John Walsh was very successful in the hotel business.
“I loved the hotel business, it was my passion. I was a partner with three other guys. We were building a $26-million dream project hotel in the Bahamas. I was very successful. I was living the American dream" he told Florida Trend.
That dream was over July 27, 1981, the day his only child, Adam, 6, was abducted from the Hollywood Mall.
Today, the Hollywood police department finally closed the case, confirming that Ottis Toole, a drifter and mentally incompetent man, kidnapped, and beheaded the child.
John Walsh always knew it was Toole, but the investigation was botched, evidence was lost, and DNA testing was unavailable back then.
Changes Today Benefit Children
The Walsh case became the most high-profile child abduction since the Lindbergh kidnapping and shook the nation to its core.
A great deal has changed since 1981, when John and his wife, Reve could not even get the police department to take a missing persons report without a waiting period.
The legacy of Adam Walsh was created from the deep grief and helplessness his parents felt. But they knew his short life had to have meaning and their energy fundamentally changed for the better the way the U.S. addresses missing children.
Today, there are no waiting periods for missing children and thanks to Adam’s legacy, law enforcement, places of business and child protection organization are better prepared to respond swiftly when a child is in danger.
Unfortunately, many of the laws that protect our children today are named for children who have been prey to predators in recent years. Their parents are the driving force in creating an awareness of child predators and an intolerance for the offenders.
Missing Children Act
John and Reve Walsh as well as other parents, lobbied Congress to pass the Missing Children Act, which established that children can be considered missing because of a wide range of circumstances, whether it be stranger or family abductions. It authorized the FBI to maintain information about missing persons in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
27 years ago the NCIC would not take a report of a missing child.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
In June 1984, John and Reve Walsh founded the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) whose mission is to help find missing children and runaways. Walsh says Florida is his model state for apprehending children.
Presently there are 176 children from infants to age 18 who are missing in Florida. Compare that to Oregon -4; California – 72; Texas – 52; North Carolina – 23. Some of the older teens listed in Florida, ages 14 to 17, are listed as runaways.
Walsh says, “Florida was the first state to have a missing child clearinghouse and one of the first states to have mandatory background checks of teachers. The Justice Department did a survey of state sex offender registries and how states deal with the exploitation of children. Florida was the only state that got an A.”
Type in your state to see a profile of who is missing.
Adults can report a sighting of a missing child.
The center also tells children how to see out low risk adults if they become separated from their parent and need assistance, and tells adults what to do if they find a child who seems lost. There is also an area to make a report if you feel a child is being exploited by pornography or online.
Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act
In 1994, the Act required a 10-year registration requirement for offenders convicted of sexually violent offenses or criminal offenses against a minor victim. Sexually violent predators had additional registration requirements.
In 1989, 11-year-old Jacob was grabbed by a man wearing a mask in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Jacob has never been found.
The law is named about 7-year-old Megan Kanka. In July 1994, she accepted an invitation from a neighbor in New Jersey to see his new puppy. The neighbor was a twice-convicted pedophile.
Megan was raped, murdered and her body dumped in a nearby park. Megan’s Law provides community notification when a pedophile is living nearby.
Type in your zip code on the home page and find registered sex offenders living near you. (A $10 registration fee is involved). Previously, you had to know the name of the person who was an alleged offender, to track their whereabouts.
Your state Department of Law Enforcement may have a free search, such as the one in Florida.
The Amber Alert Program was created in 1996 in remembrance of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman. She was kidnapped and brutally murdered while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas.
Amber Alerts were created the next year, coordinating law enforcement and broadcasters to create the program.
America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response Plan coordinates broadcasters and law enforcement to immediately broadcast information about a child abduction to the public, allowing the community to assist in the search for the child. The Amber Alert Program has grown across the country.
The Adam Walsh Child Protection Act, was signed into law by President Bush in July 2006, on the 25th anniversary of Adam’s abduction.
It mandates a national sex offender registry in every state. The most serious offenders are supposed to register their whereabouts every three months. The Act is supposed to fund 500 marshals to apprehend registered sex offenders, and mandates DNA be taken from all convicted sex offenders.
It’s estimated about 100,000 sex offenders disappear and drop through the cracks with no one knowing their whereabouts. Walsh says it has not been fully funded by Congress.
Walsh reminds us that the internet has become a big hunting ground for sexual predators. “Now they don’t have to take the chance of following the school bus and trying to grab a kid off of a playground, although they still do that. Now, they can talk to 40 children and find the one that’s the most vulnerable, the one they can lure.”
In his interview with Florida Trend, Walsh reminds us to, “Kiss your kids every day and tell them you love them. I’ve known thousands of people who have gone to work or somewhere and have never seen their kids again.” #