Luxe Life Blog
Photo Gallery: John Walsh vows to continue war on crime
Celebrities turned out in support of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh at a Bellagio dinner and golf tournament to benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Canon USA sponsors the annual celebrity event here in Las Vegas.
Among those turning up for the 11th annual gala dinner that preceded the TPC Golf Tournament were Alice Cooper, Davy Jones of The Monkees, Domenick Allen of Foreigner, Cheech Marin, Rudy Gatlin of The Gatlin Brothers, Kevin Sorbo, Bryan Cranston, Richard Burgi from Desperate Housewives, pro golfer Natalie Gulbis, astronaut Walt Cunningham, Mark Steines of Entertainment Tonight and Las Vegas headliners Angelica Bridges from Fantasy, Rick Faugno from Jersey Boys and Matt Goss.
I’ve known John since the early days of Fox in New York and had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with him:
Robin Leach: Is this organization needed more today than ever before? Am I seeing more and more of what you are hoping to solve?
John Walsh: Absolutely. I think the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has had more demands in the last year. It not only deals with missing children and runs the national hotline and exploited children. Now Congress and the Justice Department have mandated it run the child pornography tip line and the cyber tip line. So, now they have a whole division that deals with Internet crimes against children, and a multi-agency task force headquartered the children center. I think more people are aware of the exploitation, but we are seeing more exploitation of children than ever.
RL: Why is it escalating?
JW: I think the Internet has become the private hunting ground for these guys. They can sit in their creepy little rooms and try to groom children, get them out. Child pornography has now become a peer-to-peer thing, where the pedophiles are very smart about sending to other peers. It has become a $5 billion business worldwide. There is big money involved. Interpol has gotten involved, thank God. It is very important, and I don’t know why there seems to be so many cases in America.
RL: Is it more American than anywhere else?
JW: I really believe so. Maybe there isn’t the awareness in China or India, but there has always been sex trafficking of children, and as those countries evolve from Third Worlds into First World countries, I think they will get mad at the exploitation of children. But it really bothers me that there seems to be so much. We have handled a lot of really tough cases in the last year here in America, and a lot of them have not turned out real well. The center is still doing God’s work, and thanks to the corporate sponsors like Canon, they continue to keep the center going.
RL: Tell me about the importance of this event.
JW: This is the 11th annual golf tournament. The national center receives half of its money from Congress and has to match that money with private donations, so Canon is more important than ever because in these economic times, charities are the easiest thing to cut out and cut down your donations. So I think this is more important than ever and supported by lots of good celebrities, and lots of people from the Las Vegas community who put on this tournament. The national center never faced the challenges that they faced in the last year.
RL: You never will quit till all of these killers, molesters and felons are behind bars, will you?
JW: You know I am the stubborn Irishman, and I am the father of a murdered child. And last week, we caught Paul Merhige, who was alleged to have murdered four people on Thanksgiving Day: his 73-year-old aunt, his twin sister who was seven months’ pregnant and a beautiful 6-year-old girl who he shot in her face while she slept in her bed. Five weeks he was on the run. I went down to South Florida where I am from. Last Saturday night, the guy that cops couldn’t catch anywhere, a tip came into our hotline from someone who saw a promo. That was one of our best captures in 23 years. That coward is going to face the justice he deserves, and those kinds of things energize you. We have caught over 1,000 guys in 35 countries. This show has now become a global manhunt.
I have to keep going. This last case touched me so much. I saw the parents, I met the parents this week, and the father is a cameraman for NBC in West Palms. Robin, he is in our business, and he went, “John, you walk in my shoes, and no one would have caught this guy. If you hadn’t come and showed up, he still would be out there.”
John will reach the milestone 1,000th episode on Fox on March 6. In addition to the 1,100 criminals they’ve helped capture, 17 of those have been on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. Just yesterday, John’s TV reach was proven yet again when federal agents in Brownsville, Texas, took custody of a Los Angeles criminal listed on the FBI’s Top 10 for the shooting of an L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy nine years ago.
Emigdio Preciado was featured on America’s Most Wanted for being on the run since September 2000, and the parolee from previous charges will now be returned to Los Angeles to stand trial in the shooting.
John and his America’s Most Wanted deserve congratulations and everybody’s continued support!
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
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