The Unsolved Murder of Adam Walsh
Book Two: Finding the Victim
The body identified as Adam Walsh is not him. Is Adam still alive?
BOOK TWO ASKS: DID THE MEDICAL EXAMINER CORRECTLY IDENTIFY
THE REMAINS OF THE CHILD HE SAID WAS ADAM WALSH?
Another hitch: missing autopsy
The Walsh case was hampered by various problems,
including a missing autopsy report
and a glitch in identifying the remains.
-- The Miami Herald, March 28, 2010
After Hollywood Police closed the case in 2008, not only was the police investigative file made a public record, so were the medical examiners' files in two districts. Harris asked to see all of them and realized this:
As shown by his smile in the "Missing" picture, Adam's top front baby teeth were both gone.
But the found child had a buck tooth -- a left top front tooth that was in "almost all the way," in the words of a state forensic anthropologist who the police had later consulted.
When was the "Missing" picture taken?
How long before Adam vanished?
John Walsh wrote it was one week.
Harris found it was actually about a month.
He found Adam's last best friend, who said he saw him a week or two before he disappeared and remembered that he still didn't have any top front teeth.
However, the police's last-seen-alive description reads that his top left front tooth was partially in. So within the week or two before Adam disappeared, his new tooth had erupted.
Two weeks after Adam was gone, the child's head was found. The Fort Lauderdale medical examiner told the newspapers then that the child (Adam, he said) had been dead for possibly all of the 14 days he had been missing.
Teeth don't keep growing after death.
In just that week or two before he disappeared, could Adam's top left front tooth have gone from eruption to in "almost all the way"?
That would be very unusual if not impossible.
More likely, it would have taken months, maybe up to six, pediatric and forensic dentists and parents of young children told Harris.
If indeed Adam's top left front tooth doesn't match the same one in the found child, there also should be other indicators that they don't match.
To compare discovered, abandoned bodies with missing people, forensic dentists use the missing person's dental charts and dental X-rays.
The upstate medical examiner who made the positive ID wrote that Adam's dental chart showed that he had a filling in a lower left molar that matched a filling in the found child.
But that was only enough for a "presumptive ID," which is less than a positive ID.
It was only one filling, and it was in a common place for children to have cavities.
And the dental chart he used is missing from his file -- as well as the files of Hollywood Police, which originally handled it, and the Fort Lauderdale medical examiner, who the upstate M.E. said he gave a copy to.
Further, none of the files mention ever getting or using Adam's dental X-rays for a comparison. Those would have made for a definitive match -- or a negative match.
Nor is there a mention anywhere of a forensic dental consultation, ordinarily done in such circumstances to make positive IDs.
Adam's dentist says he no longer has the original records, so the examination that should have been done then can never be done in the future.
Even worse, there is no autopsy report.
The medical examiner who performed the autopsy admitted in writing that neither he nor anyone else in his office ever wrote one.
Detectives, prosecutors, and defense attorneys who work homicides told Harris they had never heard of that ever happening before.
This is what it all means:
As there never has been, there never can be a trial for the murder of Adam Walsh because prosecutors can never establish that the murder victim was Adam Walsh.
Instead, this case is about something different: crimes, injustices, and horrors against likely two young children, their families, and their communities:
A child close in age to Adam who has never been correctly identified, whose parents were never notified and whose murder was never investigated, and who was not buried under his (or her) correct identity;
And also the kidnapping of a young boy in a shopping mall in Hollywood, Florida.
Which leads to an incredible pair of questions:
What ever happened to Adam Walsh?
Could he still be alive?