Popular television shows like America’s Most Wanted have made it their mission to track down and convict America’s most dangerous criminals. Hosted and co-created by crime investigator John Walsh, the show has helped catch more than 1200 fugitives over 25 years by soliciting tips from millions of viewers each week. When Adam, Walsh’s son, was kidnapped and murdered in 1981, Walsh made it his personal mission to put America’s most wanted fugitives behind bars once and for all. As he often said at the end of each show, “people can, and do, make a difference.”
Rape, kidnap and murder are just some of the various heinous crimes committed by these highly sought-after criminals. Many of the men escaped from prison, fled to foreign countries, used fake names and even bragged about their status as America’s most wanted fugitives. Although some were on the run for decades, their high level of exposure through America’s Most Wanted and other media outlets led to thousands of anonymous tips that gave police the leads they so badly needed.
America’s Most Wanted ended in 2011 after 23 years, but the FBI and many other crime investigation groups, like Crime Stoppers, continue to solicit the help of law abiding citizens all over the world. Although some of the crimes described in the following list are more gruesome than others, the criminals who committed them were considered extremely dangerous by law enforcement officials. Without the help of a watchful public and skilled law enforcement agents, there’s no telling if these dangerous criminals would have ever been captured. But they were; and the following are the tales which tell how six of the most dangerous criminals were tracked down and finally caught.
6. Archie Byrd III
Archie Byrd III fled from Athens, Georgia, when he was the prime suspect for aggravated assault and the sex trafficking of a juvenile girl. Considered armed and dangerous, he escaped the clutches of the police for decades until he was arrested for an unrelated crime. In DeKalb County, Byrd was suddenly stopped by police for jaywalking. He gave the police a fake ID and was charged with providing them with false information. After the arresting officer discovered his true identity, he saw that Byrd was wanted in Georgia. Byrd is one of the 1200 featured on America’s Most Wanted to be finally captured.
5. Vincent Legrend Walters
Vincent Walters was one of the U.S. Marshal Service’s most wanted fugitives. Walters was a drug dealer in San Diego, California. When a meth deal went bad, he kidnapped three people, including a woman, with the plan to return them in exchange for his drugs. Two of the hostages were released except for the woman, who, while gagged with a chemical-soaked rag, had died. Walter’s brother was caught and convicted, but Walters had fled. When he was featured on America’s Most Wanted, witnesses recognized him as a worker in Cancun, Mexico. He was selling resort timeshares at an international airport. Although working under a fake name, he often boasted about how he was a most-wanted fugitive. After 24 years on the run, Walters was extradited back to the United States to face charges for his long list of crimes.
4. Ricky Allen Bright
Wanted for kidnapping, rape and sexual assault, Ricky Allen Bright went quietly when the Violent Crimes Task Force in Memphis, Tennessee, finally tracked down one of the FBI’s most wanted criminals. After Bright was featured on an episode of America’s Most Wanted, the show received a flood of calls from people who claimed to have seen him. One such call came from a person who said they saw him playing drums in a rock band. When the Task Force followed up on the tip, they discovered Bright playing a gig at a hotel under a false identity. He didn’t put up a fight when the Task Force approached him and made no attempts to hide his identity, saying “I’m the one you’re looking for.”
3. Harry Joseph Bowman
Harry Joseph Bowman was the leader of an outlawed motorcycle gang. Between 1982 and 1999, Bowman murdered two members of rival motorcycle gangs in Florida. He was also wanted for drug trafficking, bombing and racketeering. Listed by the FBI as one of America’s most wanted since 1998, and considered armed and extremely dangerous, there was a $50 000 reward for his capture. After more than a year on the FBI’s list, he was captured in Sterling Heights near Detroit when the FBI received an anonymous tip. Police, a SWAT team and 40 FBI agents played a role in the capture of one of America’s most-wanted criminals.
2. David James Roberts
David James Roberts goes down in history as the first ever fugitive profiled on America’s Most Wanted, and the first fugitive ever to be caught thanks to the show. Roberts was first convicted in 1975 when he burned down a house with a family still inside. Shortly after, when he was on bail, he committed sexual assault on a woman, locked her in the trunk of his car, and killed the woman’s small child. Roberts escaped prison in 1998 and was immediately placed on the FBI’s most wanted list. Only four days after Roberts was featured on the television show, he was arrested on Staten Island after fleeing a hospital. He is now serving 20 years on top of the six consecutive life sentences he received earlier. Unsurprisingly, he isn’t eligible for parole.
1. Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy was one of the most notorious and dangerous serial murderers in American history. As a suspect for a series of brutal murders that predominantly involved young women, he was placed on the FBI’s America’s Most Wanted list in 1977. Known as a full-blown sociopath, Bundy was an expert at appearing normal, and was considered by friends and family to be handsome, intelligent, and completely safe. After multiple murders, he was arrested in 1975 by Bob Haywood, a highway patrol officer. He escaped from prison two times in 1977. Finally, in 1989, he was sentenced to death and executed by electric chair after confessing to 23 murders.