If you’ve been watching America’s Most Wanted since the first episode in 1988, you know all about the captures of John List and the Texas Seven, and about bringing Elizabeth Smart home safe. As we celebrate the capture of our 1,000th fugitive, Dwight Smith, we’re looking forward to continuing our worldwide fight for justice, and we’re looking back on some of our biggest successes.
AMW producer Evan Marshall asked newsroom staffers about the stories — and the great captures — that stick with them, year after year.
1,000 Captures Strong
When America’s Most Wanted debuted in the winter of 1988, it was immediately acclaimed as a revolutionary new way to fight crime. But even after taking down one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives just days after airing the first episode, few people could have imagined the success the show would experience over the next two decades.
Now, as we celebrate our 1,000th direct-result capture, we take a look back at some of the greatest moments in AMW history:
February 11, 1988: Just days after the airing of the first show, FBI Ten Most Wanted fugitive David James Roberts was captured as a direct-result. Roberts was convicted of several felonies including murder, kidnapping, arson, rape and escape.
June 1, 1989: John Emil List became AMW’s 50th direct-result capture 17 years after making headlines for brutally and methodically murdering five of his family members.
March 18, 1990: After being on our show three times, the FBI caught up with accused killer Segundo Matias in Los Angeles, Calif. to make him our 100th direct-result capture. Matias was accused of shooting and killing his 27-year-old girlfriend after she broke off the couple’s relationship.
April 1, 1992: Stephen Wilson became AMW’s 200th direct-result capture after police tracked him down in the United Kingdom. Cops say Wilson escaped a California prison after being arrested for the murder of his father-in-law.
April 17, 1994: In 1983, John William Childers brutally murdered his wife while the couple’s five-year-old son was in the home. 11 years later, a savvy AMW tipster helped make Childers our 300th direct-result capture.
January 26, 1996: Yehia Badawi was arrested after shooting a friend during a botched Pennsylvania supermarket robbery. When AMW profiled Badawi, a tipster picked up the phone and helped make him our 400th direct-result capture.
May 10, 1997: AMW was the first show to bring the search for accused Gianna Versace killer Andrew Cunanan nationwide. He was profiled six times on AMW before his body was found on a houseboat in Miami Beach, reportedly a suicide. John Walsh and his crew were on the scene when the discovery was made and John was the only member of the media who was allowed to enter the scene.
January 28, 1998: In 1996, cops say Amy DeChant, the owner of a commercial cleaning company, murdered her boyfriend with the help of one of her employees. Dechant then fled to a Florida nudist colony where cops tracked her down to make her direct-result capture #500.
January 28, 2000: Cops say L.A. gang member Arthur Torres killed two innocent teenage boys and a 27-year-old man back in 1999. Months later, an AMW tipster led police to Torres’ hideout to make him our 600th direct-result capture.
January 8, 2001: Stephen Tatro, one of the only fugitives to be captured twice as a direct-result of AMW, turned himself in after murdering his business partner in 1997. After skipping his trial, Tatro was caught again as a direct-result 2001.
January 21, 2001: Facing charges of escape, capital murder and aggravated robbery, the seven Texas Prison escapees notoriously known as the “Texas Seven,” were apprehended as a direct-result of AMW.
April 23, 2002: Michael Bliss was convicted of having sex with a young girl in motels in Vermont and Connecticut, filming the acts and later storing images of it on his computer. An AMW tipster led police to the hotel where Bliss was hiding out where he was arrested as the show’s 700th direct-result capture.
March 12, 2003: After a well-publicized search that lasted nearly a year, AMW viewers spotted Elizabeth Smart with her abductors on a street in Salt Lake City. Elizabeth became AMW’s direct-result recovery #36 while her captors were brought down as a direct-result of the show.
July 2, 2004: Richard Newman became AMW’s 800th direct-result capture after cops arrested him for the murder of Toronto security guard Rhoan Gooden. But cops say Newman didn’t go easy. Upon tracking him down at a Brooklyn apartment, police say he opened fire for ten minutes before surrendering.
August 9, 2006: Marlon Morris - a convicted child rapist - will spend between 15 and 18 years behind bars. This comes after an AMW tipster helped make him our 900th direct-result capture.
April 19, 2008: America’s Most Wanted has announced that accused killer Dwight Smith — a NYC real estate agent who cops say killed his friend over a deal — has become the show’s 1,000th direct result capture.