Ottis Toole: Murder Suspect in Case of John Walsh’s Son, Adam, Died in Prison

ottis toole john walsh son adam

Wikimedia Commons Ottis Toole/Adam Walsh

The brutal murder of 6-year-old Adam Walsh was never officially solved. John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted believed Ottis Toole was his son’s killer, but Toole died in prison with the case unresolved. Toole was a notorious serial killer.

Toole confessed to murdering more than 100 people with his partner, Henry Lee Lucas. He committed his first murder at 14, according to Biography, and teamed up with Lucas in 1976. The pair were partners in crime and had a relationship. Toole was sentenced to death in 1984 for setting a fire that killed 64-year-old George Sonnenberg, and other murder convictions followed.

Among the many victims Toole confessed to killing was Walsh’s son, Adam, in 1981.

A reboot of America’s Most Wanted premieres Monday, March 15, 2021 at 9 p.m. Eastern time on Fox. Its new host is Elizabeth Vargas.

Here’s what you need to know:


Toole Said on His Deathbed He Killed Adam Walsh & Died of Liver Cirrhosis in Prison in 1996

Toole was serving a life sentence in a Florida State Prison when he succumbed to liver failure at age 49 in 1996. No one came to claim Toole’s body, NBC reported. He was buried at the state prison.

Adam Walsh went missing July 27, 1981. His mom left him playing in the toy department at Sear’s, and when she returned for him, he was gone. His mother and grandmother frantically searched the mall for the boy, and a loudspeaker summoned him to customer service. They reported him missing to police two hours after he disappeared, but it would be another two weeks before a fisherman made a grisly discovery. The boy’s head was found in a canal 120 miles away near Vero Beach. The rest of his body was never found.

Toole confessed to killing the boy twice, but later recanted. He claimed responsibility for hundreds of murders, but police determined most of the confessions were false. Walsh believed Toole was responsible for his son’s murder, and police closed the case in 2008.

“Who could take a 6-year-old and murder and decapitate him? Who?” John Walsh said at a news conference following the announcement the case was closed. “We needed to know. We needed to know. And today we know. The not knowing has been a torture, but that journey’s over.”


Questions Remained Over Whether Toole Truly Was Walsh’s Killer & the Walsh Family Criticized a Shoddy Investigation

Toole confessed to the murder of Adam Walsh, leading police to a bus bench where he says he abducted the 6 year old. He took authorities to the turnpike where he recalled the boy crying for his mother. He took them to the bridge where he said he chopped off the boy’s head. But Toole made many false confessions, and the Hollywood Police Department closed the Adam Walsh murder case with no new evidence linking Toole to the crime, according to the Associated Press.

Hollywood Police Chief Chadwick Wagner told the Associated Press he believes Toole could have been tried and convicted on the evidence they developed, but Toole had died in prison more than a decade earlier. While Toole confessed twice, details of his story changed in the telling, and no forensic evidence linked him to the boy’s death or abduction.

“If you’re looking for that magic wand, that one piece of evidence, it’s not there,” he said.

READ NEXT: John Walsh Discusses ‘America’s Most Wanted’ Revival & Its New Host, Elizabeth Vargas, Pays Tribute


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