Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Family & Parenting
  3. Parenting Issues

How the murder of Adam Walsh changed parenting

See also

If Adam Walsh was still alive, he would turn 39 in November this year. Adam would probably be a parent and possibly even a grandparent.

Instead, Adam Walsh remains forever six years old, murdered after he was abducted on July 27, 1981 from a Sears department store in Hollywood, Florida.

Adam's mother, Reve, allowed him to play video games in the store with a group of boys while she shopped nearby, but he was gone when she returned 10 minutes later.

Adam's severed head was found Aug. 10, 1981 at Vero Beach, about 100 miles from Hollywood. His body was never found.

According to, Hollywood Police Chief Chadwick Wagner announced at a news conference many years later that the murder case was officially closed.

Ottis Ellwood Toole was declared the person who abducted and murdered Adam Walsh. Toole had confessed to the crime in October 1983, but later recanted.

Toole claimed he lured Adam from inside the store with promises of candy and toys, decapitated him with a machete, incinerated Adam's body and threw his head into a canal.

John Walsh, Adam's father, became a founder of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 1984.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has handled more than 3.7 million phone calls and has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 183,000 missing children.

Several years later, Walsh became host of "America's Most Wanted," a popular television show which had led to the capture of over 1,200 criminals.

Code Adam alerts, named for Adam Walsh, are routinely issued in stores when a child is missing. President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act into law on the 25th anniversary of Adam's disappearance.

This act provided funding and training for law enforcement to fight crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet, strengthened federal penalties for crimes against children and created a national database of convicted child sex offenders.

Parents everywhere are more cautious than they were in 1981. Most parents today would not let a six-year-old child out of their sight in a retail store.

Parents are more aware of the issue of child sexual abuse. Many parents check the sex offender registry for offenders living in their neighborhood.

Parents are more likely to talk to their children about strangers and warn their children not to go anywhere with a stranger.

Parents are more likely to talk to their children about sexual abuse and assault than they were in 1981. Children abducted by strangers often become victims of sexual assault or abuse.

Reve and John Walsh channeled their grief into action. The death of their son was devastating, a blow from which many parents never recover.

Instead of turning away from the pain of Adam's murder, John Walsh and his wife created channels to help prevent other families from dealing with the pain of a murdered child.

On the 32nd anniversary of the disappearance of Adam Walsh, we remember a six-year-old baseball player, smiling forever for the camera. Rest in peace, Adam.