Missing Children: How Politics Helped Start the Scandal

Jay Howell didn’t want to make only $33,000 a year.

As an aide to a United States Senator, that’s the salary he earned in 1981 when John Walsh’s six-year-old son, Adam, vanished in July of that year and was found deceased. He’d met Walsh because Howell worked for then-Senator Paula Hawkins, Republican from Florida. Howell was from Jacksonville, Florida, and Hawkins showed an interest in Walsh’s case. Walsh had received much attention. He’d been interviewed by Florida newspapers and had appeared on national television.

Both Howell and Walsh figured Congressional activity would create even more media interest and introduce the need for a national clearing house on “missing” children. Although the U.S. Justice Department already had the National Crime Infomation Center (NCIC) which listed felons and missing children, both men felt there still could be a federally-funded, non-law enforcement agency which dealt exclusively with “missing” children. Howell could be its first executive director with Walsh as a paid “consultant.”