Dahmer Did It

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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.

The same day, unknown to Morgan, a TV producer named Bill Bowen saw a disheveled man with straggly blond hair throw a struggling young boy into a blue van in the mall's parking lot.

When Morgan heard about the kidnapping of Adam Walsh on the news later that night, he was certain the man he'd seen must have been responsible. After talking to neighbors and coworkers about it, he went to the police. He says an officer blew him off because he hadn't seen a vehicle tag number for the blue van they were looking for. He was told he would get a phone call. It never came.

Morgan says he followed the case during the next ten years, especially when serial killer Ottis Toole became a prime suspect. Toole is well-known for admitting to murders he never committed, and the wildly contradictory "confession" he gave police never matched up.

Yet John Walsh, after first being skeptical of Toole, came to believe he committed the crime.

Morgan says he knew they had the wrong guy because the distinctively hideous-looking Toole wasn't the guy who approached him at the mall.

Ten years after the abduction, almost to the day, Morgan was doing a "paper check" at the Herald when he saw a mug shot in the morning edition of a guy from Milwaukee who was caught with body parts in his bedroom and a severed head in his refrigerator.

It was the guy from the Radio Shack. It was Jeffrey Dahmer.

No doubt.

Morgan almost fell down. His coworkers had to keep him calm.

Bowen, another key witness from that day, saw a similar picture in a Birmingham newspaper about the same time. He says it was as if he were struck by a baseball bat. It was the same guy who threw the boy into the van. It was Jeffrey Dahmer.

No doubt.

Neither man knew about the other or had any way to know that Dahmer happened to be living in South Florida at the time, working at a sub and pizza shop a mere nine miles from the Hollywood Mall. That wasn't reported until a couple of days later.

They both contacted Hollywood police about Dahmer. Det. Jack Hoffman, who had been in charge of the case all along, took the information fairly seriously and went to interview Dahmer in prison about it.

He called Morgan upon his return.

"Dahmer looked me straight in the eye and told me he didn't do it. And you know what? I believe him. That kid doesn't fit his M.O.," Morgan remembers the since-retired detective telling him. He remembers feeling incredible disappointment.

"Someone forgot to tell Dahmer he had an M.O. to stick to," he says.

At the time, Morgan didn't know that Purtell, the FBI agent, had also spoken to Dahmer about the Walsh case on several occasions. Purtell says that Dahmer, in between denials, gave him what he considers near-confessions.

Once, for instance, the killer told him: "I didn't kill Adam. Whoever killed him couldn't live in a prison anywhere in America."

The implication: Dahmer wouldn't confess because he'd surely be killed vigilante-style in prison for the crime (which happened to be his fate anyway).

Then he told Purtell after another denial, "You know Florida is a death penalty state."

(Ironically, one of the bizarre bits of "evidence" offered by Hollywood police and others that Dahmer didn't kill Adam is that he often proclaimed he wanted to die and would have jumped at the chance to be electrocuted in Florida.)

Other than speak with Dahmer, Hollywood police did little investigation into the matter. They never so much as tracked down Dahmer's employers at Miami Sub on Collins Avenue. It was left for the writer Harris to do that more than a decade later.

Harris, who helped to debunk the Toole theory in the pages of this newspaper in 1997, began to investigate the Dahmer link in 2002. He tracked down former managers and employees of the sub shop who remembered Dahmer and told him that the pizza delivery operation included a blue van that could have easily been accessed by the serial killer.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman