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John Walsh Returns to TV’s “America’s Most Wanted”, This Time with Son Callahan: ‘We’re Here to Fight Crime’ (Exclusive)

The iconic fugitive-seeking show has returned to FOX on Monday nights at 8 p.m. ET

<p>Michael Becker /FOX</p> John Walsh, left, and Callahan Walsh

Michael Becker /FOX

John Walsh, left, and Callahan Walsh

As a young boy, Callahan Walsh remembers idyllic days playing soccer, hanging out with friends at his family’s home in south Florida and vacationing in upstate New York.

To spend more time with his father, John Walsh, host of the groundbreaking true-crime TV show America’s Most Wanted, he went to work with him when he could. “I grew up on set,” says Callahan, 39.

From age 10, he had a front-row seat to watch his dad shooting episodes of the popular Fox series and gradually picked up the skills needed to work in production.

<p>Robin Platzer/FilmMagic</p> John Walsh with wife Reve (far right) and children Megan (far left) and Callahan

Robin Platzer/FilmMagic

John Walsh with wife Reve (far right) and children Megan (far left) and Callahan

After college at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., he says, “I did post-production audio and then was a PA shooting standup segments and eventually producing the show’s re-enactments. My father made sure I knew how to do every position.”

Two decades later, Callahan is working once again on AMW, this time in front of the camera. He and his famous dad co-host the new reboot of the iconic weekly series on Monday nights at 8 p.m. ET.

Related: How a Tip From 'In Pursuit with John Walsh' Led to the Arrest of a Fugitive Sex Offender

Beloved by fans and law enforcement alike, the original Emmy-winning program that debuted in 1988 helped to catch more than 1,100 criminals and bring home 50 missing children during its 24-season run.

For more on the revival of America's Most Wanted, subscribe now to PEOPLE, or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands Friday.

AMW John Walsh on America's Most Wanted from 1988 to 2012
AMW John Walsh on America's Most Wanted from 1988 to 2012

John starred on the show on the then-fledgling network after becoming a prominent criminal justice advocate following the murder of his firstborn son.

Six-year-old Adam Walsh was kidnapped after wandering into the toy department of a Sears store in Hollywood, Fla., on July 27, 1981, while his mother, Revé, shopped nearby. Adam’s decapitated head was found two weeks later in a canal in Vero Beach, Fla., 130 miles north of where John and Revé lived at the time.

“That period after Adam was murdered was debilitating,” says John, 78, who grew frustrated with law enforcement’s efforts to find his son. “They never found anything but his skull,” he says.

The case remained unsolved until 2008, when convicted serial killer Ottis Toole, who had confessed to the crime but died in prison, was named Adam’s killer.

When the original AMW, then the longest running show in Fox’s history, was canceled in 2011, John continued his work on behalf of crime victims.

Last year, Fox CEO Rob Wade called him to offer him a job returning to the network to host the reboot.

Related: 'PEOPLE Now' : Justice Activist John Walsh Says Jayme Closs 'Caught Her Own Perpetrator' — Watch the Full Episode

“I only had one condition,” says John. “I told him, ‘You’ve got to buy the family pack—it’s Cal and I.”

No stranger to working in front of the camera, Callahan had been the co-host of ID’s In Pursuit with John Walsh since 2019. He also serves as the executive director of the Florida branch of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the organization his parents helped to launch in the wake of Adam’s murder.

He jumped at the chance to join his father on a new show to track down the nation’s most dangerous criminals and reunite families with missing children.

Related: Gone Without a Trace: Help Us Find These 10 Missing Children

“Adam left a huge hole in the hearts of the whole family,” says Callahan, who, along with his sister, Meghan, 41, and brother Hayden, 29, were born following Adam’s death. “That hole is filled in little by little by the justice we’re able to get for other families by bringing missing children home.”

Seated next to each other for an interview in L.A., John and Callahan seem as close as a father and son can be. “I’m lucky to have Callahan. I’m such an old bastard and I’m still cooking, but I got the young legs right here helping me out,” he says.

“He’s loving and caring and compassionate with the victims.” As with his siblings, Callahan’s love and support have been crucial to his parents’ recovery in the unfathomable aftermath of losing Adam. “These kids saved our lives,” says John.

Related: How a Tip From 'In Pursuit with John Walsh' Led to the Arrest of a Fugitive Sex Offender

Those days were dark. A successful hotel developer when Adam was abducted, John put work on hold and devoted himself entirely to searching for his young son, and then for his killer. “I lost everything. Our house was in foreclosure,” he told People in 1997.

Channeling their grief—and fury over police’s slow response—into helping other families, John and Reve appeared on national TV and lobbied U.S. Congress representatives  to create new laws to improve the way the country searched for missing children. Despite those accomplishments, however, the Walsh’s marriage was strained. “Reve and I struggled,” says John, noting that 80 percent of parents of murdered children end up in divorce. “The only thing you have in common is the sorrow.”

John and Reve survived the hard times by rebuilding their family and working together to give their kids as normal a childhood as possible.  “When we were young, we had dinner as a family together,” says Callahan.

Although Adam’s memory was kept alive—“his pictures were all around the house and we talked about him all the time,” says Callahan—the Walshes were determined not to stunt their children’s growth by being overprotective. “My father made sure I had the rules I needed to keep myself safe, but he put me intosports ” he says. “He didn’t just lock me away.” Today, John says he loves nothing more than spending time with his six grandkids. “When they’re all around, it’s chaos in the house and I love it,” he says.

Related: John Walsh Says Jayme Closs Saved Her Own Life

Working side-by-side on the new AMW, John says he and Callahan “are ready to kick some ass.” As on the original series, viewers are encouraged to call an anonymous hotline with tips.

And in a case of “old school meets new school,” adds John with typical cowboy swagger, AMW is asking its army of armchair detectives to submit tips on social media “to help catch the bad guys” and make the streets of America safe for all. “We’re saddling up—and hoping people will watch.”

America's Most Wanted airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

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