CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Encore Presentation: Interview With John Walsh
Aired July 15, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": The fight begins right here as we brand our first public enemy number one...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, John Walsh. You know him as the host of "America's Most Wanted." Driven by the devastating murder of his young son Adam to hunt down bad guys wherever they may hide. Now, learn firsthand what turned him from a grieving parent to a tireless crusader for justice. We'll cover it all, tragedy to triumph. An intense, emotional hour with John Walsh is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. John Walsh has been on this program many, many times, and we always talk about current things in the crime area and the like, people we are looking for, current events. Tonight, it's sort of a different look, a kind of biographical look at this extraordinary guy who's had an extraordinary life. He came, of course, great deal of the public attention with the death of his son. The book that he wrote about it, and subsequently, of course, "America's Most Wanted," "America Fights Back," "The John Walsh Show." He is now also -- has a daily radio spot, 60 seconds.
His young son Adam was kidnapped and murdered in the summer of 1981. Adam would be how old?
First, let's go back a little. You were born in 1945, upstate New York, right? Where?
WALSH: In Auburn, New York. In the Finger Lakes. Beautiful part of the country, we're the wine (ph) country, you know, Cornell and Syracuse U and a really lovely place.
KING: Big family?
WALSH: Two brothers and a sister, big Irish family, you know, a lot of extended relatives and cousins, and now just a wonderful, idyllic upbringing.
KING: Catholic Catholic?
WALSH: Catholic Catholic, Irish Catholic, big time. Yes.
KING: Your father was a war hero?
WALSH: He went to Notre Dame. He was a tremendous role model for me, because he spent so much of his time with children. He loved children, and dedicated a lot of his time to coaching and helping children, but he was a B-24 bomber pilot in World War II...
WALSH: In Japan. Bombed Japan, Night Hawks, all over the Pacific, and I think he was awarded 15 some medals. He was -- came home a big war hero, and he was a very, very special guy.
KING: Did he live a long life?
WALSH: No, he died when he was 54. He got multiple myieloma (ph), bone cancer. And his nickname was Adam...
KING: Nickname was Adam?
WALSH: Adam. And that's why I named my son Adam. And he was such a wonderful, handsome guy, and he wanted to see his grandson, and he was in the hospital. You know you can't bring babies in and Adam was a baby, so my brother Jimmy and my brother Joe in the freezing cold in upstate New York figured out that if we went from fire escape to fire escape at the hospital, we could smuggle Adam in the hospital to see his grandfather before he died. So he got to see his namesake. So, now those two Adams are up there, looking out here.
KING: You went to community -- what did you want to be?
WALSH: I wanted to be an athlete, a soccer player, and attend as many fraternity parties as I could...
KING: You were a party guy?
WALSH: I had a lot of fun in college. I've had an awful lot of fun, and went on to University of Buffalo, and I wanted to be...
KING: What was your major?
WALSH: I was an English and history major, and I, you know, I just loved college.
KING: What did you think you were going to do? You couldn't -- you knew athletes weren't forever.
WALSH: Absolutely. I wasn't so sure. I wasn't so sure. I thought I was probably going to go to law school. My father said, you'd probably make a really good lawyer, and I thought law would be, you know, a great career, but I wanted to take some time off, so I went to Miami. And I loved it so much that I never left.
KING: And that's where you stayed. Met your wife there?
WALSH: No, I met her when I was in college. I met her...
KING: You went down together.
WALSH: No, I went down by myself. I went down and I worked -- here's a college graduate, a colorful friend of mine, Jeffrey Reagan (ph) went down, and we were lifeguards and beach boys. And we used to work in the water shows. Jeffrey Reagan (ph) and I, and it was just a wonderful time, and you know, here's a couple of college graduates working as beach boys.
KING: And did your wife come down and join you?
WALSH: Eventually, she did.
KING: And you got married down there?
WALSH: Yes, we got married back up in -- up in Buffalo, New York. I think I've had enough fun for about 25 guys, and then I finally realized that this was a wonderful woman, and maybe I ought to settle down before I got killed. I got hurtled several times down there, in a big motorcycle accident, and I thought, time to settle down.
KING: You ever rescue anybody?
WALSH: Yes, I rescued lots of people, and what launched me in the hotel business was a boy that I had taught to swim, named Johnny Moynihan (ph). I knew his family, and his father ran the Diplomat Hotel in Hollingdale (ph). Remember the famous Diplomat Hotel?
KING: Irwing (ph) and Cowan (ph).
WALSH: Yes, Irwing (ph) and Marge Cowan (ph). Frank Sinatra used to come there, and Sammy Davis. And John Moynihan's (ph) son was drowning one day, and he was trapped underneath a jetty, and I went out there and it took me, I don't know, maybe 45 minutes to get him out from under that jetty, and saved his life. And his father said, I don't know how I can ever repay you, he said, but I'll tell you what, I know you're getting married and he says I'd like to give you a honeymoon trip. And he gave me a trip, six weeks, to Europe. I went to like 12 countries (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and he said, I'd give you a job when you come back. He said, you'd make a great hotel man. And he gave me my first job, and we're still friends.
KING: And you were in the hotel business. That was your life, right?
KING: As an owner? As a manager?
WALSH: Well, first I started out -- he trained me in all aspects of it, and then I started my own company, and I worked in the Bahamas for years and I got into underwater films as a side thing...
KING: A company that did what? WALSH: Marketing and I represented hotels in the Bahamas and Jamaica and things like that. In the meantime, traveling around and doing a lot of scuba diving. I love the ocean. And then I was approached by some wonderful guys from Houston, a man by the name of Ray Mollette (ph), and we formed a company, we started to build deluxe hotels. And I had this like meteoric rise, you know.
KING: It was very successful.
WALSH: Very successful. We were building a $26 million hotel on Paradise Island when Adam was kidnapped.
KING: Was Adam your firstborn?
WALSH: Only child. Only child.
KING: You subsequently had children, right?
WALSH: We've had three wonderful children. We have a daughter, Megan, in college. She will be a senior this year. We have a wonderful son, Callahan, who's 18, he's a world class soccer player, and we have an 8-year-old named Hayden, a little boy, who's a wonderful little boy.
KING: Who looks like Adam, right?
WALSH: He looks just like Adam. It's the most uncanny thing. And he's an old soul like Adam. He's a wonderful -- we're lucky to have those three little kids.
KING: We'll be right back with the John Walsh story that you may not have heard start to finish. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with John Walsh and kind of we're doing a Larry King biography tonight of Mr. Walsh. He's been on so many times -- back to the radio days, he used to come on my old radio show quite frequently, and a lot of ties together with Miami.
In fact, Chance even looks like Adam, right?
WALSH: Yes, he does.
KING: My oldest son Chance.
WALSH: When I see pictures of him, he looks an awful lot like Adam.
KING: All right. Adam's death. Where were you? What happened?
WALSH: I was working. We were building that hotel in the Bahamas, and I had an office in Bel Harbor (ph), a little bit south of Hollywood. I thought, you know, Hollywood was a safe little place to live. Miami was the days of the cocaine cowboys and kind of dangerous, you know, in those days, shootouts. And I thought after, you know, I had this little beautiful, wonderful life up in Hollywood.
I was in my office and I got a call from Reve. She was at the Hollywood Mall, at the Sears store, and she had brought Adam to school every day. Went to private school, picked him up. He wasn't allowed to ride his bike in the street. She was very protective. And she brought him to the store, and video games were brand new 21 years ago, and two sets of boys, two black boys and two white boys, about 14 years old, were playing video games, and Adam asked him -- we always called him the little gentleman, because he was such a nice little guy -- he asked his mom, "Could I watch them?" And she said, "I'm going to go over two aisles away and pay for this lamp. And you stay right here."
She came back about four minutes later, and he was gone. And we never learned for 15 years that a untrained security guard -- they hired security guards part time, because they didn't want to pay benefits in that store. And she came upon an argument and she said, "you white boys out this door," assuming that little Adam was with those boys, "and you black boys out this door." And when Reve came back, in the course of three minutes, no one was there, no one would help her, no one would tell her anything. They even told her to go to customer service.
And she called the Hollywood Police Department, which was across the street, Larry, one block away. It took 45 minutes for a cop to get there. She called me up at my office and she said, "John, you know Adam, you know how respectful he is. Something is dramatically wrong here. I'm scared to death." And I got in the car and I went to the Hollywood Mall. And that started it.
KING: How many days did you have to go through?
WALSH: It was two weeks, the worst two weeks of my life.
KING: Was it a big story?
WALSH: It was huge, I think, at that time, because...
KING: Were all the papers covering it?
WALSH: Yes, yes, some of the papers were -- covered it, some put it on the back page. It was 21 years ago. Missing kids were not a big issue. But I'll never forget the first night. We had some searchers, and I was so naive, I think back, and I thought, you know, there's got to be parents who lost their child to a drunk driver or maybe a woman who's had a miscarriage. Who would take a 6-year-old boy? And as I stayed there at that Hollywood Police Department, and my friends, Jeffrey Reagan (ph), Les Davies (ph), my business friends, Ray Mollette (ph), they ran the search. The ran probably the biggest search, they say, in the history of the state of Florida for a child.
KING: There is a sidebar to this, isn't there? There was someone staying at your house?
WALSH: Yes, as a friend, James Campbell (ph)...
KING: Who was having a relationship with your wife?
WALSH: Which I didn't know about.
KING: Was he a suspect?
WALSH: He was a suspect initially. Reve and I went in the first day and took polygraphs. That's what you do. They separate you. And he passed the polygraph, but he was a suspect and then they eliminated him.
KING: And you did not learn until much later on that they were having a relationship?
WALSH: No, I did not know. It was devastating news to me, but...
KING: But you kept the marriage together?
WALSH: Well, you know, it was a terrible time, and I thought that this was, you know, this was -- I wasn't the greatest husband, and we loved each other, and we loved Adam, and I thought, how could I leave this woman? You know? She's dying of a broken heart, I'm dying of a broken heart. I would be a coward.
KING: But you stood up for him, right, that he wasn't.
WALSH: Yes, I did. I did. I never believed he had anything to do with it. I paid for his lawyer, and what happened between he and Reve was their business, but I knew he wasn't capable of taking that little boy.
KING: How did you learn what happened happened? How did you learn about the death of Adam?
WALSH: About Adam's death? After two weeks of so many things that we could talk about -- I mean, there was nothing back then. There was no help. The FBI came up from Miami into the Hollywood Police Department, told me, we don't get involved in missing child cases. We do white collar crime, Mafiosos. I couldn't get any help. It was just one thing after another. A nightmare. The Broward County coroner, Dr. Ronald White (ph), called me up and said, "Adam has probably been killed by a serial pedophile, and you know something, John? We can put a man on the moon, but in Florida we exchange information on a voluntary basis by mail. Coroners do every six months." He said, "You may never know if Adam's in a morgue in Tallahassee, or Jacksonville, and God forbid if he's out of the state. You need help."
So I reached out to the Orlando -- mayor of Orlando, Bill Fredricksson (ph). He was a friend of David Hartman. Remember? "Good Morning America" was the top show. David Hartman and Joan Lunden. David Hartman, when ABC, NBC and CBS turned me down repeatedly, David Hartman said, "Come on up. Come to New York and I'll put you on the next morning."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: The contributions just for the reward fund for Adam are well over $120,000, from friends, individuals and business people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: And when I got to New York, there were four mothers of missing children. I thought they were there to help us. Ethan Pates (ph) was a famous case. His mother was down there. She said, "Please, we don't know how you got onto the show, but will you take our sons' pictures and our daughters' pictures?" And I said yes.
5:00 in the morning, I got a call. Reve was sleeping. You know, you get up early for the morning show, 6:30. And it was my best friend, Jeffrey Regan (ph), and he said, "Do you have dental charts of Adam?" And I said, "what are you talking about, Jeff? It's 5:00 in the morning." And he said, "I hate to tell you this, and I don't think it's Adam," he says, "but about 130 miles north of your home, they found the severed head of a little boy floating in a canal."
KING: This was before you went onto the show?
KING: Did you go on?
WALSH: I did. And I said, "I don't think it's Adam," I said, "I know the dentist. I've got his home phone number. Call him up, it can't be Adam." I didn't tell Reve. It went on. They showed Adam's picture. Gave me hope. They went with the four mothers to go to lunch, and I went back for that phone call to the room. And I got that call from Jeffrey, and he said, "That decapitated head is Adam."
And I trashed that hotel room. I don't even remember. I broke everything in the room. And the security came in, and calmed me down, they brought a doctor, and I said, "I've got to do the toughest thing I've ever done in my life, I've got to call my wife. I've got to find my wife and tell her."
And they flew us home that night. And all that media that I begged for two weeks to cover the case that didn't was on my lawn that night, with those microphones, those vultures shoving it in their face, what do you think now and all this type of stuff. And it was the beginning of our spiral into hell.
KING: We'll be right back. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: They have found the remains of a young person in Florida that at this time they are trying to identify whether it is Adam or not. At this point, they feel there is a good possibility that it is not Adam, therefore they felt we should come on and carry the word of Adam to the public. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with John Walsh. How did you handle the -- this is tough to do -- the funeral?
WALSH: We had nothing to bury, because Adam's head was evidence. So we had a memorial. Thousands of people came. Thousands of people...
KING: They never found the body?
WALSH: They never found the body. Thousands of people came to that memorial service. My cousin is the monsignor, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), couldn't get through it. And these children sang a wonderful song and they made a banner, and it's so prophetic, and on the banner it said, "If Adam's song is to continue, we must do the singing." And it didn't mean anything to me at the time, and years later it means so much because of all the things that came out of Adam and his memory, but the service was unbearable, and then everything fell apart.
KING: Now, many times, with the death of a child, accidental death, marriages break up. One blames the other.
KING: What kept yours together?
WALSH: I think that we realized that we love each other, that we had this beautiful little boy and I just -- I thought I would be a coward if I left. That was not the way I was raised, and I figured that somehow, I don't know. We would just stay together and try to get through it. But it got worse. It got worse because all we had in common was the grief, and for me, I couldn't work. My partners paid my bills. My dream project was way over budget. Our house went into foreclosure. They don't care if you're a parent of a murdered child. They'll shut your phone off. They'll shut your electric off. So I had a very tough time, and as I admitted, I was -- I think I was suicidal at the time. I was trying to figure out a way to kill myself.
KING: Did you drink?
WALSH: I didn't really drink. I just -- I -- I think Jeffrey Reagan (ph), I keep talking about this guy, he said to me, I went handgliding, I did every crazy thing I could do, because I figured if I killed myself accidentally, that wouldn't destroy the rest of the family. And he got me out in a driveway and he said...
KING: Were there other children now?
WALSH: No, no...
KING: Still no? WALSH: Just Reve and I. Everything was falling apart. Couldn't work. I lost 20 pounds. And he said, "I know what you're trying to do." He said, "I know you. I've been your best friend your whole life." He says, "You're trying to kill yourself and make it look like an accident." He said, "You know what, it's not you," he said. "Your mother would be destroyed. Everybody that looked for Adam in your family, you would be a coward. If you killed yourself, no one could (UNINTELLIGIBLE)." He said, "You're not a coward." And he was right. And -- but if still -- it just got worse until I went to see the coroner, because when I went to see Dr. Ronald White (ph) I think was the pivotal thing.
We got 40,000 letters addressed to Hollywood, Florida about Adam. People looking for their children, sympathy letters, people's runaway children. I went up to try to claim Adam's remains. I went to see Dr. White (ph) at night. He's a nocturnal...
WALSH: I wanted to bury my son. And he is a medical examiner. And I went up to him and he said, "You look terrible." He said, "You look horrible." He said, "you're becoming doubly victimized by this. People kill themselves..."
KING: Wait, wait, wait. Is the killer caught yet?
WALSH: Not a suspect. And I said, "I want my son's remains, and I don't want you to give me any lectures. I've talked to rabbis, I've talked to priests, I've talked to ministers. They tell me it's God's plan. Get rid of all these things," and I said, "how do you do what you do up here?" Because he had four little girls' bodies. He was looking for a serial killer.
And he says, "I believe in a higher power." He said, "it doesn't matter whether it's Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist, it doesn't matter. You're given a free will."
And he said, "I use my free will to hunt these guys down, get the evidence together, give it to the cops, and put them on death row where they belong, because they hunt people like your son and these girls in this morgue that have been tortured to death, these 12- and 13-year-old girls." And he said, "And whoever killed your son used their free will to do their selfish, evil act." And he said, "There's a bill before Congress called the missing children's bill." He says, "Do you know the FBI has a computer to store stolen boats, planes, cars, guns but not missing children? They don't even take the cases of missing children into that big computer."
And he said, "This will take you down," he says. "Think of who the real victim was. Adam was the real victim." He said, you can do something. He said, "You launched the biggest search in the history of Florida. Look at all the things you did." He said, "Make sure Adam didn't die in vain." It was the best advice I ever got.
KING: Changed you that day?
WALSH: That night. I went back and I said, and Reve said to me, "You know what, Adam was the real victim." She started the first Adam Walsh Center out of our garage, and she and I went to Washington to take on the FBI and to take on the Justice Department.
KING: You also wrote a book.
WALSH: I wrote a book about it after all these years, I was so angry at the Hollywood Police when they opened the files after 15 years to see the bungling, the mistakes that were made.
And I love cops. And 150 of them died in the line of duty last year. But the cops on this case blew this case. And Otis Toole...
KING: You think they could have got to him before he was killed?
WALSH: Otis Toole died a horrible, horrible death in prison. I believe he's the guy, he's a pedophile, serial killer...
KING: It was never proven him?
WALSH: No. There was enough evidence to put him on death row, but they bungled the case so badly, they lost...
KING: So that is an unsolved case officially.
WALSH: Unsolved, officially...
KING: But you believe that the killer wound up in jail for another killing...
WALSH: He was.
KING: And died in jail?
WALSH: During that time that he was the suspect, main suspect, they lost his car. There was no DNA in those days. The back of the car was soaked with blood, the carpet, where he said he decapitated Adam.
KING: He said that?
WALSH: He said it. He confessed several times. They couldn't remember what lab they sent...
KING: So it's not considered unsolved, then.
WALSH: Well, I think most of the people in the law enforcement community and the Broward County district attorney believed that Otis Toole killed Adam Walsh. He was a pedophile, hunter, tracker that day, and a grandmother years later put him right there in the toy department. A lot of evidence points to him.
KING: And you believe it?
WALSH: I believe it. I reviewed the case. We looked at it. The DA, after the files were opened, the Broward County attorney said the Hollywood police did such a horrible case, we're going to look at it, and they came to that conclusion, basically.
KING: More of the John Walsh story on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: As long as I have breath and as long as there are people who care about children, I don't believe this issue will ever die down. With 1.8 million children missing, it's damn time somebody did something about it besides me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with John Walsh. There was even a TV movie. Daniel Travante (ph) played you.
WALSH: He was a big star at NBC at the time. "Hill Street Blues," and a wonderful couple, Linda Otto (ph) and Alan Lansberg (ph) made this TV movie...
KING: Did they do it realistically?
WALSH: Right on. Right to warts and all. And they came up with an idea that was unheard of in television. They convinced Graham Tinker (ph), who was the president of NBC at that time, to have the real Walshes come out at the end of the movie and show pictures of missing children, 55 missing children, and NBC manned a hotline -- there was no center except Reve's little center in our garage -- and that's supposed to be the most watched TV movie of all time. It aired three times, and they showed different kids at the ending of each movie, and they found 56 kids because of those movies.
KING: At the end of the show tonight, we're going to show pictures.
WALSH: Absolutely, that's the best way to find them, absolutely. And you've done it before, and I thank you.
KING: When did John Walsh become this activist?
WALSH: Well, I was so mad about the missing children's bill that I borrowed money from my partners and Reve and I went to the first hearing on Capitol Hill. No other parents of missing children -- murdered children, and we went up there and it was opposed by the FBI and the Justice Department.
WALSH: They didn't want to get into the kid business. It was a dirty business, an ugly business. They thought this was going to use their resources, that they would be dragged into everything -- stranger abductions, non-custodial, all we wanted them to do was to look nationwide for stranger abductions...
KING: Father abducting their own child...
WALSH: Yes, not that. Just stranger -- and to take the missing children's bill simply said that parents would have the right, if their local cop wouldn't do it, to put their kid's name in the computer. They opposed it. We want to Washington to the first hearing. I'll never forget it. I listened to the guy from the assistant attorney general saying can't be passed, can't be done. I listened to the FBI agent from assistant director of the FBI in front of us testifying, saying there shouldn't be a missing children's bill, we're not capable of handling this, and then Reve and I get up, and everybody walked off, the committee, except Don Edwards (ph). They all went to lunch.
And I get up there and I was told, be calm, be respectful, this is Congress, da-da-da, and I said, I wanted to go on the congressional record that everybody that walked away here is a coward, that we came all the way up here to talk about this, and you're not giving us the dignity to talk about this missing children's bill.
So then we went to the Justice Department. I heard they were having a big press conference on K Street, in the Justice Department. And I stood in the back, and there were hundreds of people and tons of cameras, and the same two guys were up there saying this bill will never pass. And the day before in "The New York Times," a Justice Department spokesman had said -- quote -- "That couple in Florida can go pound salt. This bill will never pass."
I get up to the front of the room, I jumped in front of the microphones, I was so angry. I said, "I'm Adam Walsh's father. This bill would simply give parents the dignity of knowing that their children were found, dead or alive." And they took me and threw me out of that room.
WALSH: Bodily. Two Justice Department guys took me out and threw me out on K Street.
KING: Ed Meese, the attorney general...
WALSH: He wasn't there that day, but his Justice Department.
WALSH: How ironic that about six years ago, after battling with the FBI, battling with the Justice Department, I was the FBI man of the year in that same building they threw me out of 20 years ago. Only in America.
KING: How did, out of all of this, "America's Most Wanted" come about?
WALSH: I started to go all over the country and testify before state legislatures...
KING: How were you eating? How were you earning a living?
WALSH: I was working -- we had fortunately -- I had some money from my partners who had bought me out, I think out of their generosity. I mean, I went from this style of lifestyle down here, but you don't care. You're the parent of a murdered child, you're angry, you're heartbroken, and none of that mattered anymore. The cars, the boats, the planes, you know, that stuff didn't matter.
So I was going around and working on legislation, Reve was working at the center, and all of a sudden Fox came to me in 1987 when they were one night -- they weren't even a real network. It was ABC, CBS and NBC. And they said, how would you like to host the first reality television program? And I asked them two questions, what is Fox? And what is a reality television program? And they said, it's a modeled after "Crime Watch UK." I said no for six months. I said, I don't know anything about television, I'm going...
WALSH: In England. Very successful. It caught people for 20 years, did recreations. And I turned them down, and they said, here's the first guy we want to profile -- I'll never forget the executive, first executive director, the executive producer of the show, and the guy named Tom Hurowitz (ph) from Fox said, "you've got to do this show, because the first guy we want to profile is an FBI top 10 fugitive." And I said, "so what?" And they said, "he escaped from five life sentences from Indiana." And I said, "so what?" And they said, "he's a child killer. He raped 17 women. He killed four people. He left a baby to freeze to death on -- 1-year-old baby to freeze to death on the roadside while he was raping the mother. He burned (ph) a family down, raped the woman, tied up the husband, and there was a 2-year-old child in that house. He's out there. He's been out there for 14 months. They don't have a clue where he is.
I said, "you know what," I went back to Reve, we had a lot of problems with threats. I had testified against NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association, a group of pedophiles.
KING: In fact, the FBI killed a couple of guys threatening you, right?
WALSH: That was after "America's Most Wanted" started, but we had moved three times that year, because we were getting threats over the phone, they were getting our phone number saying we had Megan, we had our new daughter, our beautiful daughter. "We're going to kill your daughter." And I said, Reve, I want to do this. I want to do this show because this is a child killer who's out there, and you and I know he'll kill again, but our life has been -- we had threats, we had to move to safe houses. She didn't hesitate. She said, that's what we do. That's what we're about. So I went to do the pilot. I didn't know which camera was on. I stood there, and I didn't know the red light was the camera that was on. I was staring in the wrong one. First show, "America's Most Wanted," February 1988, David James Roberts (ph), a sociopath, serial killer, serial rapist, at the top of the FBI's 10 most wanted. We nailed him in two days. He was running a shelter for the homeless on Staten Island. And that was our first capture...
KING: Your first -- the show was -- the guy was captured?
WALSH: A top 10 fugitive. Right off the top of the list.
KING: That's when I first met you. Right around the time -- I met you when the book came out.
WALSH: You actually met me when the missing children's bill was having so many problems...
KING: You came to Washington.
WALSH: And you had me on your radio show in Crystal City late at night so many times, and talked about that legislation, and talked about it. And when President Reagan signed it in the Rose Garden, you had me on your radio show, and you've been helping me for years, way before "America's Most Wanted." But...
KING: That was a one time only show? A special?
WALSH: No, Rupert Murdoch owned seven stations, seven owned and operated stations. It was Sunday night, Johnny Depp and "21 Jump Street," and "America's Most Wanted." And we were their first big hit. And we're the only show that's still on, 16 years, the only original show that's still on.
KING: We'll be right with John Walsh after this. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: Good evening from Washington, D.C. I'm John Walsh. Welcome to the premiere of "America's Most Wanted," a weekly nationwide criminal manhunt, a partnership with law enforcement agencies across the country. Using actors, we will recreate crimes of dangerous fugitives, often at the locations where they took place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: Einhorn. Einhorn. Einhorn. Einhorn. Why aren't you going...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) WALSH: Too bad. Too bad. Einhorn, if you're innocent, why are you such a coward and you don't go back to face justice? Why don't you go back? You're going to get a fair trial. You're going to get a fair trial. They're going to give you another trial. Too bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with a very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE tonight, a look at the life of an extraordinary guy, John Walsh.
Those death threats occurred after "America's" --- Who was threatening you?
WALSH: Well, we were profiling drug dealers and cartels and mobsters, and everything, and one guy, who is a real coward, who had killed his -- a woman who rejected him, he broke another woman's neck. I kept profiling him. He kept calling up on the 1-800 number and saying he was going to shoot me with a high-powered rifle. So the FBI started to look for him. They were really afraid. I had to stay -- I missed the Thanksgiving one time. I couldn't go home. I stayed in a hotel room for four days, with two bodyguards, and they tracked him down to Denver, and they shot him 17 times. And I asked the FBI agent, I said, "you know, why did you shoot him 17 times?" He said, "we love you, he threatened you, and I damn well wanted to make sure he was dead," which I thought was a great answer.
But they had another guy that threatened me, Gus Ferraci (ph), was killed in Greenwich Village, and thankfully those two guys are out there. I still get those threats, you know. We profile the worst of the worst. But I think it comes with the turf.
KING: How many people have you caught?
WALSH: Well, it's -- as of last week, 754 fugitives in 31 countries all over the world. It has never ceased to amaze me.
KING: They wanted to cancel the show when?
WALSH: About six years ago. A new guy came into Fox, didn't get it, thought the show can't be re-run, there is no money in syndication, although the show was always No. 1 in the 18- to 49 ratings. I know about the business now. The show made money for Fox. We were catching guys right and left, finding missing children. We found 34 missing kids.
KING: They had actually announced the cancellation.
WALSH: They announced it, and I said goodbye on the air, and I was crushed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: Thanks to this program, I've been able to help so many victims of crime and their families.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WALSH: We went off for four weeks. Everybody in law enforcement contacted Fox. Fifty-five members of Congress contacted Fox. Thirty- seven governors. I don't think 37 governors could agree on how many stars and stripes are on the flag, but they all went after -- and they said it's a business decision. But when 200,000 good American citizens wrote Fox and said, this is wrong, we were the shortest canceled show in the history of television, and we're going stronger than ever.
KING: What did you do during those four weeks?
WALSH: I just -- I went home. I was in shock. I didn't know what to do. I just said, where are the parents of missing children going to go?
KING: This is pre-cable? A cable network would have come to you right away.
WALSH: Oh, yes. Oh, I had lots of offers. I had lots of...
KING: You did?
WALSH: Oh, I did. I had tons of offers. But I said, this is my passion, this is something, you know...
KING: Why not take the show to someplace else?
WALSH: I could have. I could have, but I had such loyalty to Fox, and I still do, and I just -- I waited and I waited and I said, something has got to happen. This is wrong. This is wrong. This is a good use of television.
KING: How did you get the call that they were bringing it back? Who made the call?
WALSH: David Hill, who is the head of Fox Sports, that Australian guy, I love that guy. You know David Hill. He's called back and he says, "you know, they finally came to their senses. Half the GMs of all the Fox stations are mad, they're mad at Rupert" -- you know, Rupert Murdoch -- and he's launched the show -- "they're mad," and he says, "Mate, you're coming back on. I'm building you a new set. You do good work, and we need you. And people are pissed." And I said, "great. I'm saddled up. I'll be there." And we're still going.
KING: And that's becoming -- now, how have you dealt with celebrity?
WALSH: I don't look at -- I don't look at myself as a celebrity.
KING: But people recognize you.
WALSH: Yes, oh, yes, everywhere. I mean, I have two shows, as you say, and I'm very proud of working for NBC in the daytime and working for Fox, and I think it helps me -- for example, this year, the Amber Alert. I got to go and walk Capitol Hill again. And I didn't have to wait an hour to see any senator. I was in in two minutes. And the ones that were holding it up and dicking around, putting stuff, I got to say, well, you know what? You don't want me to go on "The Today Show" and LARRY KING and on "The John Walsh Show" and tell everybody you're holding up the Amber Alert. And they went, "Now, Mr. Walsh, now wait a second. We can talk about this. We can talk about this."
And it got passed. So for me, not only do we catch criminals, we find missing children. And this year, we found Elizabeth Smart. That's the best job in television. When I got that call from Ed Smart from Sandy (ph), Utah, from that police department -- he hadn't even called his wife. He said, "You never gave up, John." He said, "Even when Richard Ricci, the suspect, died in prison of the aneurysm," the guy that had shot a cop and robbed their house, even when everybody said, and some people in that police department said I was a loose cannon because I was showing the composite of this guy Emmanuel, and I talked to Ed on the phone late at night, you know, don't give up, Ed, you've got to keep your family together. When those two couples, that never miss "America's Most Wanted," walked out and saw this creep in his Taliban clothes and his hair, and they didn't know that that was Elizabeth Smart, and he went to that police department and he called me up and he said, "Elizabeth's alive. You never gave up." I'll never forget it. And you know what he said? "That's one for Adam." Great day. Great day.
KING: So that coroner was right. And so Adam's death, in a sense...
WALSH: Started a lot of things (ph).
KING: Helped a lot of things.
WALSH: Changed a lot of things. That little boy's sweetness and memory, helped me and thousands of good people, helped me change things, change the way police look at things, change hundreds and hundreds of laws...
KING: Do you understand all parents who go a little crazed? The fellow in San Francisco who wears a button with his daughter's picture on it. She's been gone a long time. They seem -- it must be wacky.
WALSH: It's unbearable. It's unbearable. You said it to me off the air. You love those two little boys so much, don't you?
KING: Yes, I couldn't imagine living.
WALSH: It breaks your heart, it breaks your spirit, but you know what? You fight back. You remember who the victim was. And I think the not knowing is the worst. I know he's in a better place.
KING: You do believe that?
WALSH: I do believe that, and I do believe I'll see him again. I do. KING: Have you learned anything about the killers during this time? Who kills kids?
WALSH: I studied -- I studied them more than any cop, I think, in the history of this country. I've been doing it for so long. I've caught -- well, this is not me, the American public, I've caught more pedophiles, more child killers, more serial killers than anybody in the history of this country through that television show, and these are people who have a predilection for sex with children and exploitation of children, and they hunt them. They hunt them. They know how reprehensible they -- and they're the toughest to catch. They are the toughest of all the fugitives I do.
WALSH: Smart. Don't ever tell anybody.
KING: What is the difference between those who sexually harm and those who kill?
WALSH: Big difference. The pedophile priest -- and you and I talked about it -- you know, I'm a Catholic, and really, I'm just appalled because if you molested the child, you'd be in jail, if I molested a child. Eight hundred priests have been accused of molesting children -- in my opinion, they all belong in jail, and I'm still a Catholic.
There are people who just -- that is their sexual gratification. Of children. The power...
WALSH: And there are the ones who hunt and kill them. There are the ones who love the killing, the ones who love the brutalization and the torture and the killing, and they are the ones who don't stop and they are the ones who are still (ph) dangerous. In the last year, we had a terrible summer, from Danielle van Dam, to Samantha Runnion, it was a tough year for children last summer.
KING: Back with our remaining moments on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE with John Walsh right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: Lois and Ed Smart are joining me in their first interview together since their beautiful daughter Elizabeth was found. And it's just so wonderful to see you guys. And I go to say, Elizabeth is with you. She's going to play the harp for us later on, and I -- it's just -- I'm thrilled to see her so happy and vibrant and see you guys together on this special day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with John Walsh. In our remaining moments, we want to touch some other bases. Your marriage problems continue. Your wife filed for divorce in 1999, then changed her mind. Then you admitted on this program that you had relationships with other women.
WALSH: Yes, I did. I apologized to her, and I've -- I went off the richter there somewhere, and...
KING: This was during the height of all of your fame? Do you think that had something to do with it?
WALSH: I think my inability to deal with my problems -- I never went to a therapist for 20 years. I think it just -- my own selfishness, my own stupidity, my own ego, all of those things, and I hurt my children, and I hurt my wife, and she's a good woman, and she, you know, we're working very hard at this.
KING: Are you in therapy with her, or?
WALSH: Both of us. Yes. I recommend it to everybody.
KING: Does it help?
WALSH: I do -- I think it helps. I think especially crime victims, and it's not an excuse, people that have been through an awful traumas, I think therapy is a terrific thing, and I thought, you know, I'm the tough guy, I'm the toughest guy, I mean, I can deal with this myself -- I couldn't deal with it. And you know, you thinking not hurting somebody, you know, women can be an addiction, and you have to deal with it...
KING: So you understand men who have that problem?
WALSH: Oh, I had it for years and didn't think I had it.
KING: How have your children treated you when it was made public?
WALSH: I think it was a terrific embarrassment for them, but they're wonderful kids, I apologized to them, and they said, you know, you're a human being. You tell a lot of good things. You know, you're a good dad.
KING: Everyone was shocked that you so freely admitted it when the story broke, because most guys in that situation -- show me the proof, or, you know, give me the DNA.
WALSH: I think you've got to be a man about it. You've got to step up to the plate. If you've made a mistake, apologize for it, admit it. If you did something wrong and you hurt somebody, admit it. I don't get the denials. Look at what it did to other people that denied it. A president almost got impeached; Gary Condit should have said the first day, you know, I had an affair with Chandra Levy, and he threw that investigation off course.
I made a mistake. I made a lot of mistakes. And I hurt -- but, you know, that's the way I was raised, if you do something wrong, you know, stand up, be a man and admit it. And I admitted it, and I apologized, and I'm doing the best I can.
KING: Are you overly worried about your little boy, Hayden? I mean, he looks like Adam, right?
WALSH: I know.
KING: He's a little older than Adam was. Aren't you like triple concerned?
WALSH: These kids have grown up with bodyguards, they've grown up with security, they know what I do for a living. We're very street smart. And they have to have a life. I'm very proud of how normal they are and how successful they are, and our daughter in college and our 18-year-old son -- I worry about Hayden, but, you know, I don't -- I can't live life like a normal person. I never -- I'll always be the father of a murdered child, I'll always be that guy that hunted down the worst of the worst. I know it comes with the turf, but -- and we're very cautious but -- very, very cautious, but it's something you have to deal with.
KING: Does Hayden know this story?
WALSH: He does. He knows all about Adam. He knows about everything. And yesterday I was at a bill signing with Governor Pataki. We got the video voyeurism bill passed. Only in five states is it a felony for these creeps that videotape -- this teacher in Rochester, New York videotapes little boys like yours and little girls in the bathroom, and these guys put video cameras in apartments and buildings, and stuff like this. And Hayden and Callahan were there then, the two boys, and you know, they were there and they just said, it was so wonderful. You know, we had bodyguards and cops all around, and stuff, and both of them said after this, good job, dad, good job. You know, there for the bill signing. So they know they have to be cautious.
KING: Do you keep pictures of Adam around?
WALSH: Everywhere. Everywhere. You know, it's -- he's part of our life. I kept his model ship. I kept everything. Gave them to his brothers and his sister, and it's just real tough at the holidays, because there should be another person.
KING: How have you enjoyed doing the daytime?
WALSH: I love it, because you know what? I -- NBC and I, we have the same philosophy. I think America has seen enough transvestite midgets from Mars to last a while, and so we're trying to take it up a notch, and I get to deal with a lot of subjects that have never been done on daytime television, and a lot of guests come on my show that would never go on any other television shows. I'm proud of that. And the response has been great, and the ratings have been very respectable. And we're renewed for next year. I'm trying to reinvent daytime television. And NBC is giving me the chance, and Fox lets me go out and saddle up and catch those bad guys on Saturday night. KING: And the radio thing is what?
WALSH: One minute a day, breaking cases of missing children. You know, we've got a little girl that's missing. We can do it on a Monday and talk about it, like the Amber Alert. Behind the scenes. People are fascinated by true crime. I tell them behind the scenes or I tell them a fugitive, and they can visit our Web site. We get about 10 million hits every two weeks on our Web site, and we've caught two FBI top 10 fugitives off the amw Web site, amw.com. So now we live in the world of the Internet, so the radio show is to say, Hey, this is who I am looking for, this is where I need your help, visit my Web site.
KING: Does it ever get to be a burden, being this relentless?
WALSH: You know what? I think sometimes I have the toughest job in television, because all week I see the worst of society, and the autopsy photos and the morgue shots and all that type of stuff. And then on Saturday nights, every now and then, we hit a home run. We get a real bad guy. We get a missing child back. "The John Walsh Show," there were so many thousands of e-mails to Albany that it forced that legislature to pass that video voyeurism bill. Stephanie Fuller was the bill -- was named after that.
I look at it as -- I am privileged. I am honored when people come up to me and say, good job, I watch your show. It's a privilege. It's an honor. It's a lot of work, it's tough, it's exhausting, but gosh, it's great work and I'm lucky to have it.
KING: Ever think of writing another book?
WALSH: I've written three books. They've been wonderful best- sellers, and you know, right now I'm so busy I'm working seven days a week.
KING: I know. You're everywhere.
KING: Thank you, John.
WALSH: And you've been a great friend over these years. You really have helped me.
KING: Thanks for a great hour.
WALSH: Thank you.
KING: John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back," host of his own syndicated daytime show "The John Walsh Show," and his new series on ABC Radio, daily 60-second spots on current crime cases.
We promised you pictures. We'll show them to you of missing children. We thank you very much for joining us. "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown is next. For John Walsh, yours truly, Larry King, good night.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com