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I'm the man who kidnapped, raped, murdered, and cut up Adam Walsh. I really love to rape and kill, and I'm awfully good at it, maybe the best in the business.
~ Toole in a letter.

Ottis Toole (March 5, 1947 - September 15, 1996) was an American serial killer who was arrested for multiple charges in arson, cannibalism, necrophilia, and murder. One of his most infamous crimes was kidnapping, raping and murdering six-year old Adam Walsh, which led his father, John Walsh, to help establish the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as create the television show America's Most Wanted, which as of March of 2013, helped capture 1,202 criminals.

Henry Lee Lucas, a fellow serial killer, was his lover and partner-in-crime. Like Lucas, Toole made confessions to various murders and crimes that he later recanted, but which resulted in murder convictions. For his crimes, Toole received two death sentences, but on appeal they were commuted to life imprisonment.

Ottis Toole is also known for being a pyrophile, having a fetish for fire. He later died in prison while serving six charges of murder.

Early life

Ottis Toole was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. Toole's father was an alcoholic who abandoned him, while his abusive mother would, according to Toole, dress him in girls' clothing and call him Susan. Toole claimed that, as a young child, he was a victim of sexual assault and incest at the hands of many close relatives and acquaintances, including his older sister and a next-door neighbor. He also claimed that his maternal grandmother was a Satanist who exposed him to various Satanic practices and rituals in his youth, including self-mutilation and graverobbing, and dubbed him "Devil's Child". Toole claimed this abuse began when he came out as homosexual to his family.

Toole was often designated as suffering from mild mental retardation, with an IQ of 75. He also suffered from epilepsy, which resulted in frequent grand mal seizures. Throughout Toole's childhood, he frequently ran away from home and often slept in abandoned houses. He was a serial arsonist from a young age and was sexually aroused by fire.

In the documentary Death Diploma, Toole claimed he was forced to have sex with a friend of his father's when he was five years old. He felt he knew he was gay when he was 10, and claimed to have had a sexual relationship with a neighborhood boy when he was 12. Toole dropped out of school in the ninth grade and began visiting gay bars. He also claimed to have been a male prostitute as a teenager, and became obsessed with gay pornography. Toole claimed to have committed his first murder at the age of 14, when after being propositioned for sex by a traveling salesman, Toole ran over the salesman with his own car. Toole was first arrested at the age of 17 in August 1965 for loitering.

Much information on Toole between 1966 and 1973 is unclear, but authorities believe that he began drifting around the Southwestern United States and that he supported himself by prostitution and panhandling. While living in Nebraska, Toole was one of the prime suspects in the 1974 murder of 24-year-old Patricia Webb. Shortly after, he left Nebraska and briefly settled in Boulder, Colorado. One month later, he became a prime suspect in the homicide of 31-year-old Ellen Holman, who was murdered on October 14, 1974. With many accusations against him, Toole left Boulder and headed back to Jacksonville.

In early 1975, Toole returned to Jacksonville after drifting and hitch-hiking through the American South. On January 14, 1976, he married a woman 25 years his senior. She left him after three days, after discovering his homosexuality. Toole said during an interview his marriage was a tactic meant to conceal his true sexuality.

The murder of Adam Walsh

Toole perpetrated his most infamous crime on the afternoon of July 27, 1981. 6-year old Adam Walsh had been out shopping with his mother, Revé Walsh, at the Hollywood Mall in Hollywood, Florida. The two were in Sears and Adam was left with a group of boys at an Atari video game display while Revé went to look at lamps. After the boys got into a scuffle over whose turn it was to play on the console, a store manager forced them all - including Adam - to leave the store. Too shy to explain that he wasn't part of the scuffle, Adam left the store and wandered into the parking lot. It was there that Toole encountered the boy by sheer happenstance and lured him into his car with toys and candy.


Adam Walsh.

Though Adam went willingly with Toole, he soon began crying and asked to go home. Toole said he then punched him in the face. Adam started crying more, and according to Toole, he began to "wallop" Walsh, knocking him out. Toole eventually pulled over in a rural area and raped Adam for two hours, then decapitated him with a machete. He drove around for several days with Adam's head, forgot about it, and, upon rediscovering it, tossed it into a nearby canal. He then took the rest of Adam's body and incinerated it in an old refrigerator. Adam's severed head was discovered in the same canal a month later 130 miles from Hollywood, Florida.

Toole was never charged in Adam's case, although he provided seemingly accurate descriptions as to how he committed the crime. Several witnesses also placed him in the Hollywood area in the days leading up to Adam's disappearance. He was officially confirmed as Adam's killer in 2008.

Other confirmed victims

  • George Sonnenberg, 64
  • Ada Johnson, 19
  • Patricia Webb, 24
  • Ellen Holman, 31
  • David Schallart, 18
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