John Walsh (television host)

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John Walsh
John Walsh.jpg
Walsh in September 2008, filming for America's Most Wanted at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment
John Edward Walsh Jr.

(1945-12-26) December 26, 1945 (age 73)
Alma materUniversity at Buffalo
  • Television personality
  • criminal investigator
  • human rights and anti-crime advocate
  • host/creator
Years active1981–present
TelevisionAmerica's Most
The Hunt with John Walsh
The Justice Network
In Pursuit with John Walsh
Spouse(s)Revé Drew-Walsh (1971–present)
ChildrenAdam (1974–1981)
Meghan (b. 1982)
Callahan (b. 1985)
Hayden (b. 1994)
AwardsOperation Kids Lifetime Achievement Award

John Edward Walsh Jr. (born December 26, 1945) is an American television personality, criminal investigator, human rights and victim rights advocate, and the host/creator [1] of America's Most Wanted. Walsh is known for his anti-crime activism, with which he became involved following the murder of his son, Adam, in 1981; in 2008, the late serial killer Ottis Toole was named as the killer of Walsh's son.[2] Walsh was part owner of the now defunct Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, D.C. He also anchors an investigative documentary series, The Hunt with John Walsh, which debuted on CNN in 2014.

Early life[edit]

Walsh was born in Auburn, New York.[3] He attended the University at Buffalo.[4] After college and marriage to the former Revé Drew in 1971, the newlywed Walshes settled in South Florida, where John became involved in building high-end luxury hotels.

Murder of Adam Walsh[edit]

In the summer of 1981, Walsh was an official with Paradise Island Hotel and Casino in The Bahamas,[5] and worked in Hollywood, Florida. He and his wife, Revé, had a six-year-old son, Adam. On July 27, 1981, Adam was abducted from a Sears department store at the Hollywood Mall, across from the Hollywood Police station. Revé had left Adam in the toy department at a model video game console at the Sears while she looked for a lamp. When she returned several minutes later, Adam was missing. Police records in Adam's case, released in 1996, show that a 17-year-old security guard instructed four boys to leave the department store.[6] Adam has been thought to be one of them. Sixteen days after the abduction, his severed head was found in a drainage canal 120 miles (190 km) away from home. His other remains were never recovered.[7]

Many names had been mentioned in connection to the case in the nearly three decades since the murder, but detectives kept returning to that of serial killer Ottis Toole. John Walsh had long said he believed that Toole, a drifter, was responsible for the crime, saying investigators found a pair of green shorts and a sandal similar to what Adam was wearing at Toole's home in Jacksonville, Florida. In January 2007, deceased serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer fell under suspicion for the murder of Adam. This speculation was discounted by Walsh in an America's Most Wanted statement on February 6, 2007.[8]

Toole, the prime suspect in Adam's abduction and murder, died in prison in 1996 while serving a life sentence for other crimes. The Hollywood Police Department officially identified him as Adam's killer on December 16, 2008, and the case was considered closed.[9] Over the years, Toole had twice confessed to the killing, but both times he later recanted his admissions. In addition to the Walsh murder, Toole had claimed responsibility for hundreds of other murders, but police determined that most of these confessions were lies.


Following the crime, the Walsh family founded the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to legislative reform.[10] The centers, originally located in West Palm Beach, Florida; Columbia, South Carolina; Orange County, California; and Rochester, New York; merged with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), where John Walsh serves on the board of directors.

The Walsh family organized a political campaign to help missing and exploited children. Despite bureaucratic and legislative problems, John's and Revé's efforts eventually led to the creation of the Missing Children Act of 1982 and the Missing Children's Assistance Act of 1984.

Today, Walsh continues to testify before Congress and state legislatures on crime, missing children and victims' rights issues. His latest efforts include lobbying for a Constitutional amendment for victims' rights.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (Pub.L. 109–248) was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush on July 27, 2006, following a two-year journey through the United States Congress. It was intensely lobbied for by Walsh and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Primarily, it focuses on a national sex offender registry, tough penalties for not registering as a sex offender following release into society, and access by citizens to state websites that track sex offenders. Critics argue that the system amounts to making offenders wear a lifelong Scarlet Letter, regardless of the circumstances of their cases.

By the late 1990s, many malls, department stores, supermarkets, and other such retailers have adopted what is known as a "Code Adam", a movement first started by Walmart stores in the southeastern United States. A "Code Adam" is announced when a child is missing in a store or if a child is found by a store employee or customer. If the child is lost or missing, all doors will be locked and a store employee is posted at every exit, while a description of the child is generally broadcast over the intercom system. "Code Adam" as a term has become synonymous with a missing child, and is a predecessor to an "Amber Alert", which serves as a system of broadcast-driven community notification.

Career in television[edit]

John and Revé Walsh were portrayed by actors Daniel J. Travanti and JoBeth Williams in Adam, a 1983 NBC television film dramatizing the days following Adam's disappearance. The real Walshes appeared at the end of the broadcast to publicize photographs of other children who had vanished but were still missing. Later, a sequel called Adam: His Song Continues was produced and aired.

John Walsh presents a fugitive on America's Most Wanted

After securing a deal with Fox, Walsh launched America's Most Wanted in 1988. By that time, Walsh was already well known because of the murder of his son and his subsequent actions to help missing and exploited children. America's Most Wanted was the longest-running crime reality show in Fox's history and contributed to the capture of more than 1,000 fugitives. Fox canceled the series in June 2011, but aired four specials during the 2011-12 season. On December 2, 2011, the series returned as a regular weekly first-run series on Lifetime. The last episode aired on October 12, 2012; five months later, in March 2013, Lifetime officially canceled the series.

Walsh also hosted his own daytime talk show, The John Walsh Show, which aired in syndication (mostly on NBC-owned and affiliated stations, as NBC produced the series) from 2002 to 2004.[11] However, since America's Most Wanted was still on the air at the time, he found it difficult to host both shows at the same time, so he asked then-NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker to release him from his contract. Zucker granted his request and cancelled The John Walsh Show.[12]

In 2003, John Walsh assisted in solving the Kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart where Ed Smart showed the picture of Brian David Mitchell's "Emmanuel" appearance on TV which later led to the rescue of Elizabeth Smart and the arrests of Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ilene Barzee. After Elizabeth Smart was reunited with her family, Walsh later met Elizabeth when her family invited him to meet her and mention his hand in finding her.

In July 2005, Walsh attempted to assist the family of missing teen Natalee Holloway. Walsh was critical of the Aruban crime investigation and, along with television personality Dr. Phil McGraw, urged Americans to boycott Aruba. Walsh was a special guest on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired on August 14, 2005. The episode visited the home of Colleen Nick, who is the parent of Morgan Nick, a six-year-old girl who has been missing since 1995. Walsh has featured the Morgan Nick case on America's Most Wanted several times.

His life story was featured on The E! True Hollywood Story and Biography.

Walsh was later the host of The Hunt with John Walsh, a successor to AMW, which debuted on July 13, 2014 on CNN.[13] The Hunt was in turn succeeded by In Pursuit with John Walsh, which premiered in January 2019 on Investigation Discovery.[14]

Walsh is also the spokesperson for the American digital multicast network Justice Network.[15][16]


After the murder of Adam, the Walshes had three more children: Meghan (born 1982), Callahan (born 1985), and Hayden (born 1994).

Meghan was born a year after Adam was murdered. Revé Walsh told local newspapers at the time that "there is no substitute for Adam." She also said "Meghan will make me miss Adam more. He always wanted a sister." Meghan is currently a singer and fashion designer and resides in Vero Beach with her daughter Eva.[17]

Hayden and Callahan sometimes accompany their father when filming TV shows, including America's Most Wanted. Callahan is now filming with his father on the television show, 'In Pursuit With John Walsh' on the ID network. The show tells the stories of victims and their families looking for justice for their murdered loved ones. On the show of July 27, 2006 of Larry King Live, Larry King said that Hayden resembled Adam.[17]


On August 15, 2006, John Walsh's hometown of Auburn, New York, named a street after him.[18]

In October 2008, John Walsh was awarded the Operation Kids 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award [19] for his dedication to protecting children and to raise funds for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which Walsh co-founded with his wife.[20]


John Walsh generated a great deal of controversy during a summer press tour in 2006 when he stated to the media he had jokingly told senators to implant "exploding" chips in the anuses of sex offenders. He stated, "I said implant it in their anus and if they go outside the radius, explode it, that would send a big message." Walsh stated this was a "joke", but that "nobody thought it was funny."[21] Walsh later suggested implanting GPS chips in such criminals.[22]

John Walsh also faced criticism when he advised women to never hire a male babysitter, which was seen as a blatantly sexist remark. "It's not a witch hunt," he said. "It's all about minimising risks. What dog is more likely to bite and hurt you? A Doberman, not a poodle. Who's more likely to molest a child? A male."[23]

In his book Tears of Rage, Walsh openly admits being in a relationship with 16-year-old Revé when Walsh was in his early 20s and aware of the age of consent being 17 in New York.[24] Critics of the Adam Walsh Act have pointed out that, had he been convicted, Walsh himself would have been subject to sex offender registration under the law which he aggressively promoted.

Some critics accuse Walsh of creating predator panic by using his publicity.[25] Walsh was heard by Congress on February 2, 1983, where he gave an unsourced claim of 50,000 abducted and 1.5 million missing children annually. He testified that the U.S. is "littered with mutilated, decapitated, raped, strangled children",[26] when in fact, later Department of Justice study from 1999 found only 115 incidences of stereotypical kidnappings perpetrated by strangers, of which about 50 resulted in death or child not being found.[27] Critics claim that the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center, which started without funding in 1981, generated 1.5 million dollars annually following his testimony before the Congress.[26] In fiscal year ending 2015, Walsh's private charity, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, received income from the following sources:

  • Contributions, Gifts & Grants $7,810,614
  • Federated Campaigns $157,239
  • Fundraising Events $2,257,837
  • Government Grants $31,886,730

for a total of $42,112,420. Compensation of the CEO, John Ryan, was $442,924 or 1.05% of expenses.[28]



  1. ^ "Who Really Killed Adam Walsh? Witness Wants Case Files in Murder of "America's Most Wanted" Creator's Son". CBS News.
  2. ^ Holland, John (December 17, 2008). "Adam Walsh case is closed after 27 years". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  3. ^ Skaine, Rosemarie (April 21, 2015). Abuse: An Encyclopedia of Causes, Consequences, and Treatments. ABC-CLIO. p. 307. ISBN 978-1-61069-515-2.
  4. ^ Factor, The Alumni (September 10, 2013). The Alumni Factor: A Revolution in College Rankings (2013-2014 Edition). Alumni Factor. p. 391. ISBN 978-0-9859765-1-4.
  5. ^ "29 Jul 1981, Page 8B - Florida Today at". Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  6. ^ "The Story Of Adam Walsh" Archived January 10, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. America's Most Wanted. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
  7. ^ Michael Newton (2002). The Encyclopedia of Kidnappings. Infobase Publishing. p. 331. ISBN 978-1-4381-2988-4.
  8. ^ America's Most Wanted AMW Statement on Reports Of Possible Adam Walsh/Jeffrey Dahmer Connection Archived August 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, June 2, 2007. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
  9. ^ Killer of "Most Wanted" Host's Son Identified December 16, 2008
  10. ^ John Walsh (December 1, 2009). Tears of Rage. Simon and Schuster. p. 150. ISBN 978-1-4391-8996-2.
  11. ^ IMDB, "The John Walsh Show". Retrieved February 14, 2007.
  12. ^ "Why John Walsh is Doubling the Number of Episodes of CNN's 'The Hunt'".
  13. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (July 11, 2014). "Shoe Prints, Dripping Blood and Groping 'Hunt with John Walsh' Goes for Suspects Still at Large". Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  14. ^ "John Walsh to Track Down Fugitives with Real-Time Investigation Series, 'In Pursuit with John Walsh'". The Futon Critic. April 10, 2018. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  15. ^ "About". July 6, 2016.
  16. ^ "Justice Network Debuts With John Walsh - TV News Check". January 20, 2015.
  17. ^ a b " - Transcripts". Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  18. ^ City of Auburn, NY, Council Meeting, August 31, 2006 Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, August 25, 2006. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
  19. ^ Larsen, Rick (April 9, 2008). "On Saving Children". A Voice for Children. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  20. ^ National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "board of directors." URL: Archived December 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Accessed: October 6, 2008.
  21. ^ de Morales, Lisa (July 26, 2006). "Summer Press Tour, Day 16: An Explosive Interview". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-08-28
  22. ^ Rick Porter, Daniel Fienberg and Brill Bundy (July 25, 2006). "News and Notes from Press Tour". Sun-Sentinel.
  23. ^ Jeffrey Zaslow (August 23, 2007). "Are We Teaching Our Kids To Be Fearful of Men?". The Wall Street Journal.
  24. ^ Walsh, John; Walsh, Susan (2008). Tears of rage : from grieving father to crusader for justice: the untold story of the Adam Walsh case. New York: Pocket Books. p. 9. ISBN 978-1439136348. I never gave much thought to how old Revé was. She was pretty, and she dressed sharp. And there was also that body. We were starting to kind of hang around together. She took me horseback riding, and we went skiing. She was always into her own thing, and I like that. Then one night Tom Roche was sitting around in my place and picked up a copy of that day's Buffalo Evening News. It was a picture of Reve, who had just won an art contest. 'Holy Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,' Tom said. 'There is a picture of Reve in the paper, John, and she's 16 years old.' But you know, she had this way about her. She had a certain presence. And after awhile I just got over how young she was. She was way more sophisticated than anybody in her high school and she always dated older guys. She had a fake ID. That's how she got into Brunner's. She was born with high school. She was into art and her horses. And even then, she always seemed very… I don't know, serene. We weren't madly in love with each other. Though we had a good time together, and I relaxed a little after she turned 17."
  25. ^ Horowtiz, Emily (2007). "Growing Media and Legal Attention to Sex Offenders: More Safety or More Injustice" (PDF). The Journal of the Institute of Justice & International Studies. 7: 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 2, 2015.
  26. ^ a b Gill, John Edward (1981). Stolen children : how and why parents kidnap their kids--and what to do about it (1st ed.). New York: Seaview Books. pp. 1–3. ISBN 0-87223-667-6.
  27. ^ "Highlights From the NISMART Bulletins" (PDF). U. S. Department of Justice. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 2, 2015.
  28. ^ "Charity Navigator - Rating for National Center for Missing & Exploited Children". Charity Navigator.

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