There were no new pieces of evidence, witnesses or sudden confessions. The man officially named this week as Adam Walsh's killer more than 27 years ago died in prison a dozen years ago. Still, the announcement by Hollywood police brought some closure for John Walsh and his family even if justice for this horrific crime remains beyond everyone's grasp.
Adam, who went missing from a South Florida Sears store in 1981, will always be the smiling, gap-toothed 6-year-old frozen in those old snapshots. Two weeks after his disappearance and an intense search, fishermen found his severed head in a canal. Ottis Toole, a serial killer, twice confessed to the killing but later recanted. Hollywood police Chief Chadwick E. Wagner said this week that a review of the record and discussions with investigators led to the conclusion that Toole was Adam's killer. The Walshes long complained about shoddy police work, and Wagner's acknowledgement of the mistakes that were made years ago were at least some vindication.
There have been considerable advances in public awareness about child safety and criminal investigation techniques since Adam disappeared. Stores and schools are more secure. Families and children are more aware of potential dangers and take more precautions. The DNA testing of today would have been an enormous help back then, and John Walsh's activism over the years has led to more avenues for publicizing and locating missing children.
Adam Walsh's memory lives on in the efforts to make the world a little bit safer for children. While formally identifying his killer and acknowledging the mistakes that were made at the time in investigating the crime cannot change the past, it may help the Walsh family face the future.