Authors: Les Standiford
Saturday, November 19, 1983
ollowing that interview with Toole and a break for lunch, Hoffman and his fellow officers from Hollywood tracked down David Gillyard, who’d worked as sales manager for Wells Brothers Used Cars, starting in November 1982. He remembered taking in the 1971 black-over-white Cadillac, Gillyard told the detectives, and recalled very clearly that there was no carpeting in its trunk. Rather than go to the expense of paying for new carpet for such an old vehicle, he had ordered one of his lot men to simply “paint splatter” the trunk to give it some appearance of finish for sale.
After they’d spoken to Gillyard, the detectives went back to Faye McNett, just wondering, they said, if the Cadillac she’d sold to Ottis Toole had carpeting in its trunk. Indeed it did, McNett told them. What kind of a question was that, anyway?
On Sunday, Hoffman, accompanied by Lieutenant Smith and Sergeant Stanley, took a drive to the North Jacksonville dump, where they took photographs of the area—with more than two years of trash heaped on the site since Toole said he had disposed of the body there, it seemed little else could be done.
Early Monday morning, seeking further corroboration of what Toole had told them, the detectives spoke with the Jacksonville Fire Department arson specialist who had investigated the burning of Toole’s mother’s house at 708 Day Avenue in June of 1981. The lot had been leveled back on December 10, 1982, by an outfit called Realco Wrecking. But as to what had and had not remained standing after the fire, there were numerous photographs in the files, Captain Hinkley said. The Hollywood detectives were welcome to them.
At about nine thirty that morning, Hoffman interviewed Robert L. Hammond, who owned Hammond’s Grocery at 700 Day Avenue, next door to Toole’s mother’s house. Yes, he knew both Toole and Henry Lee Lucas, Hammond told the officers, and he well remembered the day that Toole’s mother’s house burned down.
He had also observed that Toole stayed at the house on several occasions after the fire, and he had often seen Toole digging up and burying various articles of trash in the backyard. Toole eked out a living by collecting junk, Hammond said, and often stored various items he’d found in his mother’s yard. He brought back discarded refrigerators, then hacked them apart for the aluminum he could sell at salvage yards. And he also used the gutted refrigerators as incinerators where he burned the insulation off wiring to expose the salable copper underneath. Hammond’s mother Sarah was present at the interview, and she too told Hoffman that she had seen Ottis Toole back at his mother’s house after the June 23 fire.
Hoffman next spoke with a man named Charles Lee Hardaman, who claimed to have known Toole for about three years. The two of them would ride around picking up junk like refrigerators, stoves, and furniture, and then bring it back to 708 Day Avenue, where they’d break it apart for whatever salvageable materials might be obtained—and yes, he had also seen Toole use the carcasses of refrigerators as incinerators.
When Hoffman asked if he ever knew Toole to carry weapons, Hardaman confirmed that there was a shotgun around sometimes. And how about any large knives? Hoffman wanted to know.
“I never seen him with knives,” Hardaman said first, but then corrected himself. “Well, he had one like they used in the old days.”
Just how large a knife was this? Hoffman asked.
“I don’t know,” Hardaman said. “I saw it,” he added, holding his hands a foot or more apart. Then he raised his thumb and forefinger, with perhaps a two-inch gap between them. “A blade about this wide.”
“What kind of case?” Hoffman asked.
“A steel case.”
Hardaman shrugged. “Rust,” he said, going on to explain to Hoffman that it was the kind of knife that you could fix onto a gun barrel.
“A bayonet?” Hoffman asked.
“Yeah,” Hardaman said.
In his first confession to Hoffman, Toole had begun his description of the decapitation by saying he’d used a bayonet. But Hoffman had responded by saying, “Like a machete?” and Toole had subsequently followed the detective’s lead in referring to the weapon he’d used as a machete. It could have been a simple misstatement, given the limitations of Toole’s intelligence, but then again, the matter was certainly worth pursuing.
“When did you see that knife?” Hoffman asked.
Hardaman gave him a look. “Well, it was mine,” he finally admitted. “I left it there at the house and told him to sharpen it.”
“And he kept it? Never returned it to you?”
“Right,” Hardaman said.
“When did you give it to him?” Hoffman next asked.
Hardaman thought. “It was when his momma was living, that much I know.”
“So that would have been before May 1981?”
“Yeah,” Hardaman said.
Following the conversation with Hardaman, Hoffman drove with Smith and Standley to Daytona Beach, about two hours south, where they met briefly with William O. Toole, another of Ottis’s brothers. William refused to speak with them in any detail about Ottis, however, and the trio drove home to Hollywood that evening.
It was on Wednesday of that week that the
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
ran the story in which Louisiana detective Donny Fittz told reporters that Ottis Toole had confessed to the killing of Adam Walsh during an unrelated interview. When reporters called Hollywood PD for a comment on Fittz’s allegations, public information officer Tony Alderson dismissed it as nothing new. “We believed Toole the first time,” Alderson said.
Meantime, the FDLE lab in Jacksonville had concluded its examination of Toole’s Cadillac for Adam’s fingerprints. Alas, no latent prints of any value had been found.
Almost a week went by without any significant developments, though the treatment center in Hialeah where Betty Goodyear’s son John Redwine had stayed prior to meeting Toole did confirm to Hollywood PD that Redwine had gone on vacation from the facility on July 24, 1981, and had boarded a bus bound for Jacksonville at nine that morning. Conceivably, Redwine could have been helpful in placing Toole’s whereabouts if Hoffman could find him.
On Wednesday, November 30, 1983, Detective Hoffman reached a clerk named Filiore in the Jacksonville Water Department, who confirmed that water service to the home of Toole’s mother at 708 Day Avenue had in fact been disconnected for nonpayment, but not until September 9, 1981. “This information was needed in order to verify a part of Ottis Toole’s confession in which he indicated that he used the hose in the rear of his mother’s residence to wash out the 1971 Cadillac trunk area in which there was trace evidence of blood,” Hoffman wrote in his notes, adding that the information did corroborate Toole’s claim that there was water available to him on the date in question.
Later that day, Hoffman phoned Dennis Bedwell, supervisor of the City of Jacksonville Sanitation Department. Since Toole had claimed that he disposed of the body of Adam Walsh in the North Jacksonville dump on the morning of July 28, 1981, Hoffman needed Bedwell to provide the names of the employees who were on duty between the time of that facility’s opening and, say, 3:00 p.m. Bedwell checked his records and came up with a couple of names and phone numbers for Hoffman, but there is no indication that the detective ever spoke to either employee or searched sanitation department records (or those of other landfill operations) for any information that might have confirmed a visit by Toole at the time he claimed to have been there.
The following day, Thursday, December 1, Hoffman took the machete he’d found at Bennett Motors to the Metro Dade Police Department crime lab with a request that technicians perform tool marking tests on the weapon. Though the blood tests were inconclusive, Hoffman hoped that the striations found on the spinal column at the base of Adam Walsh’s skull could be matched to the blade.
The Broward County medical examiner’s office had also found a couple of embedded “paint chips” during their further cleanup of Adam’s skull, and Hoffman brought the fragments along for Metro Dade’s analysis as well. If the chips could be identified as paint or other materials traceable to the 1971 Cadillac, that too might serve as evidence linking Toole to the crime.
The following Tuesday, December 6, Hoffman and Lieutenant Smith traveled to the Williamson County Jail near Austin, Texas, where Henry Lee Lucas was being held, hoping that Lucas might be able to implicate Toole in the killing of Adam Walsh. Lucas told Hoffman and Smith that it was quite possible that Toole could have been responsible for such a crime, for he and Toole had traveled various parts of the United States together at one time or another and had committed any number of murders both independently and as a team. However, as to this particular crime, Lucas said he had no knowledge of it whatsoever.
On that Friday, Hoffman received more disheartening news, this from the Miami Dade crime lab, advising that their “best efforts to date” had not been able to produce a positive identification of the tool markings on Adam’s vertebrae as having been made by the machete he’d submitted. Analyst Bob Hart had “worked the evidence with great vigor,” Metro Dade crime lab commander Edward Whittaker assured Hoffman, but all the physical factors combined appeared to be leading to no positive identification.
As to the “white fragments,” or paint chips, that Hoffman had submitted, those were still being analyzed. Though the chips did not appear to be composed of automotive paint, the report said, they had obviously come from
, and the fracture patterns observed at the edges of these chips were deemed very likely sufficient to permit an absolutely positive ID if whatever material they had broken from could be recovered. Thus, “the questioned vehicle should be searched with extreme care for such material and if found, for any defect or break in any surface.”
A few days later, however, on December 14, lab commander Whittaker called to inform Hoffman that in fact the examination of the machete against the markings on the vertebrae had come up negative. They were still trying to identify what the white fragments he’d submitted might have come from, Whittaker said, and they would let him know the moment any information was available. There exists no record in the case file that Hoffman ever contacted the FDLE crime lab regarding a search within the Cadillac for any object from which the chips might have derived.
On Thursday, December 22, FDLE got in touch with Hoffman to report that no fibers from the vacuum sweepings from the front or rear seat carpets of the Cadillac had matched fibers from the machete’s canvas sheath. On the following Tuesday, December 27, FDLE technician Glen Abate traveled to the then-vacant lot at 708 Day Street and began to dig in what had been the rear yard, searching for evidence that the body of Adam Walsh might have been placed there. At one spot, about a foot below the surface, Abate uncovered a pair of light green shorts and advised Buddy Terry of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office of his findings.
Since Revé Walsh had told detectives of dressing her son in a pair of light green shorts on the morning of July 27, 1981, Terry thought it a significant discovery. He called Detective Hoffman in Hollywood to let him know, and had the shorts placed in an evidence locker until he could pick them up.
New Year’s Day of 1984 dawned with Hoffman back in Jacksonville, still trying to trace Toole’s movements at the time of the crime. On January 4, he met with Timothy Harold Jones, the clerk who was behind the counter of the Little Champ store the day that Ottis Toole burst in, screaming that someone was going to shoot him. The clerk also recalled that, moments later, Howard Toole followed Ottis in and proceeded to slap him around. That all had taken place on August 1, 1981, Jones said, though he also stated that he remembered selling Ottis a pack of cigarettes and a can of beer “one or two days” prior to the fight—which would have meant July 30 or 31, if Jones’s memory was accurate.
Meantime, Lieutenant Smith checked the various distances between the Jacksonville Greyhound bus station and the places Toole might have walked to upon his arrival on July 25. It was 3.6 miles from the station to his mother’s home at 708 Day, and 7.8 miles to the Reaves Roofing lot from which he claimed to have taken the Cadillac—a hour’s walk to one, two hours to the other.
At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 5, Hoffman arrived at the former site of the home at 708 Day Street, along with Lieutenant Smith and two other detectives from Hollywood PD. Also present were Detective Terry, three technicians from the FDLE crime investigation unit, and a representative of the Jacksonville Public Works Department. They were convened to excavate the property in a systematic search for evidence.
Using a front-end loader with an eight-foot-wide bucket, the team employed the standard method for excavating crime scenes, dragging the property two inches at a pass, until they had reached depths anywhere from four to six feet. About two hours into the search, as they dug in the northwest section of the lot, the machine unearthed bone fragments that resembled a section of a human pelvis. Three hours later, in a different section of the lot, two other unidentifiable bones were uncovered. And at about 3:30 p.m., in a third quadrant of the lot, a left-footed yellow rubber “zori,” or flip-flop, in a small child’s size, was found. All of the items were duly cataloged by FDLE crime scene technician Abate and turned over to Detective Terry.
While Hoffman stayed behind to watch over the rest of the search, Terry and Lieutenant Smith hurried to the Duval County medical examiner’s office with the bone fragments. Whatever hopes they had, however, were soon dashed. These were the remains of some type of animal, the ME said. No chance they had come from a human.