America's Most Frustrating

Fifteen years after America's Most Heinous Murder, new evidence emerges, pointing to a suspect police had once dismissed

"I've seen it over and over," observes Mundy now, "where people have come to the station with good information and get fluffed off. I could see her, in her mild voice -- she's definitely not a pushy person. She might have said, 'Excuse me, I saw that young boy in Sears talking to some man.' And the [police] lobby clerk going, 'Yeah, yeah, lady, we know that.'

"I'm not going to be critical of the Hollywood Police Department. I wasn't there. I don't know what happened. But it's just a shame somebody didn't get hold of this."

Another problem is whether Mary H. actually recalled having seen Toole in Sears or was transposing a later memory of seeing Toole's picture when he was identified in the press around 1983 and again in 1995 as Adam's possible killer.

Mundy had shown Mary H. a police photo lineup of six men. "It was one of my best [lineups]," he asserts. "I went through 2000 pictures -- it was very difficult to find anyone who looked like Ottis Toole. She looked at all six, then came back to one and said, 'Yeah, that's the man right there.'" It was Toole.

But Mundy admits that Mary H. probably had seen Toole's photo in a newspaper sometime since 1983. In fact John Walsh and/or his Tears of Rage coauthor Susan Schindehette interviewed Mary H. in February 1997, six months after Mundy spoke with her; in their book, Walsh and Schindehette point out that Mary H. said she had seen Toole's picture before Mundy showed it to her.

Mundy also concedes that she may possibly have seen video footage of Toole being interviewed by TV reporters. That would account for her being able to describe Toole's mannerisms so accurately -- his weird smile, the cock of his head, his mouth opening.

Mary H. had done something similar with her identification of Adam. She recounted for Mundy in September 1996 that she had seen the boy wearing a red baseball cap in the store. He wasn't. Reve said Adam wore a beige captain's hat. But in Adam's well-publicized "missing" photo -- the one with the bat -- he wears a red baseball cap.

However, when interviewed by John Walsh or Schindehette, Mary H. described Adam's cap yet another way, saying only that it had a long bill and that he wore it pushed back on his head, making it appear that the hat was a little big on him.

Mundy recognizes that without Mary H. the entire case against Toole falls apart, reverting to where it was in 1983. He also admits that to read the transcript of the statement she gave him is less convincing than to sit across from her and listen to her, as he did -- the "you-had-to-be-there" problem. Mundy thinks she's recalling real events, that she did see Toole talking to Adam. But he also realizes that her credibility is based on his perceptions.

If Adam and Toole were both at Sears at the same time, that would seem to be good enough to go to trial with, given everything else. But is it true?

Phil Mundy acknowledges the loose ends remaining in the case. And yet he thinks he's right about Toole. Without a jury to make a decision, however, nothing will ever be resolved. "I don't think you can completely slam the door on this guy," Mundy says. "You've got to leave a little crack.

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