BY DAVID SMILEY
The heinous murder of a 6-year-old boy that shook South Florida -- and the nation -- 27 years ago has been solved, Hollywood police announced Tuesday.
Adam Walsh, whose abduction and murder from a Sears store in Hollywood in 1981, has been largely a mystery for years. But Hollywood Police chief Chadwick E. Wagner said investigators are confident that a drifter named Ottis Toole killed the little boy, whose head was found two weeks later.
Adam's father, John Walsh -- host of America's Most Wanted -- and his mother, Reve Walsh, were present for the announcement.
Toole was a drifter who confessed and recanted to the murder before dying in prison in 1996.
Wagner said no new evidence led to the decision to name Toole as the boy's killer, but that the evidence collected thus far all points to Toole.
The case has remained in the national spotlight since Adam disappeared on July 27, 1981.
Revé Walsh left her Hollywood home with Adam that morning to run some errands.
They arrived about noon at a Sears and the mother left Adam at a video game while she walked to the lamp department. When she returned about five minutes later, her son was gone.
Revé searched the aisles, had Adam paged and then police were called. A teenage security guard would later report she had thrown Adam out of the store along with several other children who were bickering.
Then on Aug. 10, two fishermen found Adam's head in a canal near Vero Beach.
The abduction and murder set off an epic manhunt. The case netted hundreds of leads and dozens of suspects -- including serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer -- but not one arrest. And prospects that the case would be solved at one point seemed dim after key evidence was lost and Toole, a prime suspect, died in prison.
In October 1983, Toole told police he abducted Adam and drove a white Cadillac for about an hour to an isolated dirt road and decapitated the boy.
Details in the story changed, but Toole would lead police to the Hollywood Mall and correctly identify the spot where Adam had been ejected from the store. He also took police to a dirt access road near mile marker 126 on the turnpike, where he said he had buried the body, and to a canal near mile marker 130, where he correctly pointed out the place Adam's head was discovered.
The medical examiner's report matched key elements of Toole's account: Adam had been face down when decapitated. His head was sheared off with three to five knife strokes.
Police, however, could not find Adam's body where Toole said he left it and there were allegations his confession was tainted by a Jacksonville detective seeking a book deal.
John Walsh told The Miami Herald in 2001 he believed Toole killed his son.
``I believe Ottis Toole killed Adam, `` Walsh said. ``I believe that Toole is in hell right now, and I believe that he died a horrible death in prison.''
Investigators lifted bloodstained carpet from Toole's car. But without the DNA testing available today, there was no telling if the blood was Adam's.
And when Sgt. Mark Smith, a Hollywood police detective assigned to the case in 1994, wanted to order DNA testing on the bloodstained carpeting from Toole's car, the evidence had vanished. Toole's car, too, was gone.
Toole died on Sept. 15, 1996. Walsh has said a niece of Ottis Toole contacted America's Most Wanted and said Toole made a deathbed confession to her.