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Interview With John Walsh

Aired August 8, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: John Walsh is back, father of a murdered son, host of "America's Most Wanted," crusader for keeping kids safe, and the enemy of bad guys on the run. Walsh for the hour with your phone calls.

A couple of quick reminders: tomorrow night Frank Melero, one of the young men who was with those two girls, remember, parked in a car when a man took off with them. They were subsequently physically attacked, the man was killed. Frank Melero is with us tomorrow night.

Bob Costas talks baseball Saturday.

Bob Costas talks baseball, John Walsh talks crime tonight.

But let's get into first things first. One of the tabloids is running with a front page story about you and other women and leaving your wife, so you want to straighten it out?

JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": Well, you know, I've been married to this woman for 31 years. This is the mother of Adam and our three other children.

KING: Adam, your late son.

WALSH: Yes, our little boy that was murdered. And, you know, I have -- I made some real bad mistakes, and I'm very sorry.

And I love her very much, and I'm working on my issues and trying to straighten my life out, and hopefully this marriage we could keep it together. It's been...

KING: She's here with you tonight.

WALSH: Yes. She's a wonderful woman, I love her very much and...

KING: Mistakes were with the other woman? Or is the...

WALSH: Oh, absolutely. You have to be a real man. I think you have to step up to the plate and say, you know, I did the crime, you do the time.

And so I'm working on those issues, and very sorry for hurting her, and hope that we can work through it. I mean, this is...

KING: Not easy.

WALSH: This is a beautiful woman. And, you know, I have my problems and I'm working on them. And I hope that for the sake of our children and, you know, for all the time she's invested in me and stood behind me, that I can work this out.

KING: I think one of the key things is that it won't happen again.

WALSH: Absolutely. I'm absolutely determined that it won't happen again.

KING: Before we move to other things, Beth Veglahn is in the studio tonight. She was on our show last night, and she was the fiancee of Mr. Avila, who subsequently, after they broke up, and while they were together, attacked her child and her niece. Was freed by a jury. That got Mrs. Runnion very mad on this show.

I know you got to meet Ms. Veglahn. What do you make of that story?

WALSH: Well I think it's, again, another case of the criminal justice system failing children.

I mean, here are two little girls that were plainly, obviously molested by this creep and a jury acquitted them. And he, you know, word is that he threatened them and said, you know, if I go down, you're going to go down. And the system didn't believe these girls, and...

KING: Did not.

WALSH: ... and this guy was allowed to be out there.

And this woman is so courageous because she had a lot to do with his capture. She recognized the -- you know, the composite and said, this is the creep who got away with molesting my daughter and my -- and a relative. And I believe he is the kidnapper. And we used to live in that area, and this is the guy.

And I believe that she singlehandedly broke the case, which took a lot of courage.

And you know, this is what bothers me so much is these guys know how to work the system, and they beat the system.

KING: But you don't disagree with the jury system?

WALSH: No, I don't. I disagree with the way we treat children in the courtroom. I disagree with that we don't give them the dignity and we don't give them the ability for them to tell their stories, and we don't have the prosecutors trained properly...

KING: Because you can confuse a child, right? WALSH: You know Larry, if you ever went into a courtroom and watched these defense attorneys keep a 5-year-old child on the witness stand. You know, you have a 3-year-old son. If you claim sexual abuse -- and he was on that witness stand for six hours, it's easy to confuse a child.

I've heard defense attorneys say something like, now, he did this on, what was the date? And how long he did it? Five days, five hours? Badgering a child.

And a judge with any guts would step up and say, hey, you're out of order. But I've seen judges sit back there and let these guys cross-examine a child.

When we realize that children are a precious resource and they need to be treated with dignity in the court system and given just as much rights as the criminal, then maybe we'll nail some of these guys and these juries will believe them.

But until we realize that they're human beings, and treat them that way, and give them the armor so that they can tell their stories.

KING: So do you join Mrs. Runnion in being angry at the jury?

WALSH: Absolutely, because you know what? If the jury -- if the criminal justice system -- the jury's only there for a little while. They don't know the details. If the DA, if they prepared the case, if the cops had better resources, better training, if they knew how to put sexual abuse cases together better. If we paid our cops $85,000 or $90,000 a year -- you know, we pay these football players who get arrested for everything you can name $5 million a year, but we pay a cop -- what are the resources they've got?

Absolutely. I am so angry because a guy like this should have been in jail. He shouldn't have been out to be able to get this little girl, you know. And, you know, it's a another failure of our criminal justice system and the poor way that they treat children.

KING: The van Dam case is now with the jury. They are deliberating now. I understand court's closed tomorrow, but they'll continue to deliberate.

Now, we don't like to -- we have to presume innocence. We know how a jury's...

WALSH: I don't have to presume innocence.

KING: No, you don't.

WALSH: I was down there. And my feeling, the John Walsh theory: Done; he's toast. They've got DNA, blood on his coat, fingerprints in the motor home, her hairs. I think this guy's going down, and I think he deserves the death penalty.

That's my theory. You know, I believe -- I don't believe in vigilantism or violation of anybody's rights. But the evidence is overwhelming. I think it's, again, what they did to this family in the courtroom, what the defense attorney did, and...

KING: Putting them on...

WALSH: Putting them on trial is a revictimization of the victims. And, you know, at some point we're going to have to realize that we just can't get away with this.

You know, I don't want to give up any civil liberties, believe me, absolutely not. But the van Dam's lifestyle is apples. And the fact that a guy that lived two doors down that became obsessed with their daughter when she came and sold Girl Scout cookies and broke in the house that night, and there's overwhelming evidence that he went out and raped her and dumped her body, is oranges. It's apples and oranges.

And being the judge, which you have to do because of our system, allowed to destroy this family because of their lifestyle. I don't get it. I don't think it's fair. But in my...

KING: You don't think the questioning was fair?

WALSH: Pardon? No, I think the badgering, the days that it went on and on and on and on and on, I think you deal with it. You deal with it in a short amount of time. And the judge says, OK, present this -- what you think this has in relation to this case and let's move on. A good judge would do that.

KING: Why were you not impressed by the entomology?

WALSH: Because -- you and I have talked about this before. Whoever -- you know, whoever pays the expert first, whether it's the defense attorney or the DA, you know, everybody expects them to be believable.

You know, a great expert, whoever gives him the most money, he's going to go testify on that behalf, whether it's the criminal or whether it's the prosecution.

So, you know, the prosecution did a great job. They got two entomologists, two experts who refuted the other two. So it's up to the jury.

KING: John, would you frankly agree that because of what happened to you, because of the nature of the program you do, that you tend to believe in guilt upon arrest?

WALSH: I don't. I truly, over these years, I honestly...

KING: You would work hard to free someone you thought was...

WALSH: Look at when I did Bambi Bembenek. Remember the "Playboy" -- famous case in Wisconsin? That was a woman who, I believe, was railroaded by the criminal justice system. She was sentenced to life in prison and escaped.

I did the case because I thought I would catch her and get her a new trial. And as it turned out, to make it a short story, she got caught in Northern Canada, we got her a new trial and she was found to be innocent, and she's out there free.

And she says to me, you know something, you believed in my innocence the whole time. I'm the reason -- you're the reason that I'm on the streets walking free.

KING: So it's false to presume that...

WALSH: No. And you know what? I hunt down fugitives. These are the guys who chose to run. Most of all, if they weren't innocent, why not turn yourselves in and not get killed by a SWAT team? Turn yourselves in, take a chance with the system.

So I believe -- I find them, myself and the American people and people throughout the world who have been caught, people in 31 countries, bring them in and let a jury decide. It's not up to me. Let a jury decide.

KING: A lot of people might presume in that "Playboy" case, if she broke out of prison she was guilty.

WALSH: Absolutely. But you know what? She had no money, she had exhausted her appeals. The evidence was overwhelming.

I still believe that her husband had -- you know, the public opinion by a lot of prosecutors are that her ex-husband was a cop hired a hit man to kill his ex-wife and to blame it on her, and she took the fall for it.

But you know what, she's out now because I believe that she was innocent and we got her a new trial. And in this case, the criminal justice system did prevail.

KING: We'll take a break and come back. We'll be taking a lot of calls for John Walsh tonight.

As we go to break, here's part of the prosecutor's summation today in the van Dam case.


JEFF DUSEK, WESTERFIELD PROSECUTOR: If by chance someone could cause a miracle, create a miracle, just a little one for a short amount of time and bring Danielle back to life, just for a moment, just to help us out, bring her back to life, bring her into this courtroom and ask her, Danielle, please tell us, who did this to you?

She'd turn, I've already told you. I've already told you. I've told you with my hair and where you found it.




STEVEN FELDMAN, WESTERFIELD DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They knew, without being able to put him there at the right time, they recognize they didn't have clear and unambiguous evidence. They knew the evidence was susceptible of more than one reasonable interpretation, and they've been desperately seeking clear and unambiguous, meaning clear, capable of only one interpretation. We're still looking. That smoking gun we're trying to find. We might see the shadows of the outline of the gun, but they don't got the smoking gun.


KING: My guest is John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted." Will be taking your calls in a little while. That was the defense attorney in his summation. You don't like him?

WALSH: You know, I don't know how these guys sleep at night. I mean...

KING: He had a job to do.

WALSH: Yes, and he's been -- and this guy Westerfield's got a couple million dollars, and he's going to get some more clients. And he has a job to do, absolutely. He needs representation. But I was down there at the arraignment, way back when -- the day before they found her body.

And he came in the courtroom, and the van Dams were completely crushed, and asked to be brought in by a back door to avoid the media onslaught. And the first thing he mentioned in the courtroom that day in the arraignment was nothing about David Westerfield his client. He petitioned the judge, he said I want the same ingress and egress, the same access to the courtroom, special treatment that the van Dams have.

That's pretty arrogant. I mean, I don't know how these guys sleep at night. But the smoking gun theory, forget about it.

KING: Cases like his and Avila you favor the death penalty?

WALSH: Well, absolutely, both of them. I've been chasing and tracking pedophiles for 20 years, since Adam was murdered, studying them. There's no rehabilitation for them. They reoffend and are repeat offenders almost as often as burglars.

KING: Do you know why very few of them murder?

WALSH: I think they haven't progressed to that place yet. They haven't gotten caught enough times, and a lot of them will say -- and I've looked at letters that go back and forth from prison between pedophiles. Because they write each other letters and they talk and brag about to each other, never to anybody else, because they are the toughest criminal to catch, child killers and pedophiles. I think they progress along. After they've gotten caught a couple times and they've been in prison and that they're vilified in prison and if they weren't in that disordered sex offender wing, they'd be dead in the prison yard. So I think then, they say -- you know, I read a letter from one pedophile to another, he said, you know, once they know you and they can identify you, you got to kill them, and a child's body is easy to get away with. But most of them don't kill, because they don't really have the guts. They're cowards.

KING: Is it sexual or is it power?

WALSH: I think it's both. I think it's power. I think that their predilection and preference is sex with children. That's what gets them off, or whatever you want to call it. That's what they feel, you know, this is an obsession with them. And I've never met one that had any remorse about it. I never, ever interviewed one or seen a study where they have any remorse.

They'll say one thing. I'm incurable, you need to separate me from children. They put the burden on society. So I say, you know what I do? If you cross that horrible line that you can't conceive, you've got two children, you cannot conceive of someone killing -- you and I have talked about it many times -- killing your son. Once they've crossed that line, you know what I say? Send them to the next life. They can come back as a dolphin or a butterfly or whatever. Don't ever let them stay on this planet.

KING: You mentioned civil liberties earlier. And Attorney General Ashcroft has had a proposal about people turning people in, T.I.P.S., the cable operator, the guy who comes to fix your thing.

WALSH: Right.

KING: President Bush first announced it. It has caused an uproar among some critics. Are you a critic of it?

WALSH: First of all, there's so much disinformation. I mean, the ACLU put out a press release the other day saying that the Operation T.I.P.S. was going to be handled by "America's Most Wanted." That's a blatant lie, a falsehood.

He said "America's Most Wanted" should change its name and it should be the "Big Brother Network" instead of Fox. I mean, the American Civil Liberties Union is about civil liberties. What about my civil liberties?

I mean, why put out a press release that's a blatant lie? We don't have anything to do with Operation T.I.P.S. We don't take the calls, we don't offer the rewards. That's truly the Justice Department. So the ACLU, they ought to practice what they preach with the lies and...

KING: Is there anything you fear in it? It sounds a little (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it can be made a case, turn your father in.

WALSH: Good point. But I'll tell you what, for 16 years, every Saturday night, people, average citizens in America, have made a call to the "America's Most Wanted" hotline, and we've taken down 721 of the most dangerous fugitives in the history of this country. Fifteen guys off the FBI's 10 most wanted, recovered 24 missing children.

Never one instance of vigilantism. And I know these people are behind bars because the American public cares. Now, if you know something about a fugitive or a terrorist, think about those 2,800 people that died in ground zero. I was there.

KING: But how about you're fixing the cable at someone's house and he looks funny to you. You turn him in. That's fascistic, isn't it?


WALSH: I know exactly -- I know exactly what you're saying. But we get 3,000 to 4,000 tips every week. And we weed through them. We know who the nuts are that call us and the people that want to turn in their relative or their ex-wife or the boyfriend, and you weed through it and you get some reasonable information.

KING: You're not fearful of it?

WALSH: You know something, Larry, I say one thing. Having been at ground zero and saw what went on down there, be the first guy, the only media guy allowed at ground zero. And seeing those firemen and all those heroes down there and those 2,800 people, I mean, we have only caught two off of the FBI's 22 most wanted terrorists. They're here, they're just waiting for the next thing, for the suicide bomber that's going to blow up Union Station or Nate Nell's deli (ph) in Beverly Hills -- I hope not.

But I'm saying they're there, they're waiting, they're planning. And I know one thing, that the public aren't vigilantes, and the government isn't going to knock down your door and arrest you because somebody said that you looked Middle Eastern or whatever.

And they're going to check you and they're going to be thorough about it, and they're not going to violate your civil liberties. But if you make that tip that tells somebody about a truck bomber like McVeigh, and prevent the innocent death of people, you're doing the right thing. You're doing the right thing.

KING: The "John Walsh Show" debuts September 9. What's on the first show? Give me a hint.

WALSH: I'm going to be -- I'm going to be from ground zero. It'll be the anniversary. I was the only guy allowed at ground zero, and I've been told I will be the only media guy allowed there also. And I'm going to revisit what I saw there...

KING: Two days before...

WALSH: Two days before it. I'm going to talk about it, what I saw.

KING: Going to have people, guests with you?

WALSH: Yes, I'm going to have people that survived it and people that lost loved ones in there, and talk about what we need to do and what we need to do with terrorists. It is not going to be a maudlin type thing, it is going to be my style, action. This is a horrible thing.

KING: You were the first one allowed in. Because we were there two weeks later.

WALSH: I was there 16 hours. I was the only guy allowed down there. It was still burning when I got down there.

KING: Your show will have a regular set, though?


WALSH: Which is a real honor. Ed Wilson and Linda Finnell at NBC daytime, they're building me my own studio at 30 Rockefeller Center, which is really an honor.

KING: And like September 9, will you at other times go out with the show?

WALSH: I think I'll be the only talk show to travel. When "America's Most Wanted" is on the ground, whether it's Oklahoma bombing, or the Texas Seven is Texas, the talk show will go with me. NBC News has agreed to do all my taped pieces. So I'll have the resources for the first time ever -- a talks show to have a nightly news bureau's resources. It's going to be quite an experience.

KING: Back with more of John Walsh. In a little while your phone calls. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "America's Most Wanted")

WALSH (voice-over): Seven-year-old Erica Pratt was playing outside her home when police say two men drove up in a car and snatched her from the street. Then came a demand for ransom.

KIRSTEN PRICE, FAMILY FRIEND: They called and was like, we got your granddaughter, if you don't give us $150,000, we're going to kill her.

WALSH: Erica is home safe tonight. The men who cops say kidnapped her, James Burns and Edward Johnson, were captured. They're in jail. Finally, we have a story with a happy ending.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "America's Most Wanted")

WALSH (voice-over): O.C. Smith is a name is well known in Memphis. He's the medical examiner. It's a high profile job but not one that usually brings death threats.

A cleaning man finds three home-made bombs in a stairwell outside Dr. Smith's office. Agents safely remove the explosive devices. They now know they're dealing with a potential killer. But even after the letters and the bombs, Dr. Smith didn't really think he was in much danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've gotten no threats of late?


WALSH: But that was about to change.


KING: Our guest is John Walsh. What was that all about?

WALSH: That's a medical examiner who was getting threats related to a case that he testified against. And wouldn't you know, after that interview where he said, I haven't gotten any threats lately, they found him in a parking lot duct taped with a bomb attached to his chest wrapped up in barbed wire, beaten severely but not dead.

And fortunately, someone called the bomb squad and they detonated the bomb before it blew him to smithereens. And now we're looking for that assailant on "America's Most Wanted."

KING: Is there an obvious lead from the trial?

WALSH: Well, I mean, they don't have enough to go on. They think it's related to a murder case that he was involved with, and he provided the forensic evidence that took this guy down, but they can't pinpoint who the suspect is.

KING: They had the bomb attached to him?

WALSH: Duct taped to his body. He was wrapped, after they beat him up -- well, he had barbed wire. If he'd had moved, he'd have set it off. Thank God he was near unconscious. And they detonated it.

KING: What do you make of the -- We're going to have an interview tomorrow -- we taped it a day or two ago, with Frank Melero, one of the boys who was made to be tied up while two girls were taken and subsequently raped, and then he was killed, Roy Ratliff.

WALSH: Right. Thank God for the "Amber Alert.

KING: That's what I'm getting to.

WALSH: That's what saved those girls' life. And this creep, of course, that guy was wanted for 10 counts of sexual molestation of children. They weren't able to find him to bring him in. The "Amber Alert" started in Texas after little Amber Hagerman was murdered, the 9-year-old girl.

We did the case on "America's Most Wanted." KING: Oh, it's named after a girl? Not after a color...

WALSH: No, Amber Hagerman was a little girl who was murdered brutally. We've never found her killer. I profiled this -- the case on "America's Most Wanted" about five times. But in honor of her daughter, her mother came up with this idea that the emergency broadcasting system breaks into radio and TV with updates on tornadoes and hurricanes, what's more important than a missing child?

So they introduced it in Texas years ago, and they found 16 children over the last five years. It's in six years now, and I'm asking broadcasters all over the country, don't wait until it becomes a state law. Introduce it. I went to the New York State Broadcasters Convention and was the keynote speaker. You do a lot of the same stuff.

KING: Yes.

WALSH: And I asked him, if your child was missing, and you were the GM of a radio station or a TV station, wouldn't you put your kid on there? And that's how it saved these girls' lives.

You know, one of those girls stabbed that guy in the neck, and the other one hit him over the head with a bottle and broke it. He got so mad she was probably about two minutes away from murdering them. He had already raped them. He was ready to murder them and kill them, and that wonderful citizen saw that highway sign, the "Amber Alert," the description of the vehicle, called it into 911 and saved those kids' lives.

The Amber Alert should be in every state in this nation. It absolutely saves children's lives. Abducted -- stranger abducted children, it saves their lives, because time is of the essence.

KING: What do you make of that young girl, Erica Pratt, who got away?

WALSH: Unbelievable -- Larry, you know it's been a bad summer. You know that. I mean, I've been on case after case since January of missing children. And here's two scumbag lowlifes who kidnap her because they think her relatives have $150,000. This was actually a ransom case, which is very, very rare.

And they put her in an abandoned building in the basement. She chews through the duct tape, breaks a window and crawls out of the basement and saves her own life. Because if they didn't get the money, they were going to kill her so there would be no witness to it. So it -- unbelievable -- I mean, when I heard that -- we were getting ready to do the story -- I did cartwheels. That was phenomenal.

KING: The president is going to convene a seminar September 24 at George Washington University in Washington, a conference on protecting kids.

WALSH: God bless him.

KING: You're going to go to that?

WALSH: I'm going to help organize it.

KING: Are we in fact doing a better job than we were 10 years ago?

WALSH: Absolutely. Absolutely...

KING: We just hear more about these?

WALSH: Well, the media has finally gotten the message, that American public -- I've said it to many people like yourself and Connie -- I mean Katie Couric does it now, you do it. When a child is missing, you get it on. I'll call you up and say please, it is Tuesday night, I'm not on until Saturday.

So the media is doing a great job. And we're getting kids back from that, and the media is now -- you know, if you went out and asked people, who is the president of Enron, and what do they do, they couldn't tell you. But if you asked them, who was the little girl who was kidnapped in Salt Lake City, they would say Elizabeth Smart.

The public cares much more about children than they do about Enron executives, and they're getting it. But 20 years ago there was no National Center for Missing Exploited Children, there was no FBI involvement. All of that has changed. But now I have asked every president, and I've been through four presidents.

And I was through George W.'s father, who I respect greatly. But this is the first president who has said I'm going to convene a national summit on missing and exploited and runaway children, in all the aspects of exploitation of children, and I'm going to see how I can change things, get cops to exchange information better. Get the "Amber Alert" in every city, get cops educated in abducted children, get prosecutors educated in prosecuting children.

You know, I think it's wonderful. I'm honored to be involved. My wife and I are going to be involved in the planning of this summit, and I think it's damn time.

KING: We're going to go to calls right after the break. Tell me about this Andre Neverson the Brooklyn police are looking for.

WALSH: This creep is wanted for murdering his girlfriend and his sister-in-law. And he's out there and, you know, he's violent -- he's a very violent guy. And I've already profiled him once. And I'm hoping somebody that watches your show one of these nights is going to make that call to 1-800-CRIME-TV and say I saw that creep on LARRY KING, and I'm going to be back next week and say, Larry, congratulations.

And that guy right there is one violent, crazy guy that we need to take down.

KING: You hate these guys? WALSH: I hate them because they're cowards, Larry. They destroy people's lives and they have no remorse about it. They roam through the country and prey upon our loved ones. I mean, I would never dream my 6-year-old son would be kidnapped and murdered. But he's just one of hundreds or thousands of kids that it's happened to. I hate them. They're cowards, and they need to be hunted down like dogs.

KING: We're going to take a break, come back and include your phone calls. As we go to break, here's a little bite on that story we just asked about. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "America's Most Wanted")

WALSH: Investigators say Donna Davis (ph) and Patricia Neverson (ph) were killed with the same gun. They suspect Andre Neverson was at the other end of that gun. Andre Neverson is from Trinidad. He's a fitness buff who may be seeking refuge with past girlfriends. He doesn't drink or smoke, he may still be armed with at least two handguns, including the murder weapon.

If you've seen Andre Neverson, give us a call at 1-800-CRIME-TV.



WALSH: The search centers around the apartment complex where Ashley (ph) disappeared in January. At the time, her friend Miranda was interviewed by a local television station, talked about how scared she was.

MIRANDA GADDIS, FRIEND: It's really hard to believe that happened to one of your friends or something.

WALSH: Then Miranda disappeared from the exact same place where Ashley (ph) vanished. As the town tries to cope, investigators are poring over more than 2,000 tips, hoping to find the clue that will bring these two girls home.

You can do your part by staying alert. If you know anything, anything at all about their disappearance, please call our hotline right now at 1-800-CRIME-TV.

KING: First abduction was in January of this year. The second in March. One girl goes on television and they abduct -- and no clue?

WALSH: Horrible. We've done that show, that case, I'm sorry, and it is breaking my heart, because obviously it's a serial child abductor who is very smart, grabbed the first girl in January, Ashley Pond (ph), and then little Miranda Gaddis goes on TV and says she's in my dance class. She's my friend, I'm terrified. And she gets kidnapped on the way to school. And we haven't gotten one tip on those little girls.

KING: That's strange, isn't it? WALSH: It is very strange. We get somebody comes up and says, you know, like the ACLU says, it's not a good thing, but we usually get a tip, and says the creepy neighbor, we think this guy did this or that. So we haven't got a tip, and it is heartbreaking, because that town is paralyzed by those abductions.

KING: By the way, you can also contact John Walsh at Let's go to calls. Smithton, Illinois. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, John. First of all, thank you so much for everything that you do. As a mother of two small children, my question is, with all the abductions that have been -- and/or murders that have been happening lately, what are we doing to protect our children? Like the Erica Pratts. She got her way out of there.

They have the two alleged suspects in custody. What's going to happen to them to prevent this from happening in the future? And how -- what -- how do we stop this from, you know -- I'm afraid to let our children out of my house. What can we do?

KING: Is this stoppable?

WALSH: Yes, I absolutely believe so. I think there's two ways to do it. Then when we catch these creeps that we either kill them if they've killed a child, or we put them in prison for life and throw away the key, and don't ever let them do it again.

That's one way. We know that when we keep repeat offenders in jail, they don't commit crimes. And when we keep pedophiles in jail, they can't get to children. So it's a simple solution there.

The other thing is, I believe that knowledge is power. I believe we need to start having mandatory child safety programs in school. I think a mother like this who's so concerned would relish that and welcome a program in school. And I tell parents simple thing for this summer. We know in 12 cases this summer where the perpetrator got the kid over by the van.

That's their sanctuary, the car or the van is their sanctuary. Same old stuff. I've lost the puppy. I need to look for it, I need directions. Where is the apartment manager's complex? Kids go over. We tell parents, tell your kids one thing, adults do not need help from children. Let adults get help from other adults. You're not being disrespectful. But there's so many safety tips, and knowledge is power, and we really need to talk to our kids, and we need to empower them, because they know what's going on. They want the tips.

KING: Knoxville, Tennessee for John Walsh. His show, his new show on NBC daytime debuts September 9. It will come from ground zero. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, John?

WALSH: Hi, there.

CALLER: Is there any common characteristic or attribute in these people that grab young children or is there anything fairly consistent in their profile?

WALSH: Well, I think that's an excellent question. First of all, they look like anybody else. I mean, for years we couldn't tell what a pedophile priest was. All the priests looked like our good friends -- 850 priests have been defrocked in the last 10 years for pedophilia, so it's pretty hard to find out who they are, because they look like everybody else.

But once we identify them, I really believe that we have to track them. We can't keep them all in jail forever. But the state of California did a great survey on Megan's Law. You and I talked about Megan's Law. That's a sex offender registry. They've now found out, even though it's a federal law, that when you commit -- you're convicted -- you're a convicted felon of a sexual act on a minor or a rape of a woman, you must register as a sex offender. Thirty percent of the registered offenders when they get out, don't register.

That's a violation of their parole. Fifty percent of them give a fake address and disappear into the night and go to another state. So we can't track them. They've given up their rights. I think Megan's Law is a great law. You know what, it's not about the criminal's rights. Once you've crossed that line and convicted, you should know you as a parent with two beautiful little boys would like to know if a convicted sex offender lives on your street. I think you and your wife would.

It's about children's rights, it's about parents' rights. That's what Megan's Law is. So once you identify these creeps, you need to track them. That's what you need to do.

KING: Raleigh, North Carolina. For John Walsh. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, hello. Mr. Walsh, my question is this -- I want to know why suddenly we are hearing so much about this. I mean, it seems like every day, every week another child's been abducted. I mean, as a nation, are we raising pedophiles? Has it been going on for 40 years and we just weren't paying attention? Is it because the media is so prevalent now?

Why suddenly -- well not even suddenly. You've been doing it for the last 20 years, but I mean, I just wonder, it seems to have gotten worse. Has it always been going on and we just weren't paying attention?

WALSH: Great question. And I think you've answered most of your questions. You're absolutely right. It has been going on for years. Last year it actually went down. The first year it went down from 300 to about 163.

KING: That's a significant drop.

WALSH: A significant drop, but it's gone up this year. So -- and I say the same thing -- the media's finally getting it. What people really care about. They really know the media's powerful, that it can affect change and it can get children back alive, because of the "Amber Alert" and because of shows like yours, et cetera, and showing these missing children.

So the media plays an important role, and I think the media's finally got it that this has gone on for years and that children are important. An FBI agent said, gee, it was only 163 kids last year. Well, I'll tell you what, if 163 FBI agents were missing last year, it would be a national epidemic. They'd be out, the whole 10,000 FBI agents would be out looking for those 163. One child is too many, especially if it's your child.

KING: Tarzana, California. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. You're doing a great job.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Mr. Walsh, it seems to me that a lot of criminals that have a lot of money can hire really good lawyers to get them off of a crime that somebody that can't afford that same lawyer will be found guilty of that crime. It seems like the system is made for the rich, whereas, if you're wrong and you're guilty of something, you should be guilty no matter if you have a lot of money or you don't have a lot of money. It's not a fair system.

KING: It's inequitable. That's always been the case.

CALLER: It's always been the case, and look at O.J. Simpson. Here's a guy I absolutely know for a fact, without a doubt, that he killed the mother of his children, almost cut her head off, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the guy who brought the sunglasses home. He spent $10 million and put together the dream time. I hope they have nightmares. I hope they're not proud of getting a guy off that committed two murders.

But the same guy would go down, if he had no money. He would go down. You know, in other countries the defense attorney and the prosecution get the same amount of money, they get the same amount of power. So then it's really up to the jury. But in this country, if you're rich, you get off, you slide. If you're poor, you go to jail. And this guy's absolutely right. The criminal justice system is broken. We need to take a hard look at it. It's fixable. But it isn't set in stone. It isn't just based on 12 men and women. The whole system stinks, and it doesn't work.

KING: If you're a baseball fan, you'll want to join us Saturday night. Bob Costas with some thoughts on whether there's going to be a strike or not, and the future of the grand old game, the national pastime.

Back with more calls for John Walsh right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "America's Most Wanted")

WALSH: Ally (ph) was at home in Leawood, Kansas on summer break working as an attendant at this community pool. The pool was only a mile away from Ally's home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somehow he talked the victim into going into the pool pump room area. A fight ensued and she was beaten.

WALSH: The 19-year-old was no match for her attacker. She was dead in a matter of minutes.

Let's get this sick and dangerous man off the streets tonight. If you think you've seen the man in this sketch, please call 1-800- CRIME-TV.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "America's Most Wanted")

WALSH (voice-over): Tabitha Brewer, a beautiful teenager from Shawnee, Kansas, disappeared along with her boyfriend Nick Travis in April 1998. Three days later, Tabitha's purse was found in Kansas City. On the same block four months later, a construction worker renovating a house made a dreadful discovery. He found Nick's body buried in a shallow grave.

But since then there hasn't been a single new lead. Tabitha hasn't been seen or heard from again.

If you can help police solve this mystery call 1-800-CRIME-TV tonight.


KING: John Walsh was also telling us that there's a serial killer in Kansas City. Not heard of this.

WALSH: Nope. We went there and did the story two weeks ago. They've had 17 homicides of bodies that have popped up in the Missouri River over the last six or seven years.

KING: All in the river?

WALSH: All in the river, most...

KING: All women?

WALSH: All women, most of them dismembered in some way or another.

Water is a great way to camouflage a murder and to destroy DNA. And I'm surprised the national media hasn't been out there.

KING: Why?

WALSH: I don't know. I still can't figure it out. You know, it's like pack reporting.

KING: This is major -- this is more murders than the murders in Atlanta. WALSH: Absolutely. And I just don't understand whether it's the Midwest and it's not sexy enough, and the women were part-time prostitutes...

KING: Don't make sense. Louisiana has one too, right?

WALSH: And that's made the national news, and it's only been three women in one neighborhood. So I mean...

KING: So who decides this?

WALSH: Well, you know, your boss, you know. My boss. The executive producers of news programs. The news directors. They say, that's not good enough or it's not interesting enough...


KING: ... police chief of Kansas City...

WALSH: He's begging for it. He's begging for it, and he brought us out there to do it and say, look, if you guys show up, at least we'll get some national attention.

KING: Maybe we ought to contact him.

WALSH: Yes, I think it'd be a great case for you to do, and...

KING: Seventeen bodies.

WALSH: In that river.

KING: Vancouver, Washington, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I would like to ask John, do you think that the court system is letting us down? And do you think we need better judges and more informative jurors? What do you think about that?

WALSH: Great question.

I don't think the jurors are the problem, I think that the criminal justice system is the problem.

You know, usually in a case you'll get an assistant DA that has a caseload of 75 cases that just got out of law school. So, you know, we don't pay our prosecutors, our DAs, the cops who prepare the cases, the forensic doctors who prepare the cases, we don't pay them anything.

And you know, you get defense attorneys that are making $700,000, $800,000 a year, they just chew up the system. They chew up the defense attorney -- they chew up the prosecutor, they chew up the witnesses. The judges are overworked, they're underpaid.

I mean, people should -- I believe that most trials should be publicized and covered so American citizens can see what they saw in the O.J. Simpson trial: that the system is horribly broken and it needs to be fixed.

KING: To Toronto, hello. Toronto, hello.

CALLER: Oh, hello.


CALLER: Yes, I had a question for Mr. Walsh. I was wondering, it sounds to me as though the kind of impact that his own child's death has had has been a very lasting one. And has had -- it's involved a lot of suffering. I wonder if he could recommend anything that anyone could do who knows a family that has had this kind of trauma? Is there anything that can be done to help the survivors?

WALSH: That's a wonderful question because we're a country of homicides. I mean, we had 21,000 homicides last year in this country, and a lot of them were children and a lot of them were kids that were killed in drive-by shootings or gang-related incidents.

Eighty-five percent of the parents of murdered children wind up in divorce. It destroys the marriage. And, you know, I don't know how we've hung together so long in spite of my behavior. And, you know, this wonderful woman dedicating her life to battling the case of missing children.

But I believe that people should go for counseling. I never talked about Adam's murder. I internalized it and directed it out to the FBI. That was my -- you know, I was mad at the FBI, and I was going to change the way the FBI looked at missing children.

I should have probably got that counseling back there 20 years ago when I really needed it. I just toughed it out and stuffed it and never talked about my broken heart.

But counseling is a really important thing. And separate counseling for the husband or the wife. The siblings -- nobody talks about the children. The children are left behind. They're going, I don't want to see mommy or daddy cry because of this homicide, but yet they're hurting terribly and that...

KING: How did your wife deal with it?

WALSH: In a wonderful way. She's such a positive woman. She started the first Adam Walsh Center, which grew into the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And she took her hurt and heartache to make sure that Adam didn't die in vain.

KING: Some more moments with John Walsh. His own show debuts September 9 on the NBC network. It will be a daytime feature. You'll see it in the morning or in the afternoon. Check your local stations, as they say.

And, of course, his "America's Most Wanted" show remains on Fox.

And we'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "America's Most Wanted")

WALSH (voice-over): Police say Christina's abductors drove her to this Washington Mutual Bank nearby Mont Clare (ph). The strange behavior was all recorded by this ATM's camera. Although Christina is not in any of the pictures, the machine recorded the fact that it was her card being used.

A forensic artist has create this sketch of what the female suspect may look like. If you can identify her or know anything about the murder of Christina Burmeister (ph), please call our hotline at 1- 800-CRIME-TV.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "America's Most Wanted")

WALSH (voice-over): Alexis was last seen at 8:00 a.m. on May 3 after her stepfather says he walked her to an intersection just a block from her school. But Alexis was never seen at the school.

Police are still searching for the clues that will crack this case, too. Your information could be the break they've been looking for.


KING: What's the Alexis Patterson story?

WALSH: Well, you know, this is another sad story. And this is one that some people in the media are saying that black children don't get the same coverage as white children. I don't believe that.

I mean, on "America's Most Wanted" for years we've -- it doesn't matter to us whether the child is purple, orange, whatever it is, it's a missing child.

This case is kind of dicey because the step -- or the boyfriend -- I think stepfather is a possible suspect in this case. He said he walked her to school and let her off a couple blocks.

KING: Is he still around?

WALSH: I think he's still around. And I don't -- I can't comment on, you know, I think he took a polygraph and those type of things.

And, you know, these are tough cases to comment on. You don't want...

KING: He was with her that day?

WALSH: He said he dropped her off. Now, why you wouldn't bring the girl to school where tons of parents are and teachers and would see him, no one saw him that day. KING: And she was found?

WALSH: She has never been found.

So she's out there, and there's nobody to arrest, and there's no evidence to build a case.

But I still say, come on, this is one of the dicey ones.

KING: You think they're going to solve the Smart case?

WALSH: I am praying. I believe that the suspect they have now, Ricci, who people -- the media seems to miss the fact that he has a rap sheet this long and was in prison for 10 years for trying to blow the head off of a cop with a shotgun. The only reason he didn't -- wasn't in prison is because cop didn't die. He only spent 10 years.

I mean, you shoot a cop in the head with a shotgun -- he's got a rap sheet. He was in the house, Larry...

KING: You got to -- that doesn't -- you've got to have proof, though...


WALSH: That's the problem.

He was in the house. He had access to the house. He did work in the house. He admitted stealing things from the house.

I mean, in my book, if I was the lead detective, and which (ph) they're looking at him very closely. Thank God he's in jail for parole violations. But to me he would be the main suspect. But there's no evidence.

KING: They need something. They need a body...


WALSH: ... there's no body, and they need evidence.

And you know what, this is what's so frustrating these days, is these guys know how to beat the system. And Ricci won't talk. He's a hardened criminal, been in prison. He knows one damn thing: Lawyer up. You ever heard that term? That's what cops say, "the guy lawyered up."

Once you get that defense attorney, they tell you, don't tell anybody anything, don't cooperate, don't help the parents, don't help the cops, don't say anything. So this guy hasn't said one thing since they arrested him.

KING: Bellville, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry.


CALLER: I've got a question here for John.

WALSH: Sure.

CALLER: I just wondered why, that we couldn't make it available to everybody so that we could see these creeps' faces like on TV, an Internet show, even cereal boxes -- we all eat cereal. And even if they're alleged of doing these things. I mean, everybody worries about their rights.

KING: Milk cartons.

Someone just did a call to this show: Why not a 24-hour network only dealing...

WALSH: Well, I think it would be wonderful.


KING: ... pictures, host, anchors talking about taking calls.

WALSH: Absolutely. I would love to see it.

First of all, she said something: We need to see the faces of these guys, even the alleged ones. You can't go that far. I really believe that you have to protect the civil liberties of people.

And if it's a convicted felon, Megan's Law says that a sex offender has to register in the police department in the jurisdiction you live, whether it's the Beverly Hills Police or the Orange County Sheriffs or the Buffalo Police, they have to keep a registry.

And if you want to access it at their Web site or at their police department, you have the right to find out who lives in your neighborhood.

For example, in Broward County, Florida, I rode with the fugitive squad. They have 900 convicted sex offenders, 12 of them in the predator status.

So, you know -- and your idea, it's really -- it was a caller...

KING: Not my idea, someone called in.

WALSH: I don't know why. I mean, we have, you know, the hubcap channel, we have the flyfishing channel. Why not...

KING: It seems so logical.

WALSH: And there could be crime tips and safety tips and pictures of missing children and pictures of fugitives. It just...

KING: There's a C-SPAN that's a consortium of all the cable networks...

WALSH: Absolutely.


KING: Why not all the cable networks getting together and...

WALSH: Why not? Why not?

It would be -- what's more important than if your child is missing, to run that picture all the time, run the pictures of a few fugitives.

I mean, "America's Most Wanted" is only on for an hour on Saturday night. I'm more than willing to share the wealth. We turn down 100 cases a week. We're overwhelmed. We're swamped. We did an update on 14 missing kids last week and 20 fugitives.

I think it's a fantastic idea. And you know what, I'm all for the sports channels and the cooking channels and all that type of stuff, the crime channel is a great idea.

KING: You're a great idea. Thank you, John.

WALSH: Honored to be here.

KING: Good luck with the marriage.

WALSH: Thank you. I'm working on it.

KING: We're supporting you.

John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted." "The John Walsh Show" debuts September 9 on the NBC daytime network. All the NBC O&Os (ph) will have it. And check your newspapers for time and station in your area. And the opening will come from Ground Zero.

And, of course, "America's Most Wanted" remains.

As we leave you -- we'll be back to tell you about what's coming up tomorrow and over the weekend.

Here are some pictures of people still out there.


KING: Tomorrow night Frank Melero, one of two young men with those two young ladies that were taken, the culprit eventually killed. Frank Melero will make his first TV appearance and talk all about it tomorrow night.

Saturday night Bob Costas looks at the world of baseball.




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