According to crime writer Arthur Jay Harris, the infamous 1981 death of 6-year-old Adam Walsh may not be what it seems. In fact, Adam could still be alive, Harris said.
Nearly everyone knows the story that gripped the nation: the 6-year-old disappeared from a shopping mall in Hollywood, Florida, on July 27, 1981, according to Uproxx. Two weeks later, authorities found Adam's severed head but never located the rest of his body.
But how can somebody be alive if their head was found?
"The dead child they said was Adam is overwhelmingly likely not him," Harris told Uproxx, saying that the way that examiners identified Adam's head – by matching a dental chart to the appearance of his teeth and a family member's visual ID – would not be considered sufficient in present times. In other words, there is no conclusive evidence that Adam actually died.
"The identification of the found child as Adam can never be proven in court," said Harris.
According to Harris, there were multiple problems with the evidence in the case, not only with the examination and identification of the head – for which there was a missing autopsy report – but also with what Harris called insufficient connections between Adam's accused murderer, serial killer Ottis Toole, and the crime itself.
"After shaking out what police and the medical examiners, and yes, the Walsh family, and the news media have put out about this case, there is only one takeaway that remains true: Adam Walsh disappeared," added Harris. "Everything else you think you know about this case is either absolutely untrue or is so unlikely that it's essentially untrue."
Toole never went to trial for Adam's death.
In 2006, the true crime author posited a theory that Adam was actually murdered by infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, known for severing heads and cannibalism. Despite Toole's deathbed confession in 1996, Harris pointed out that witnesses reported seeing Dahmer, who lived 20 minutes away, at the mall that day and that he had attempted a similar kidnapping two weeks before.
Toole was never able to correctly identify Adam's hair or clothing, noted the Associated Press. Still, Adam's father, John Walsh, who went on to become a crime activist and the creator and host of "America's Most Wanted," has rejected Harris' theory that Dahmer was Adam's real killer, saying he believed Toole's confession. He has never said that his son could still be alive.
Police closed the Adam Walsh case in 2008, concluding that Toole was the killer, Uproxx reports.