The Unsolved Murder of Adam Walsh: Special Single Edition: Who killed Adam Walsh (and is he really dead?) A deep investigation into the crime that launched “America’s Most Wanted”

Arthur Jay Harris


Also available on Google Play are the full-length Books One and Two

The Adam Walsh story you know: After 6-year-old Adam was found murdered, his father, John Walsh, channeled his unbearable grief into becoming an angry crime-fighting TV host.

Yet this is the story you don’t know: For decades, officials had never revealed the file proving the child was Adam. Astonishingly, it showed that the dead child had never been legally ID’d as him. Why? Was it because the evidence was either inconclusive—or showed that the child likely actually wasn’t Adam?

INVESTIGATIVE TRUE CRIME: Never intended to be publicly seen, the key to Adam Walsh’s murder mystery was hidden in an autopsy file 40 years ago. The key wasn’t what was in it; it’s what wasn’t in it. Possibly only one man, maybe two, had seemed to know that—not even the detectives because it meant that decades of their work had not only been wrong and wasted, but couldn’t possibly have been right. On the moment of its discovery by a reporter, the prevailing narrative of the case was about to be shattered.

And that was the least of it.

A famous old crime. No linking physical evidence. For decades, the murder of Adam Walsh, the iconic face of Missing Children, the boy on the milk carton, was an unsolved mystery. Suddenly police declared a solution resurrected on a theory of theirs they’d long discredited. At a live nationally-televised police press conference, the victim’s family was tearful and grateful.

The national media bought it. The local press, however, recognized it as a convenient fiction.

On July 30, 2021, days after the 40th anniversary of Adam’s disappearance, Fred Grimm wrote in the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

“A sensational alternate theory blamed serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who was living in Miami in 1981. But in 2008, despite no new evidence, Hollywood police hung the crime on long-dead Ottis Toole.

“The only mystery left unsolved was how any cop could have possibly believed Ottis Toole.”

While Toole was still alive and in state custody, and could have been charged with Adam’s murder on the same information, John Walsh had belittled the idea:

“A lot of people still think Ottis Elwood Toole did it. But he and [his partner] Henry Lee Lucas confessed to a lot of murders they didn’t do. It’s a great ploy for convicts: They read about a murder and they’re in solitary. They call the police, desperate to clear a murder, and they say, ‘Fly me there and buy me a pizza,’ and they get out of their cells for two days!”

—South Florida magazine, July 1992

Police had statements from six separate witnesses at the mall who said they saw Dahmer when Adam disappeared, but police couldn’t confirm that Dahmer had been in town then. Then reporter Art Harris, working with ABC Primetime, found a Miami police report with Dahmer’s name dated 20 days before Adam was taken. Still they weren’t interested. But by 2008, both Dahmer and Toole were dead, so did it matter? Although the police’s conclusion was eye-rolling, it seemed harmless.

Grimm was wrong only in that police’s belief in Toole was the only mystery left.

Probably without realizing it, by closing the case police unlatched a door locked nearly 30 years before to a guarded secret.

Inside Harris discovered a much larger convenient fiction, but this one not at all harmless. In looking back it explained everything irregular in the investigation that had followed. As long as the secret was kept, the case could never be truly solved. Harris was then working with The Miami Herald, but even when they confronted them, the chief medical examiner who’d hidden it, the police—and most surprisingly, even the Walshes all turned blind eyes.

What was the never-meant-to-be-seen or spoken-of truth in Adam Walsh’s murder?

It starts with, there was an autopsy but no one wrote an autopsy report. That never happens...

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FLOWERS FOR MRS. LUSKIN begins with a flower delivery to the best house in the best part of Hollywood, Florida. Inside, Marie Luskin was cautious; her husband Paul used to send her flowers but those days had ended more than a year before when she filed for divorce. She thought it was safe to open the door just enough to accept the pot of azaleas.

She was wrong. The delivery was a ruse; the man pointed a gun at her and demanded her money and jewelry. When he left, she fell to the floor, bloodied, thinking he'd hit her with the gun.

Over 40 years, Paul's family had built a business called Luskin's from one store in Baltimore into a chain of consumer electronics stores in Florida. Coming of age, Paul was taking it over, to run. He'd already made his first million, and he and Marie were living a life their friends admired. But between them all was not well. Then Paul's high school girlfriend moved to town with her husband, and sparks rekindled. When Marie discovered it she threw Paul out of the house. For a moment it looked like they would reunite. She asked Paul to move back in at the end of the day after Thanksgiving, the biggest sale day of the year. But that was a ruse, too. That day at the store, her attorneys served him the divorce.

Marie's attorneys were aggressive. Accusing Paul's parents of shielding his assets, they asked the judge for everything he--and his parents--had. A year later, it looked like Marie would get it all.

The divorce was overwhelming and compound stress. Three times Marie had him arrested for not paying his very high support payments exactly on time; the judge had frozen his assets, and his dad had asked him to leave his high-paying job because he couldn't concentrate both on it and the divorce. Marie's attorneys wanted Paul's mom to testify for days about the business's finances, but because she had a blood clot that stress could loosen and become lethal, Paul's family asked them to lay off her. They refused. Not long after came the flower delivery.

The Feds indicted Paul for attempted murder-for-hire. They told the jury:

A Luskin's employee called his brother in Baltimore who was a mob guy, who got someone to come to Hollywood to kill Marie. Although she thought the gunman hit her with the gun, he really shot her--his bullet grazed her head. Paul was convicted and sentenced to prison for 35 years.

In prison, Paul married his high school girlfriend. To me, they protested so insistently that there was no murder-for-hire that it seemed something was truly wrong. I eventually found there had been a murder plot--but the real question was, who had asked the Luskin's employee to call his brother in Baltimore?

Testimony said "Mr. Luskin" ordered the murder; the prosecutor naturally assumed that meant Paul. But there was a better case that "Mr. Luskin" was Paul's dad. As a result of his son's divorce he lost his whole business, owed Marie $11 million he didn't have and was facing jail for contempt of court for not paying her, and so had to leave the country.

At the story's turning point, "Mr. Luskin" had to choose between two untenable outcomes: the death of the elder Mrs. Luskin or the younger. But prosecutors also were forced to make a tragic choice. Without certainty of which "Mr. Luskin" it was, did they choose the wrong one?

UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT begins with a night 911 call from a woman gasping her last breaths. When police arrived at the house they found her dead, stabbed, and her husband, infant, and father-in-law all shot point-blank. They would survive.

Minutes later, a man also called 911, a gunman had released him from a robbery at the same house. He said he knew of no violence before he left. Yet he was the only one who the gunman hadn't tried to kill. Police instantly suspected him.

That night and long after, police tried to shake the man, Chuck Panoyan, who insisted he didn't know who the gunman was.

Police guessed right. A tip led them to the gunman, and that led to a trip Panoyan took to see him. Both were arrested, and prosecutor Brian Cavanagh won a death penalty indictment against them both.

But in pretrial, Panoyan's attorneys unraveled Cavanagh's case against their client. No longer certain Panoyan was guilty, Cavanagh reached No Man's Land: his choice was to let the jury sort it out, or admit he was wrong about Panoyan for now three years.

Cavanagh's dad Tom was a retired NYPD lieutenant who'd had a double murder he couldn't solve, then at another precinct a suspect confessed. Tom recognized it had been coerced and quietly asked his detectives if they could prove it wrong. When they did, the case became famous for police integrity. A TV movie renamed Tom's character: Kojak.

Years later, son Brian was at a similar turning point. Like his dad, he would not leave it to a jury to unscramble. He moved to release Chuck Panoyan from jail. But Panoyan had to tell his story: he'd lied to police because the gunman had threatened to kill his family if he spoke up. Once before, the gunman had killed a small child and went to prison
Who was the only one could make Panoyan comfortable enough to talk? The old man, the real-life Kojak, Tom Cavanagh.

SPEED KILLS opens with the stunning daylight murder in 1980s Miami of boat builder, boat racer, and wealthy bon vivant Don Aronow. He invented, raced, built and sold Cigarette boats, the fastest thing on the water. Everyone who worshipped speed and could afford one, wanted one; his clients were royalty, U.S. presidents, CEOs, intelligence services, and--most of all, eventually--dope smugglers. Don took everyone's money and traveled between all those worlds.

You could also see it as Don playing all sides. When the Feds needed faster boats to keep up with the Cigarettes that Don sold to dopers, they came to him. It was sort of the same with his wife and girlfriend (and girlfriend and girlfriend).

How long could anybody get away with that? Confidence men are known as con men; Don wasn't that, but he was a supreme self-confidence man, that is, he was his own victim.

Finally he was cornered. Don's protégé in racing and boatbuilding was also the largest pot smuggler in America. The Feds needed Aronow to testify against him. For leverage, they apparently threatened Don with a tax evasion case. The quintessential free-spirit boat racer could go to prison--or he could risk the wrath of a major criminal organization.

Aronow made his decision. Days later, he was killed.

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Additional Information

Arthur Jay Harris
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Published on
Feb 19, 2014
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Biography & Autobiography / Criminals & Outlaws
Body, Mind & Spirit / Occultism
Fiction / Crime
Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Amateur Sleuth
Fiction / Mystery & Detective / General
Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Hard-Boiled
Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Police Procedural
Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Private Investigators
Juvenile Fiction / Mysteries & Detective Stories
Law / Criminal Law / General
Law / Forensic Science
Religion / Cults
Religion / Demonology & Satanism
Social Science / Criminology
True Crime / General
True Crime / Murder / General
True Crime / Murder / Serial Killers
Young Adult Fiction / Law & Crime
Young Adult Nonfiction / Law & Crime
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