Police: Canceling 'Most Wanted' TV Show is a Big Loss
BY LYDA LONGA
BY LYDA LONGA
The case of Daytona Beach's serial killer had run cold, but after it was featured on TV's "America's Most Wanted," police received some fresh tips that revived the investigation.
But the show -- billed as a weekly, nationwide criminal manhunt -- has been canceled by Fox, officials said Monday.
It's too expensive, Fox officials told The Associated Press. Instead, the network will air weekly repeats of its prime-time entertainment series. Kevin Reilly of Fox Entertainment, told The Associated Press that there would be just four, two-hour "AMW" specials next season.
While only about 5 million people watched "AMW" this season, program officials were proud of the fact that more than 1,000 fugitives have been arrested worldwide since the show took off in April 1988.
The show's host, John Walsh, took on the project after his son Adam was kidnapped and murdered in 1981. Fox attempted to cancel the program in 1996, but after an outcry from viewers and the legal and law enforcement communities, the show was retained.
In March, Daytona Beach police took its serial killer case to "AMW." The 10-minute segment featured Sgt. Clem Malek, who works almost exclusively on the mystery murders.
Last week, Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said the show had yielded a handful of solid tips on the case that are being followed up. The case had been classified as cold, until the new information surfaced.
"That's a shocker," Chitwood said Tuesday. "Everybody knows what a big help this is to law enforcement. There's no other show like it."
Locally, "AMW" has helped nab at least three criminals that were either linked to Volusia County or ended up here while on the lam.
Police officials said prison inmates also looked forward to the show because it enabled them to possibly identify someone on the TV screen in exchange for a reduced sentence or a special deal.
The Volusia County Sheriff's Office had sent "AMW" the case of missing persons Josh Bryant and Lillian Martin -- a Deltona grandson and grandmother who vanished 10 years ago this month -- in the hopes that someone out there could crack the mystery.
Josh's remains were unearthed in Cassadaga in 2004, but Martin's have never been found.
In bemoaning the death of "AMW," Sheriff's Office spokesman Gary Davidson said the public is often key in helping police solve cases.
"You're always one tip away from solving them (cases)," Davidson said Tuesday. "You just never know who may have the information."
Port Orange investigators were hoping "AMW" would help them find 28-year-old Laurel Rogers, who disappeared Feb. 1, 2010. Police have had few clues on the case, and one tip fielded last week about Rogers' remains in a pond, turned out to be bogus.
Port Orange Capt. Frank Surmaczewicz said he was "saddened" to see the show shut down.
South Daytona police Lt. Ron Wright said his department has never had a show featured on "AMW," but Wright, who said he shook Walsh's hand in 2008 at an event in Daytona Beach, is sorry to see the program go.
"I don't like it," he said. "Look how many criminals it (the show) has enabled law enforcement to catch. I think it's a mistake."