Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

My Baby is Missing!

Adam and Polly

Adam Walsh
Adam Walsh

Adam Walsh was a happy six-year-old boy living in Florida with his parents, John and Reve Walsh. On July 27, 1981, Adam and his mother went to a mall in Hollywood , Florida on a shopping expedition. They went into a Sears's store where Adam took an interest in a video game display. Mrs. Walsh continued shopping while Adam played the game. With the exception of several minutes, they were within eyesight of the child nearly the entire time. When the mother returned for Adam, he was not where she left him. Reve Walsh asked around and called out in the store for her son. No one answered. Soon, the father joined in the search but still Adam could not be found. Apparently, a few minutes before, several teenagers had been ejected from the store for being disorderly. It was thought that perhaps Adam had inadvertently gone with them. That theory later proved to be false. After nearly two hours of searching throughout the mall, the police were finally notified.

Posters with Adam's image were widely distributed throughout the southern Florida area. Local television stations broadcast Adam's smiling, freckled face wearing a baseball cap, hoping for some sort of lead. But no new information was developed. Two weeks later, Adam's severed head was found in a canal at Vera Beach, some 120 miles away from the mall where he was kidnapped. Adam's body was never recovered. John and Reve Walsh nearly went insane from grief. A ferocious serial killer named Ottis Toole became a suspect in 1983 and confessed to the killing on two separate occasions. He later recanted both confessions. Toole died in prison without ever being charged in the crime. "I believe he killed Adam," John Walsh told reporters at the time of his death.

Polly Klaas
Polly Klaas

On the night of October 1, 1993, 12-year-old Polly Klass was hosting a slumber party for two of her friends. It was her first sleep-over party ever and the girls were having a fun time, laughing, hiding under the covers and acting silly. When Polly went to retrieve pillows from another room, she was confronted by a large, hulking man armed with a knife. He threatened to kill the girls if they did not do as he asked.

"Please don't hurt my Mom!" Polly said to the intruder. The man, high on booze and drugs, kidnapped Polly and fled the home. Within a few minutes the girls went screaming to Polly's mother. The police quickly responded and soon, the entire area was filled with cops. Because the girls had gotten a good look at the suspect, police had a detailed description and were able to assemble a montage that was widely publicized. Perhaps no other poster of a kidnap victim and suspect was ever so universally circulated as that of Polly Klass. She was a beautiful child with a beautiful smile and had long, dark, flowing hair. Her image was everywhere, on television, in supermarkets, gas stations, department stores, even overseas. The search went on for weeks.

Richard Allen Davis
Richard Allen Davis

A man named Richard Allen Davis, 39, a career criminal whose life was a twisted morass of violence and crime, was arrested on November 30 for trespassing on private property on the night of Polly's abduction. A few days later, he confessed to her murder and led police to her body. Davis said he strangled her to prevent her from identifying him. He said that he did not sexually assault Polly, though investigators did not believe him. After a trial, which took place in June 1996, Richard Allen Davis was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Marc Klass, Polly's father told the court, "Every time I see a pretty 12-year-old girl, I am reminded of Polly, I can't sleep, I can't concentrate. Everything is in ruins."

John Walsh
John Walsh

The Adam Walsh and Polly Klass cases impacted on America with all the subtlety of a bomb. Parents across the nation were heartbroken and terrified of the implications of these vicious kidnappings. Polly was stolen out of her bedroom in her own home. Adam was snatched while shopping with his parents in a department store. These were activities that any child could be doing almost at anytime. John Walsh, driven by his grief and rage, has become a tireless crime fighter and is a familiar television figure. His America's Most Wanted TV show has become a valuable tool in the nation's battle against crime and is also responsible for the capture of hundreds of fugitives. Marc Klass formed the Klass Foundation to assist families whose children are the victims of such crimes. Their website, www.klaaskids.org, contains a vast amount of information on child abduction and includes advice from families who have been victimized by child abductors as well.

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