Tuesday, December 16, 2008
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HOLLYWOOD – A serial killer who died more than a decade ago is the person who decapitated the 6-year-old son of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh in 1981, police in Florida said Tuesday. The announcement brought to a close a case that has vexed the Walsh family for more than two decades, launched the television show about the nation's most notorious criminals and inspired changes in how authorities search for missing children.
"Who could take a 6-year-old and murder and decapitate him? Who?" an emotional John Walsh said at Tuesday's news conference. "We needed to know. We needed to know. And today we know. The not knowing has been a torture, but that journey's over."
Walsh's wife, Reve, at one point placed a small photo of their son on the podium.
Police named Ottis Toole, saying he was long the prime suspect in the case and that they had conclusively linked him to the killing. They declined to be specific about their evidence and did not note any DNA proof of the crime, but said an extensive review of the case file pointed only to Toole, as John Walsh long contended.
"Our agency has devoted an inordinate amount of time seeking leads to other potential perpetrators rather than emphasizing Ottis Toole as our primary suspect," said Hollywood Police Chief Chadwick Wagner, who launched a fresh review of the case after taking over the department last year. "Ottis Toole has continued to be our only real suspect."
Toole had twice confessed to killing the child, but later recanted. He claimed responsibility for hundreds of murders, but police determined most of the confessions were lies. Toole's niece told the boy's father, John Walsh, her uncle confessed on his deathbed in prison that he killed Adam.
Wagner acknowledged numerous missteps in the investigation and apologized to the Walshes.
"I have no doubt," John Walsh said. "I've never had any doubt."
Many names have been mentioned in connection to the case in the years since the killing, including serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, but Toole's has persistently nagged detectives. John Walsh has long said he believed the drifter was responsible, saying investigators found at Toole's home in Jacksonville a pair of green shorts and a sandal similar to what Adam was wearing.
Toole died in prison of cirrhosis in 1996 at the age of 49. He was serving five life sentences for murders unrelated to Adam's death.
The Walshes, who appeared Tuesday flanked by their other children, long ago derided the investigation as botched. Still, John Walsh praised the Hollywood police department for closing the case.
"This is not to look back and point fingers, but it is to let it rest," he said.
Adam Walsh went missing from a Hollywood mall on July 27, 1981. Fishermen discovered his severed head in a canal 120 miles away two weeks later. The rest of his body was never found.
Authorities made a series of crucial errors, losing the bloodstained carpeting in Toole's car — preventing DNA testing — and the car itself. It was a week after the boy's disappearance before the FBI got involved.
"So many mistakes were made," John Walsh said in 1997, upon the release of his book "Tears of Rage," which harshly criticized the Hollywood Police Department's work on the case. "It was shocking, inexcusable and heartbreaking."
For all that went wrong in the probe, the case contributed to massive advances in police searches for missing youngsters and a notable shift in the view parents and children hold of the world.
Adam's death, and his father's activism on his behalf, helped put faces on milk cartons, shopping bags and mailbox flyers, started fingerprinting programs and increased security at schools and stores. It spurred the creation of missing persons units at every large police department.
"In 1981, when a child disappeared, you couldn't enter information about a child into the FBI database. You could enter information about stolen cars, stolen guns but not stolen children," said Ernie Allen, president of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, co-founded by John Walsh. "Those things have all changed."
The case also prompted national legislation to create a national database and toll-free line devoted to missing children, and led to the start of "America's Most Wanted," which brought those cases into millions of homes.
What it also did, said Mount Holyoke College sociologist and criminologist Richard Moran, is make children and adults alike exponentially more afraid.
"He ended up really producing a generation of cautious and afraid kids who view all adults and strangers as a threat to them and it made parents extremely paranoid about the safety of their children," Moran said.
There are currently 11 registered sex offenders registered with the Susanville Police Department, and at least one person in the community is looking to make sure there aren’t any more.
Community member Jazmine Buchanan first came to the council at its regular meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 19. In that meeting, she explained how she had come across a registered sex offender in public. Buchanan has since come back to the council asking for its help in bringing about harsher punishments for sex offenders.
- You see, they know, and admit these laws are about punishment, yet the courts continue to say the laws are not about punishment. That is just total BS, and they just word it differently so they can PUNISH sex offenders.
She came back to the council at its Dec. 3 meeting to ask the council to sign a letter of support for harsher penalties on all known sex offenders, which would then be passed on to Senator Diane Feinstein’s office.
“These offenders cannot be around schools and parks,” Buchanan said. “The reason why is because there’s children around. Well nowadays there’s children around everywhere. So they shouldn’t even have the privilege to be out walking the streets, like everyone else. We believe they should have life in prison. They lose their rights when they do the crime.”
Buchanan explained the current laws designed to punish sex offenders aren’t enough. She said that Jessica’s Law and Megan’s Law weren’t harsh enough for people who cause permanent damage to their victims.
- And they admit again, it's about punishment!
The council eventually told Buchanan that it could not sign her letter because changing laws was something that had to be done at the state level, not at the city level. Mayor Kurt Bonham also said it would be difficult to pass any kind of new legislation asking for people who have already served their time in prison to go back.
Buchanan said she would continue gathering community support and bringing the issue before organizations like the city council until she started getting results.
To highlight how the sex offender issue’s it pertains to Susanville, Police Captain Tom Downing presented a report to the council at its request.
“Currently, 11 sex offenders are registered with the Susanville Police Department,” Downing said. “Out of the 11 registered sex offenders, one is in the Lassen County Adult Detention Facility, one is registered as a transient, and one resides in the county and is attending classes at Lassen Community College.
“The remaining eight are residing in the city. The city currently has no registered sex offenders who are on parole or probation, and no registered sexually violent predators.”
Downing said that as of Dec. 3, all known sex offenders within the city are registered and in compliance with state law. Sex offenders are required to re-register within specific intervals every month to three months, depending on the nature of their crimes.
Downing also checked with the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office to find out how many sex offenders are in Lassen County, outside the city limits.
Downing’s check found that the county currently has 77 registered sex offenders. None of them are registered as transients, one is in custody, eight are on parole, nine are on probation and one is registered as sexually violent predator.
“According to the Sheriff’s Office, nine known sex offenders are out of compliance with the registration law,” Downing said. “The Sheriff’s Office is working all leads to determine their whereabouts.
Downing said the police department has been taking an active role in maintaining registered sex offender files and confirming their compliance with the law.
I think this is the first time I've heard of two additional years and not be on the registry. But, I am willing to bet, when he gets out, he WILL be on the registry. But we will not know until then. If someone can find this court decision, then let me know. I'd love to read it.
By Thomas J. Prohaska - NEWS NIAGARA BUREAU
LOCKPORT — In accepting a plea bargain Monday in Niagara County Court, a Prospect Street man decided he would rather serve two additional years in prison than be classified as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
_____, 26, who was charged with stabbing a Lockport man in the chest during a break-in at the victim’s home and also with sexually assaulting an adolescent Royalton girl in her home, pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and attempted third-degree burglary.
_____ was promised a sentence of 18 years in prison by Judge Matthew J. Murphy III, who accepted the recommendation of Assistant District Attorney Robert A. Zucco. The prison term will be followed by five years of post-release supervision.
Last week, Zucco gave _____ two choices: a 16-year prison term for pleading guilty to first-degree burglary in the Lockport case and attempted first-degree sexual abuse in the Royalton case.
Or, Zucco said, if _____ wanted to avoid registering as a sex offender — and 25 years of post-release supervision — he could choose a plea of attempted third-degree burglary in the Royalton matter and take an 18-year prison term. That’s what _____ chose Monday.
However, after closed-door talks Monday among Murphy, Zucco and defense attorney David C. Douglas, the terms were tweaked. Even though _____ took the 18-year option, Murphy agreed to cut the sentence to 16 years if _____ gives prosecutors some information on another case.
Zucco would say only that prosecutors want help with “an open investigation” and would not disclose further details.
_____, who is to return to court for sentencing Feb. 9, faced a maximum of 40 years in prison if he had been convicted at trial of the most serious charges against him.
He broke into a home on Rochester Street in Lockport in the early morning hours of Jan. 25 and stabbed Mark Rivera, 39, in the chest.
_____ also entered a home on Akron Road in Royalton on Jan. 18 and sexually assaulted a girl who let him into the home after being tricked into believing _____ had been sent by the girl’s mother.
Henry Lee Lucas & Ottis Toole
John, why did you jump on the "punish sex offenders" bandwagon, when it has NOT BE PROVEN a sex offender killed your son? Answer me that question!
Walsh Murder Case Closed; Police Think Ottis Toole Was Killer
MILWAUKEE -- There’s a controversial ending to one of America's highest profile murder mysteries.
The family of John Walsh says it knows who murdered 6-year-old Adam 27 years ago.
Two years ago, WISN 12 News investigated links between Jeffrey Dahmer and the little boy.
But on Tuesday the Walshes announced they believed it was another serial killer who killed and decapitated Adam in 1981.
“For 27 years we've been asking who could take a 6-year-old boy and murder him and decapitate him,” John Walsh said at a press conference. “We needed to know. Today we know.”
John Walsh is the person behind the "America's Most Wanted" television series that has helped track down missing children across the nation.
John Walsh and the new police chief of Hollywood, Fla., announced Adam's case was closed - a serial killer who repeatedly confessed, then recanted, abducted Adam from the Sears store where he'd been shopping with his mother that day in 1981.
“This ends it for us. I always believed it was Ottis Toole, a convicted murderer, a horrible drifter on the worst day of our lives drifted thru here,” Hollywood Police Chief Chad Wagner said.
Ottis Toole was serving several life sentences when he died in prison in 1996. He'd been a suspect in Adam's case for years, but problems with his confessions left investigators unconvinced.
Two years ago, a Miami author made headlines when he argued Milwaukee's Jeffrey Dahmer could have killed Adam.
Dahmer was living in the area at the time, and after Dahmer's arrest, witnesses told police they'd seen him at the mall the day Adam disappeared.
“When the papers came in, I saw the picture of Dahmer and I started freaking out,” author Art Harris said. “I said, ‘this is the guy. This is the guy I saw in the mall.’”
Dahmer denied killing Adam, but as WISN 12 News revealed in 1991, John Walsh was so intrigued by the possibility, he asked Florida to waive the death penalty if Dahmer would confess.
On Tuesday, Hollywood's police chief says the proof Ottis Toole was the killer has been in the files for more than a decade.
“What was there, what was there, was everything that was in front of our face for years,” Chief Wagner said.
But the author who made the Dahmer link remains unconvinced.
“This is still an incomplete case to me and it's and the police claiming that they fully checked this out, have not fully checked this out,” Harris said. “There are tremendous loose ends.”
The Walshes say they'll never be absolutely sure Ottis Toole killed Adam because blood evidence pulled from his car disappeared. So, DNA testing will never be possible.
But the Walsh's own team of investigators concluded that circumstantial evidence pointed to Toole. The new police chief reviewed their evidence and agreed to close the case.
I have emailed them about where they get this 50% recidivism rate, but they have yet to reply back, which was expected... It's one of those made up numbers they use to attempt to justify things. I have many studies linked here, which show the recidivism rate is below 10% in most studies done.
Most sex offenders are already flat broke, so how do you expect them to pay an additional $240.00 a month? This is just extortion!
The state Corrections Department wants to make sex offenders help pay for the GPS tracking devices they're supposed to wear.
About 145 of the most serious offenders are being tracked now.
But officials expect 330 to wear the bracelets by the end of next year at an extra cost of $1 million.
The corrections' agency is seeking an emergency rule to charge the offenders $4 to $8 a day, which amounts to a maximum of $240 a month.
- So how do you expect homeless offenders, or those without jobs to pay for your GPS? You and the tax payers are who wanted these, so YOU should be paying for it.
Only two people spoke about the fee at a recent hearing in Madison.
Sex offender Grover Maass says there's no way he can afford it because when employers learn about the bracelet they generally refuse to hire him.
And even if they did, Maass said he'd have to go outside every half-hour to send his GPS signal, something few employers would tolerate.
But Madison attorney and former legislator Peter Bear says he hopes GPS bracelets can be cost-effective for non-violent non-sex offenders to wear after an early release from prison.
He says it would help those people become productive members of society, at a lower cost for taxpayers.
- How is being monitored 24/7 going to "help them become productive members of society?"
Bear says he's working with lawmakers on a plan to use more bracelets if they're cost-effective.
By Rachael Jackson - Sentinel Staff Writer
Deltona, which is still battling legal challenges to its sex-offender residency regulations, gave preliminary approval Monday to an ordinance that bans sex offenders from public parks.
While a handful of other Florida cities and counties already have similar rules, the ordinance is based on a policy that has been upheld by North Carolina's Supreme Court.
On Monday, it passed a first reading unanimously with little discussion, though Commissioner Zenaida Denizac questioned how well the city could enforce it.
"I'm concerned that we're giving people a false sense of security," she said, calling it a "feel-good ordinance."
Mayor Dennis Mulder (Email) responded that it wasn't a waste of time. "It's incumbent on us to do as much as we can," he said.
The ordinance applies only to sex offenders who are convicted after it is adopted. The final vote is Jan. 5
Deltona's original sex-offender residency ordinance -- one of the strictest in Florida -- took effect in May 2006 and prohibited sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school, day-care center or park. Facing mounting legal bills from challenges, the city amended the rule earlier this year by removing a buffer around school-bus stops and removing the threat of jail time for violators.
At least 100 registered sex offenders live in Deltona. If the new ordinance goes into effect, violators would face a $500 fine for entering public parks.
In 2005, Seminole County adopted an ordinance that bans sex offenders from coming within 1,000 feet of schools, day-care centers, parks or playgrounds. Kim Cannaday, a spokeswoman for the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, said no one has been arrested for violating it.
"A lot of these people are on probation, so they understand how important it is that they stay away from those areas," she said. Some of them have to wear ankle bracelets that alert deputies if they go in those zones. While the monitoring system has detected a handful of times when people went into the zones, she said, all turned out to be cases in which the offender had sought permission, which the ordinance allows.
Before the meeting, Trovato said his city would rely on the public and deputies for enforcement, and people could not be questioned without cause.
Ludmilla Lelis of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Rachael Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-851-7923.
After reading the recent article about the two child molesters that work for the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control I was sickened beyond belief.
I am the mother of a young man that died last February in a for-profit psychiatric hospital. My son had the juvenile form of Huntington’s Disease, a horrendous disease that kills brain cells and destroys its victims brains. Some of the effects of the disease cause problems in the frontal lobe; impulsiveness, judgment, inappropriate social behavior and so on.
He made mistakes and was labeled as “sex offender.” He was also a loving human being, compassionate, caring and deeply ashamed of the instances that caused this punishment imposed by the state of Delaware.
There are no instances of exception for anyone, according to the law, to have their name removed from the sex offender registry. This fact directly led to the untimely death of my son. He was denied admittance to our only state-run nursing home due to his actions. He then choked to death in a cafeteria full of people at a hospital that refused to provide appropriate medical care. My child was treated less humanely than an animal.
Then I read of these two men, still in their respected positions as state employees. They were protected by the very same state that let my son be condemned to a death for a far lesser crime.
I am so very completely sickened by the state I call home.
Dianne Vrem, Harrington
So what they are saying here, is if you are a sex offender, then you can stay in the cold and die!
By Sharyn L. Decker - email@example.com
An extra emergency shelter has opened up for nights predicted to be colder than 36 degrees.
The site is located at 416 N. Tower Ave. in Centralia. It’s new this year.
The Lewis County Shelter Program unveiled the overflow location for homeless persons three weeks ago, and it’s being put to good use during this frigid weather, according to Talia Scott, program director.
During the winter, the Lewis County Shelter Program has often been unable to accommodate the high number of requests for beds. Space was tight.
They can take up to nine individuals at the men’s shelter in Centralia and are permitted for 20 at the family shelter in Chehalis.
Scott and her colleagues put out the word to all the churches in Lewis County belonging to the ministerial association, and Destiny Christian Center in Centralia was the only house of worship to answer the call, according to Scott.
When the two regular shelters are full, and the temperatures are forecast to be less than 36 degrees, folks without their own roof over their heads or a friend to offer a couch to sleep on can go to the center.
It’s the church’s outreach center across the street from the church. It usually won’t open until about 9 p.m.
On Sunday night, 10 people showed up, and the night before there were seven, Scott said.
The volunteer who stays there brings movies to watch each night. They offer sleeping bags and mats on the floor.
A different policy is in place for this cold-weather site with an eye toward the idea that no human should be exposed to the elements when the temperatures are potentially fatal: shelter staff don’t screen incoming visitors.
- Except if you are a sex offender, well, at the regular shelter. See below.
At the regular shelter, folks with warrants, those who are intoxicated or people who have a background leaving them as a registered sex offender are turned away. At the overflow site, staff don’t check on those things, according to Scott.
- So basically, if you are a drunk homeless person or a sex offender, they do not care if you die!
“They can just go, there’s no questions asked at this one,” she said. “We don’t need their first and last name.”
So far, only adults have been using the overflow site. It’s working out, according to Scott.
“We as an agency believe nobody deserves to die, no matter what their mistakes are,” she said. “This is very serious weather.”
For shelter information or services during business hours, staff can be reached at 736-5140 or at their office at 713 N. Tower Ave. in Centralia. They can be reached after hours at 269-6688.
Shelter Seeks Volunteers
The Lewis County Shelter Program is looking for volunteers as it prepares to hold a one-day event next month, offering services to the homeless.
It’s called the Homeless Connection and will be at the Yard Birds Mall on Jan. 29.
The plan is to bring agencies such as DSHS, Cascade Mental Health and others to one place, offering haircuts, a meal and other services all on one day.
An attempt to count the number of homeless persons in Lewis County will be conducted the same day. To volunteer, call 736-5140.
WAUSAU (AP) - A state appeals court says a Brown County man was properly placed on Wisconsin's sex offender registry even though his criminal conviction lacked a sexual element.
The Third District Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected _____'s contention that placing him on the registry violated his constitutional rights.
The 26-year-old _____ was convicted of being party to false imprisonment of a child in 2001 in a dispute over a drug debt and ordered to register as a sex offender.
- Now, people are going to see him as a child molester, when he is not!
Court records say that four years later, the state charged _____ with failing to provide an annual update to the registry. He was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison.
The appeals court says the sex offender law protects children from both sex offenses and violence.
- So then why call it a sex offender registry? It should be called something else. This is misleading!
ABS News Story
HOLLYWOOD - FOX 5 has confirmed that one of the most famous unsolved murder mysteries in the country will be officially closed today.
The Sun Sentinel Newspaper reports the Adam Walsh murder case will be officially closed, and Ottis Toole will be named by police as his killer. Adam was 6 years old when he disappeared from a Sears store in Hollywood, Florida in July 1981. His severed head was found two weeks later, but his body was never recovered.
Toole confessed twice to killing Adam, but he later died in prison in 1996.
Authorities aren't saying anything concrete yet, but FOX 5 has learned that a press conference has been scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. Adam's parents, Reve and John Walsh will be there.
John Walsh became an advocate for missing children after his son's disappearance, and he later became the host of FOX's America's Most Wanted.
In 2006, President Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which called for tougher monitoring of sex offenders once they're released from prison.