October 25, 2014

Florida Icon

Icon: John Walsh

Crime fighter, host of TV's America's Most Wanted, 62

Art Levy | 2/1/2008

» It’s the strangest thing that a guy who was very successful at a young age in the hotel business has a son who is murdered, who just tries to change a few laws out of anger, becomes the host of the first reality television program.

John Walsh
John Walsh [Photo: Brian Smith]

» Ottis Toole, the man I believe killed Adam, died in jail for other crimes. He was a horrible, horrible person, convicted of many other crimes. And if there is any kind of justice in the next world, which I believe there is, he’ll be held accountable.

» Adam was our only child, the light of our life. I had a great father. I named Adam after my father. My father died at 54.I wanted to be a father, and I thought I was a great father.

» People come to me with sad things because they know I’ve walked in their shoes. My wife puts it more articulately than anyone could. She says this is a color you’ve never seen, a color you can’t explain and a color I hope you never see.

» Florida was the first state to have a missing child clearinghouse and one of the first states to have mandatory background checks of teachers. The Justice Department did a survey of state sex offender registries and how states deal with the exploitation of children. Florida was the only state that got an A. Florida is my model state.

» The Adam Walsh Child Protection Act was signed by President Bush in the Rose Garden on the 25th anniversary of Adam’s abduction — a horrible day for us that was turned into a very positive day. It mandated a national sex offender registry. It mandated that every state have a sex offender registry. The problem with Adam’s law is it hasn’t been fully funded by Congress.

» I have been so blessed, Reve and I, that, despite all the troubles and problems we’ve had, that we have had three children since Adam. They are street smart. They don’t live in Adam’s shadow, but they know about his legacy. They always speak about how wonderful it would have been to know him.

» Lots of parents of murdered children never have another child. Eighty percent of parents of murdered children end up in divorce. All you have in common is the terrible grief, the stress. It drives you, no matter how good your marriage is, apart. We’ve had some really, really unbearably tough times. It generates behavior you never dreamed you were capable of.

» Reve is the one who said, as we were spiraling down into hell, that we can’t forgot who the real victim is. Adam went through the kidnapping, the horrible death. We can’t let this beautiful boy’s death be in vain.

» Lots of people we put on ‘America’s Most Wanted’ hate me. They don’t want to be held accountable for their actions. They vent their anger and vengeance at me. Those are things I never dreamed I’d be dealing with. I have no choice.

» When they came to me and said they would like me to host this program, that there’s a media mogul named Rupert Murdoch who is trying to create this show, I said, ‘Who’s Rupert Murdoch. What the hell is Fox?’

» Cops have told me some of these guys would be out killing people if not for your show.

» I loved the hotel business. It was my passion. I was a partner with three other guys. We were building a $26-million dream project hotel in the Bahamas. I was very successful. I was living the American dream. That dream turned into a nightmare one day when I went to work and never saw my son again. I lost 30 pounds. I couldn’t function. The hotel business was irrelevant. The opening of that dream project was irrelevant. My partners sustained me, kept me going, paid my bills.

» I love Florida. It’s my residence. I don’t blame what happened to Adam on Florida.

» Polo. Horses. Motorcycles. Scuba diving. Spear fishing. Hang gliding. I like any kind of dangerous, high-adrenaline hobby I can have to take my mind off all the dark stuff.

» Charlie Crist I met years ago when he was the education commissioner, a good one, and then he became a kick-ass attorney general. Almost the first thing he did when he became governor was he got the anti-murder bill passed and he had me at the bill signing. That’s a man who keeps his word.

» The internet has become a big hunting ground for sexual predators. Now they don’t have to take the chance of following the school bus and trying to grab a kid off of a playground, although they still do that. Now, they can talk to 40 children and find the one that’s the most vulnerable, the one they can lure.

» Kiss your kids every day and tell them you love them. I’ve known thousands of people who have gone to work or somewhere and have never seen their kids again.

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