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John Walsh
File:John Walsh.jpg
Walsh filming for America's Most Wanted at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment
Born John Edward Walsh
December 26, 1945 (1945-12-26) (age 75)
Auburn, New York U.S.
Occupation Television Personality, Anti-Crime Advocate
Years active 1981 – present
Spouse Revé Walsh
Awards Operation Kids Lifetime Achievement Award

John Edward Walsh (born December 26, 1945) is an American television personality, criminal investigator, human and victim rights advocate and the host of America's Most Wanted. Walsh is known for his anti-crime activism, which he became involved with following the murder of his son, Adam, in 1981; in 2008, the now deceased serial killer Ottis Toole was named as the killer of Walsh's son.[1] Walsh is part owner of the Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, D.C.

Early years

Walsh was born in Auburn, New York. He attended the University at Buffalo. After college and marriage to Revé, Walsh moved to South Florida where he was involved in building high-end luxury hotels.[2]

Murder of Adam Walsh

In the summer of 1981, Walsh was a partner in a hotel management company in Hollywood, Florida. He and his wife, Revé, had a six-year-old son, Adam. On July 27, 1981, Adam was abducted from a Sears department store at the Hollywood Mall, across from the Hollywood Police station. Revé had dropped Adam off in the Sears toy department while she looked for a lamp. When she returned about 7 minutes later, Adam was missing. Police records in Adam's case released in 1996 show that a 17-year-old security guard asked four boys to leave the department store.[3] Adam is believed to have been one of them. Sixteen days after the abduction, his severed head was found in a drainage canal more than 120 miles away from home. His other remains were never recovered.

Many names had been mentioned in connection to the case in the nearly three decades since the murder, but that of serial killer Ottis Toole most persistently nagged detectives. John Walsh had long said he believed that Toole, a drifter, was responsible for the crime, saying investigators found a pair of green shorts and a sandal similar to what Adam was wearing at Toole's home in Jacksonville, Florida. In January 2007, deceased serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer fell under suspicion for the murder of Adam. This speculation was discounted by Walsh in an America's Most Wanted statement on February 6, 2007.[4]

The prime suspect in Adam's abduction and murder, Toole, who died in prison in 1996 while serving a life sentence for other crimes, was officially identified as the killer on December 16, 2008 by the Hollywood Police Department, and the case was considered closed.[5] Over the years, Toole had twice confessed to the killing, but both times he later recanted his admissions. In addition to the Walsh murder, Toole had claimed responsibility for hundreds of other murders, but police determined that most of these confessions were lies. John Walsh was told by Toole's niece that her uncle confessed on his deathbed in prison that he killed Adam.


Following the crime, the Walsh family founded the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to legislative reform. The centers, originally located in West Palm Beach, Florida; Columbia, South Carolina; Orange County, California; and Rochester, New York; merged with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), where John Walsh serves on the Board of Directors.

The Walsh family organized a political campaign to help missing and exploited children. Despite bureaucratic and legislative problems, John and Revé's efforts eventually led to the creation of the Missing Children Act of 1982 and the Missing Children's Assistance Act of 1984.

Today, Walsh continues to testify before Congress and state legislatures on crime, missing children and victims' rights issues. His latest efforts include lobbying for a Constitutional amendment for victims' rights.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (Pub.L. 109-248) was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush on July 27, 2006 following a two-year journey through the United States Congress and was intensely lobbied for by Walsh and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Primarily, it focuses on a national sex offender registry, tough penalties for not registering as a sex offender following release into society, and access by citizens to state websites that track sex offenders.

By the late 1980s, many malls, department stores, supermarkets, and other such retailers have adopted what is known as a "Code Adam," a movement first made by Wal Mart stores in the southeastern United States. A "Code Adam" is announced when a child is missing in a store or if a child is found by a store employee or patron. If the child is lost or missing, all doors are to be locked and a store employee is posted at every exit, while a description of the child is generally broadcast over the intercom system. "Code Adam" as a term has become synonymous with a missing child, and is a predecessor to an "Amber Alert," which serves as a system of broadcast-driven community notification.

Career in television

John and Revé Walsh were portrayed by actors Daniel J. Travanti and JoBeth Williams in Adam, a 1983 NBC television film dramatizing the days following Adam's disappearance. The real Walshes appeared at the end of the broadcast to publicize photographs of other children who had vanished but were still missing. Later, a sequel called Adam: His Song Continues was produced and aired.

File:John Walsh filming a segment for America's Most Wanted.jpg

John Walsh presents a fugitive on America's Most Wanted

Walsh has also been the host of the Fox television show America's Most Wanted since 1988. He was selected as host after the completion of the program's pilot and a lengthy search. By that time, Walsh was already well known because of the murder of his son and his subsequent actions to help missing and exploited children. Walsh continues to host the show, which is now the longest-running show of any kind in Fox's history and has contributed to the capture of more than 1,000 fugitives.

Walsh was host of The John Walsh Show, a daily daytime talk show which aired in syndication (mostly on NBC-owned and affiliated stations, as NBC produced the series) from 2002 to 2004.[6]

In July 2005, Walsh attempted to assist the family of missing teen Natalee Holloway. Walsh was critical of the Aruban crime investigation and, along with television personality Dr. Phil McGraw, urged Americans to boycott Aruba. Walsh was a special guest on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired on August 14, 2005. The episode visited the home of Colleen Nick, who is the parent of Morgan Nick (disappeared in 1995, still missing). Walsh has featured the Morgan Nick case on America's Most Wanted several times.


After the murder of Adam, the Walshes had three more children: Meghan (born 1982), Callahan (born 1985), and Hayden (born 1995).

Meghan was born a year after Adam was murdered. Revé Walsh told local newspapers at the time that "there is no substitute for Adam." She also said "Meghan will make me miss Adam more. He always wanted a sister." Meghan is currently an artist and resides in North Carolina.[7]

Hayden (born 1995) is the youngest child. He attends school and sometimes accompanies his father when filming TV shows, including America's Most Wanted. On the July 27, 2006 show of Larry King Live, Larry King said that Hayden resembled Adam.[7]


In 2002, rapper Bizzy Bone of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony wrote a song for the show (AMW) and dedicated it to Adam and John Walsh, encouraging abduction survivors not to keep their abductions a secret, as Bizzy Bone did after being abducted in the early 1980s.

On August 15, 2006, John Walsh's hometown of Auburn, New York named a street after him.[8]

In 2005, John Walsh appeared as himself in Outsiders #18 (January 2005), a comic book series published by DC Comics. In the story, written by Judd Winick, Walsh aided the eponymous superhero team in going public on America's Most Wanted with information regarding a child slave trader, which eventually led to a solid lead gained from the tips that poured in.

For a few years in the early 1990s, due to his presence on the Fox network, Walsh also appeared on their Saturday morning educational kids segments, Totally For Kids. Walsh would appear with the segments' usual roster of child actors to help illustrate scenarios in which children could often be in danger, and the solutions they could seek. Subjects ranged from encounters with strangers to child abuse. Most installments Walsh appeared in culminated with reminder to dial 911 in an emergency, showing a kid dressed up in a phone costume.

In October 2008, John Walsh was awarded the Operation Kids 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award.[9] for his dedication to protecting children and to raise funds for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which Walsh co-founded with his wife.[10]


John Walsh generated a great deal of controversy during a summer press tour in 2006 when he stated to the media he jokingly told senators to implant "exploding" chips in the anuses of sex offenders:

"I said implant it in their anus and if they go outside the radius, explode it, that would send a big message."

Walsh stated it was a "joke," but that "nobody thought it was funny. Even though most people thought it was really funny!"[11]

Other quotes from the 2006 Summer Press Tour:

"I'm all for criminals doing their time, all for rehabilitation, all for a second chance." followed almost immediately by "I say put the pedophiles down in the yard. Put them in there. Let them do the time with the rest of the guys. Let them see what it's like to be terrorized by a 250-pound guy."

When a photographer employed by FOX elected to get into a conversation with Walsh about marking sexual offenders, Walsh mentioned bracelets for perpetrators. The photographer replied, "Not bracelets. Not bracelets. The bracelet is bullshit. The bracelet is bullshit. John, you know that. It's BS." Walsh then sarcastically suggested implanting GPS chips to which the photographer replied, "I'll say. Bury it deep inside them is what I say. I don't care how big it is." Walsh replied, "I love your attitude."[12]

John Walsh also faced criticism when he advised women to never hire a male babysitter. "It's not a witch hunt," he said. "It's all about minimizing risks. What dog is more likely to bite and hurt you? A Doberman, not a poodle. Who's more likely to molest a child? A male."[13]


  • Tears of Rage (1997)
  • No Mercy (1998)
  • Public Enemies (2001)


  1. Holland, John (December 17, 2008). "Police in Hollywood, Fla., say Ottis Toole, who died in prison in 1996, abducted and killed the 6-year-old boy.". Los Angeles Times.,0,1444200.story. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
  2. "John Walsh bio from AMW's official site". Retrieved 2009-06-07.
  3. America's Most Wanted, The Story Of Adam Walsh. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
  4. America's Most Wanted AMW Statement on Reports Of Possible Adam Walsh/Jeffrey Dahmer Connection, 2/6/2007. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
  5. Killer of "Most Wanted" Host's Son Identified December 16, 2008
  6. IMDB, "The John Walsh Show". Retrieved February 14, 2007.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Interview With the Walsh Family". Larry King Live. CNN. July 27, 2006. Transcript.
  8. City of Auburn, NY, Council Meeting, August 31, 2006, August 25, 2006. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
  9. Rick Larsen. “On Saving Children.” “A Voice for Children.” Accessed 2008-10-06.
  10. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "Board of Directors." URL: Accessed: 2008-10-06.
  11. Lisa de Morales Summer Press Tour, Day 16: An Explosive Interview. Washington Post, July 26, 2006. Retrieved August 28, 2009
  12. Rick Porter, Daniel Fienberg and Brill Bundy News and Notes from Press Tour., July 25, 2006. Retrieved August 28, 2009
  13. Jeffrey Zaslow. Are We Teaching Our Kids To Be Fearful of Men?. Wall Street Journal, Aug. 23, 2007. Retrieved Aug. 28, 2009

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