Callahan Walsh Reveals What It Was Like Growing Up On Set With His Dad, John Walsh

Callahan Walsh has been a supervising producer for America's Most Wanted and co-creator of The Hunt With John Walsh. He's once again working with his father on the Investigation Discovery show In Pursuit With John Walsh.

January 03, 2019
Callahan Walsh [Investigation Discovery]

Callahan Walsh [Investigation Discovery]

Callahan Walsh [Investigation Discovery]

By: Christine Colby

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In May 2018, Callahan Walsh appeared at CrimeCon in Nashville, Tennessee, answering questions posed by Darren Kavinoky.

Callahan is the son of John and Revé Walsh, who have been advocates for missing children and their families for all of Callahan’s life, ever since their first son, Adam, was notoriously abducted and murdered.

Callahan has also thrown himself into the cause, and has been a supervising producer for America’s Most Wanted and co-creator of The Hunt With John Walsh. And now he will be working with his father again, on the new Investigation Discovery show In Pursuit With John Walsh.

Adam Walsh was kidnapped from a Sears store in South Florida in 1981. Revé, while shopping, had told her son, “Stay right here; I’m one aisle over,” according to Callahan.

Adam was watching some older boys play video games when he was forced out of the store by an untrained security guard. His corpse was discovered two weeks later.

Callahan says that law enforcement was little help to his parents at that time. “It was pre–Amber Alert days. Cops didn’t even want to start looking for Adam until 48 hours had passed,” he revealed.

Additionally, he mentions that the police lost evidence pertaining to the case, including some bloody carpet from the car of suspect Ottis Toole. Toole would end up confessing to the crime more than once, but also recanted his confessions.

Callahan says that the police in Hollywood, Florida, wouldn’t take Toole’s confession seriously and believed he was trying for infamy and glory for having committed a nationally known crime.

Toole was never officially charged with the murder of Adam Walsh, and died in prison from health issues while serving time for other crimes he’d committed with accomplice Henry Lee Lucas.

Callahan reveals that despite never having met his brother Adam, he was a big part of his life and he was always aware of the brother that came before him. “We celebrated Adam’s life and his birthdays. I always knew that Adam was a brother that I had never met,” he says.

Even though they had lost one son, Callahan says he didn’t feel robbed of his childhood. “I was allowed to play outside, but I had safety rules. They didn’t overprotect. The channeled their energy into making sure what happened to Adam didn’t happen again.”

Despite the lack of closure in the Adam Walsh case, Callahan says that it did change the way missing children are investigated, after hard work and advocacy on the part of his parents. “My father was a hotel builder when Adam was abducted. Adam’s case was one of the first missing children cases to reach national attention. Those cases were normally just regional news,” he shares.

But after what happened to Adam, John and Revé started receiving “letters by the bagful from parents of other missing children, and a lot from African-American and Latino parents whose children’s cases weren’t getting any media attention,” Callahan says.

His parents then started the Adam Walsh Outreach Center — “from their garage in South Florida, set up on a card table,” he says. The also went to Washington D.C. to lobby Congress.

And next came the big step; the creation of the influential television show America’s Most Wanted.

Callahan shares that John didn’t want to do the show at first, as “Fox was really new, it only had programming one night a week, so he was hesitant.” But America’s Most Wanted ended up being one of Fox’s first hits, back when they had programming on Sunday nights only.

Callahan says he basically grew up with the show. “My father was traveling so much for the show, and we dropped him off so often at the airport with my mother, that I thought that he worked at the airport!” he remembers.

Of course, later on, he joined the team. “It’s an honor to work on the show; it’s a legacy program,” he says. “We rescued 61 missing children and captured more criminals than there were episodes. We have trained operators answering the hotline — not law enforcement — because not everybody wants to talk to the cops.”

He remembers that there was a bell in the producer bull pen, and every time a criminal was caught, the producer responsible for that episode would go ring that bell. He shares a story about the first time the bell was rung:

“David James Roberts was the first criminal caught by the show. It was the first episode. He raped and murdered a woman and killed her family, then set the house on fire. He was in prison, but had escaped by faking a health issue. He raped another woman and left her baby on the side of the road in the middle of winter. America’s Most Wanted ran his profile. He was hiding in plan sight, running a homeless shelter in Staten Island. He had just won an award, and his picture had run in the paper.”

Callahan recommends some best practices to children to stay safe. These are the Four Rules of Personal Safety from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children:

  • Check first before going anywhere
  • Take a friend everywhere you go
  • Tell people “no” if they try to touch or hurt you
  • Tell a trusted adult if anyone makes you feel sad, scared, or confused

There are other online safety recommendations on KidSmartz.org and NetSmartz.org.

Callahan points out, “Threats are changing on a day-to-day basis. Sextortion wasn’t even around a few years ago. But predators will get a photo of a child and blackmail them.”

Continuing their mission to capture fugitives and bring missing children home, Callahan and his father are finally coming to ID to engage its active audience in the hunt for justice.

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