Grim tales of crime and punishment from a pioneer of reality TV.
Walsh, the Jack Webbish emcee of America’s Most Wanted, has good reason to hate criminals who prey on the young: his son Adam was kidnapped and murdered in 1981. His popular Fox Network program, which asks viewers to call in with sightings of criminal suspects and missing children, has been something of a cultural phenomenon—and, as the FBI and other police agencies have acknowledged, it has helped close hundreds of cases that might otherwise have gone unsolved. Here, Walsh profiles several incidents where his program has helped put an end to the careers of monsters such as the child molester and murderer Kyle Bell, “the worst scumbag out there,” and Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, the so-called Railroad Killer, a “demon presence” who raped and murdered his way across Texas. Not all his subjects are sexual deviants, however, for Walsh, who recalls sitting in the mud at Woodstock, grooving along to Jimi Hendrix, seemingly would reserve a circle of hell for counterculture types gone bad. Much of his book is devoted to the case of Ira Einhorn, the LSD evangelist and rad-chic philosopher with an apparent penchant for beating women, who, Walsh alleges, murdered a girlfriend in 1977, jumped a $40,000 bail after having been defended by now-Senator Arlen Specter, and split to France, from which he has so far successfully avoided extradition, despite Walsh’s best efforts. Walsh also recounts the case of Kathleen Soliah, a fugitive Symbionese Liberation Army terrorist wanted for murder and bank robbery; having remade herself as a respectable suburban soccer mom called Sara Jane Olson, Soliah, apprehended thanks to AMW, is now pleading for clemency for her youthful indiscretions, a plea Walsh contemptuously dismisses.
If you’ve seen Walsh’s show, you’ve already read the book. Still, fans of true-crime writing and students of television will find it of interest.