police kept their records from public view as long as they could. The book is a rare and riveting look into a case that was the biggest in the city's history.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JOHN on June 6, 2011
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A very good read and one of the better investigational books written on a complex subject. Besides putting detales to places a younger Dahmer stayed in (including Fla and other states police never investigated or even knew he drove to), Jay Harris paints a picture of Dahmer that should have put him in jail from his actions in Germany when in he army. To say he was discharged for just alcohol abuse is an easy answer the army may have used to get rid of him before German police and/or army investigations came to light.

As for his killing Adam Walsh, read the book.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. Ward on September 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Engaging enough, but very, very biased right from the get-go, a fact which made it difficult to read.

If there had been less bias I might have found the argument more believable, but as it stands I knew that they were going to reach the conclusion "Dahmer did it" because that's the conclusion that the author wanted to reach. Still, I can see why he wanted to- stuff like this sells. As is apparent by the fact I bought it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By conniep3 on May 28, 2013
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The material in this book is intriguing and hard to put down...the writing, not so much. Very choppy writing style, needs some cohesiveness. It doesn't flow smoothly. In the beginning of the book it is like the author had a million bulleted items and just laid them on the page in chunks of 'paragraphs'. I am close to finishing book though and in spite of the writing style I am enjoying it...lots of great information.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By r on March 22, 2013
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I've read this book because I'm interested in Dahmer and thought I would perhaps learn more about his short stay in Miami. I was trying to keep an open mind before reading, but even as I read the beginning, I already grew frustrated, because Mr. Harris is 100% convinced it was Dahmer who killed Adam, without leaving any room whatsoever for doubt.
There are several things in this book about Dahmer that are wrong, which, given Harris' attempt to "prove" Dahmer's guilt, struck me as strange. So Dahmer says something about remembering Adam's case and the president getting shot because these things happened in "a similar time frame". Harris immediately attacks Dahmer's statement and regards it as a lie because the shooting and the disappearance were what, three or four months apart? To me that *is* a similar time frame, especially if asked about ten years later. He also drank heavily back then, which of course blurs one's memory only further.
Many times, Mr. Harris state something like "eye witnesses cannot really be trusted after 10 or 20 years after the fact", and yet he heavily relies on such "eye witnesses" for trying to prove his claim. Among the things that make no sense to me are: Why would Dahmer, who obviously found skulls to be very important and even started to keep them as "mementos" of his victims, discard Adam's head like it was piece of garbage, and where people could find it quite easily? Dahmer always made sure that the remains of his victims would not be found (He obviously saw his apartment as a safe place for keeping parts of his victims, but he also had painted the skulls so no one would suspect they were real, and towards the end his mental state had worsened considerably, so he became less careful. If he hadn't gotten so out of control, Mr.
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