It's A Small World After All
Non-fiction crime writer Arthur Jay Harris put forth a stunning theory in the Daily Business Review earlier this week that is simply too good not to post: That it was infamous serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer who killed seven-year-old Adam Walsh in Hollywood back in 1981.
And one of the central figures tying Dahmer with the murdered son of America's Most Wanted host John Walsh is a Miami Herald pressman, of all people.
Somehow I missed any talk of this before, but Dahmer was in South Florida at the time of Adam's murder and he was believed to have had access to a blue van -- the last vehicle the boy was last seen in -- from his work at a sub shop. Two witnesses say they believe they saw Dahmer at the mall where Adam was abducted as well. One of them is Herald pressman Willis Morgan. Here's the guts of Harris's terrific article: ------------------------------ "Hi there, nice day, isn't it?"
The banal words belied the terror Willis Morgan felt when a man approached him around noon that day. Morgan, a Miami Herald pressman, was browsing the red tag sale table in the doorway of a RadioShack in the mall on his day off.
The man was drunk, disheveled and spoke inappropriately loud. Morgan looked around for help or a witness, but the mall was mostly empty. The man stepped closer, got angry and repeated his comment at the same volume. Morgan had the feeling the man was carrying a knife and wanted to
pull him out of the store.
The man was taller than Morgan, then 34. The man stared at him. "He had a look on him, like the devil was in him," Morgan recalled in an interview.
Finally the man abruptly turned around and left. Morgan said he realized the man might approach someone else. At a safe distance, Morgan followed him — through the mall into Sears and its toy department, where he lost sight of the man. Adam's mother, Reve Walsh, said she left her child alone in the toy department.
Back at work, Morgan told his Miami Herald co-workers of his encounter. They urged him to contact Hollywood police, whose search for Adam was already in high gear. At the end of his overnight shift, Morgan telephoned. He said a police officer took his tip but seemed disinterested.
Ten years later in 1991, while still working at the Herald, Morgan proofed a story about the arrest of a man in Milwaukee with severed heads in his apartment. A thumbnail-sized mug shot accompanied the story.
"I was freaking out. This is the guy! This was the guy I followed in the mall!" Morgan recalled.
His friends had to calm him. At the end of his shift, he visited Hollywood police.
After waiting three months, lead Detective Jack Hoffman took Morgan's sworn statement.
Morgan frequently tried to contact John Walsh and sought to persuade reporters — including those at the Herald — to investigate, without success. He also went to the FBI and called Milwaukee police.
Later he spoke to Hollywood police cold case detective Smith. Morgan says the detective dismissed him with a "Yeah, right" when he told the detective that he saw Jeffrey Dahmer in the mall in 1981.
The same week Morgan saw Dahmer's picture in the Miami newspaper, an Alabama man reading the Sunday Birmingham News saw the same mug shot of Dahmer.
Bill Bowen also thought he recognized him as the man he'd seen outside the Hollywood Mall on the day of Adam's disappearance.
"It hit me like a baseball bat," he told police in an interview.
Two things struck me. One is the powerful emotional response that both of these witnesses, who indeed seem credible, had to Dahmer's picture. It's eerie. The other is that the guy who did it seemed drunk and demonic -- which fits Dahmer in predator-mode to a tee.
The problem is that Dahmer, while admitting to all kinds of horrific killings, denied that he killed Adam Walsh. And that has kept Hollywood police and Broward prosecutors from taking the theory seriously. Harris talked to two FBI agents, however, who debriefed Dahmer and now believe it's worth looking into.
FBI agent Neil Purtell thought Dahmer tacitly admitted killing Adam.
"It's my experience when people overemphasize their denials, it's usually an admission," Purtell said. Dahmer prefaced one denial with "Honest to God, Neil."
He added: "When someone says 'Honest to God,' I know they're lying."
Take that for what it's worth, but I'm hooked.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.