By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
That's right. The most infamous cannibal in American history murdered one of the most publicized child abduction victims of the past half-century, the 6-year-old son of America's Most Wanted host John Walsh.
Sounds crazy, right?
Well, I think it's true. And I know it deserves a full investigation by law enforcement.
But the Hollywood Police Department, which has basically botched the investigation from the get-go, is giving the idea short shrift, and John Walsh himself has tossed the theory out the window before examining it in any detail.
The truth is that local true crime writer Arthur Jay Harris has compiled an undeniably strong case that Milwaukee's notorious drunken cannibal who was living in South Florida at the time of Adam's murder was the culprit. Harris has dug up compelling new details, including information that Dahmer likely had access at the time to the type of vehicle a blue van believed to have been used in the abduction.
A December article Harris wrote for the Daily Business Review on findings that he spent more than four years gathering has gotten national attention in the past couple of weeks. But his arguments were met more with skepticism than true interest and were swiftly bumped out of the news by the NASA love triangle and the death of Anna Nicole Smith.
Scuttling the theory, however, would be a travesty.
"Let's look at this new information in an unbiased way," urges former FBI agent Neil Purtell, who questioned Dahmer on numerous occasions and even asked him about Adam. "I don't think you can put it in a box and put the cover on it."
Incredulity, however, is natural in such a case. Saying Dahmer killed Walsh is sort of like declaring that Hitler kidnapped the Lindbergh baby. The first reaction is, "No way." But I've seen the evidence and am nearly convinced that it was Dahmer who took Adam from a mall and left only his decapitated head to be found in a canal.
Or, I should say, I've met the evidence. Last week, I went to see Harris at the Weston condo where he lives with his mother, Harriet. With the author was a man at the center of the Adam Walsh case, one Willis Morgan.
"It's been a frustrating 26 years, let me tell you," were the first words Morgan said to me. "Now Art knows what I've been through because he's getting a taste of it himself."
Then he told me his amazing story, beginning at the Radio Shack in the Hollywood Mall on July 27, 1981, the day Adam was abducted. It was a Monday, a day off from his job as training supervisor at the Miami Herald pressroom.
Morgan was standing in the store at a red-tag sale table when a dirty, disheveled man with blond hair appeared near the doorway. Morgan says the man stared dead at him for a while before he said in a very loud voice, "Hi there. Nice day, isn't it?"
Morgan ignored the deranged-looking man, hoping he'd go away. But he kept staring at him and seemed to be getting angrier by the second.
"It was a look of rage," he told me. "It was so hard, I felt like it was laser beams staring at the back of my skull. Think of the craziest person you've ever seen in your life, then multiply it by ten."
The man walked right up to Morgan and, within a few feet of his face, repeated, "Hi there. Nice day, isn't it?"
Now Morgan was scared. Then 34, he was a muscular man who, in fact, fit the image of a typical Dahmer target (though Morgan isn't gay). But he had little chance in a fight Morgan had lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident and walked only with the help of a prosthesis. Plus, his tormentor was a couple of inches taller and obviously had the advantage of insanity on his side.
As the man hovered furiously within arm's length of Morgan, there were no other customers in the store, and the clerk was in the back. Morgan said these thoughts were racing through his mind:
"Does he have a knife? Is he going to grab my arm? Is he going to try to drag me out of the mall?"
Then the man suddenly bolted out of the store. Morgan said the great relief he felt was soon overtaken by concern.
"I just knew this guy was going to approach somebody," he says. "He was going to hurt someone."
As he slowly followed the man, he made a mental note of his face, his scraggly blond hair, his yellow T-shirt, his blue jeans, and his white athletic shoes. He followed him into the Sears store and saw the man turn toward the toy department.
The department was in the back of the store, and Morgan realized that the man might walk back out of the store and see him and the last thing he wanted was another frightening confrontation.
So he left the store.
Adam Walsh, who disappeared that same afternoon, was last seen in the Sears toy department, where his mother had let him play a videogame while she shopped.