Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods
Shocking Murder Confessions
Otis Toole and the Murder of Adam Walsh
Otis Toole and the Murder of Adam Walsh
The 1981 abduction and murder of Adam Walsh (pictured) changed law enforcement in the U.S. Walsh, 6, was abducted from a Sears store in Hollywood, Fla.; his severed head found two weeks later by two fisherman in an irrigation ditch over 100 miles away. Police cast about for leads, suspecting even Adam's father John Walsh, who later became the host of true crime show America's Most Wanted, but the remains recovered revealed little other than Adam's certain demise. Two years later, a drifter named Ottis Toole (inset) confessed to the murder and later recanted his confession. Mishandling of evidence led authorities to dismiss Toole as a suspect in Walsh's disappearance, although John Walsh continued to suspect Toole. In 1984, Toole was convicted of two unrelated murders and began confessing and retracting confessions with astonishing regularity. Linked to serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, Toole and Lucas at times admitted to over 100 murders each, but police were able to corroborate very few.

John Walsh became famous as a victims' advocate and helped police close dozens of cases, but Adam's case remained unsolved until 2008, when Toole's niece informed police of his deathbed confession to Adam's murder. Police finally accepted Toole's confession and closed the case.

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