Smart Case a Coup for John Walsh
Mar. 13, 2003
NEW YORK (AP) _ Elizabeth Smart's safe return home represents a coup _ perhaps the biggest ever _ for television personality John Walsh, who has made it his mission to help capture fugitives and find missing children.
Walsh, longtime host of ``America's Most Wanted'' on Fox and of a syndicated talk show that began last fall, had focused on the Smart case several times on both shows in the nine months Elizabeth was missing.
Elizabeth's father, Ed Smart, was interviewed Thursday on ``The John Walsh Show,'' the first time that show had gone live.
``The rest of the media kind of forgot about the Smarts,'' Walsh said in a later interview. ``I didn't.''
Anita and Alvin Dickerson _ one of the two couples who tipped off police that they had spotted Brian Mitchell, the suspect being held in Smart's kidnapping _ said they had recognized Mitchell from pictures shown on ``America's Most Wanted.'' The other couple that tipped police to Mitchell's presence said they recognized him from television reports.
A Salt Lake City resident, Daniel Trotta, told police this week that he recognized Mitchell from ``AMW'' as a person who had stayed in his apartment for nearly a week in October.
Ed and Lois Smart appeared twice on ``The John Walsh Show,'' in September and December, to talk about their daughter. The case was discussed six times on ``AMW,'' most recently on Feb. 15.
The latest ``AMW'' episode focused on Mitchell's alleged involvement in Smart's disappearance. It was done with the assistance of Mitchell's ex-wife, Walsh said.
Walsh was working in hotel management in 1981 when his 6-year-old son, Adam, was abducted and murdered. The prime suspect in the case died in prison. He's made it his life's work since to help capture fugitives and find missing children.
On the Web site for ``America's Most Wanted,'' the show claims 746 cases were solved with the its help. The show was credited, for instance, when a witness spotted Texas prison escapees who had killed a police officer and were hiding in Colorado.
With the shared experience of a missing child, Walsh had befriended Smart. Walsh tried to boost his spirits, yet also point out how the vast majority of these cases don't end happily. They also tried to think of ways to keep the case in the news, like doubling the reward fund.
``After the child is missing a week or two weeks, everyone forgets,'' Walsh said. ``They become a poster at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This sends a message that we have to keep looking and don't give up hope. Every now and then, we get lucky.''
On Walsh's show Thursday, he interviewed the Dickersons. Smart, speaking to a remote camera from Utah, blew them kisses.
``This is right at the top of my list,'' Walsh said. ``It just made me think of my son, of the 21 years that my wife and I tried to make sure that Adam did not die in vain.''