filmmaker believes childhood kidnapper also killed Adam Walsh | New York News

By PAUL GUZZO, Tampa Bay Times

HUDSON, Fla. (AP) — She knows her childhood captor was a freak. It is a given.

He snatched her from an Orlando mall, raped her, and probably would have killed her if she hadn’t escaped.

But, for years, Gina Garcia wondered if he was an infamous monster.

Garcia wondered if she was abducted by Ottis Toole, the serial killer whose victims include 6-year-old Adam Walsh. Adam’s death made national headlines and inspired the television movie Adam and the television series America’s Most Wanted hosted by his father, John Walsh.

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“I suspected it was him,” said Garcia, 49, who now lives in Hudson. “But I wasn’t sure.”

Next, Garcia filmed her biopic, Untold: This Is My Story.

John Walsh heard about the film and the details of Garcia’s kidnapping.

In September, he told the New York Post that he, too, believed Toole abducted Garcia.

“It gave me the closure I needed for 40 years,” Garcia said. “I never would have had it if I hadn’t made the movie.”

The film is now streaming on Amazon, iTunes, DirectTV and other services.

Untold: This Is My Story follows Garcia as an adult struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder as memories of his abduction flood back to him and the support group that helps him through it.

“I really wanted to show the trauma of a direct approach,” she said.

Garcia knows she was lucky to have survived.

Adam Walsh was abducted from a Hollywood mall on July 27, 1981. His head was found two weeks later in Vero Beach.

On October 12, 1981, 8-year-old Garcia was at Fashion Square Mall in Orlando, three hours north of where Adam Walsh was abducted. After watching a movie, her mother went to Sears while Garcia and her sister visited the mall’s bookstore.

“My sister was in the science fiction section and I was in the planetary stuff section because I had to do a class project on Saturn,” Garcia said. “A man bumped into me, apologized and struck up a conversation.”

The stranger identified himself as mall security and said his car contained books that could help him with his research.

“I followed him to his car and he pushed me inside,” Garcia said. “He drove behind the mall and he sexually assaulted me with a knife to my throat.”

As he drove away with her, a car lit up a stop sign, causing him to “stop screaming,” Garcia said. “It allowed me to jump out of the car and run, half-naked, to the mall.”

Orlando news records indicate that police later found the car that matched the description given by Garcia, which was not identified in the articles. Police watched the car but never located a suspect. No track materialized.

Two years later, while in prison for unrelated murders, Toole confessed to killing Adam Walsh and claimed he had another 100 victims.

“After Gina’s innocence was stolen, she experienced decades of self-destructive behavior,” her film’s website reads.

She blocked out most of what happened to her in the mall parking lot.

“I knew I had been abducted,” Garcia said. “But I don’t remember anything that happened in the car.”

Then came a series of burglaries at his Orlando pedicab business in 2006.

“That repeated trauma triggered something,” Garcia said.

It all came back to her when she went with a friend to see a movie at Fashion Square Mall.

“I ran to the back of the mall and said to my friend, ‘I was raped here,'” Garcia said.

A U.S. Navy veteran, she began counseling for PTSD at a VA hospital.

Then, in December 2008, his mother was attacked, triggering another strong reaction.

After helping her mother recover physically, Garcia felt she needed to know more about her own kidnapping, so she got the police report and realized the similarities to the Adam Walsh case. It brought back more memories of the attack.

“I remembered his face,” Garcia said of his captor. “I remembered some parts of his body.”

She’s sure it was Toole.

“It’s very similar. There are so many parallels,” John Walsh told the New York Post in September. “His case is so similar to (Adam’s).”

In January 2009, a friend convinced Garcia to tell his story. She wrote a 110-page script for a screenplay in less than 30 days.

And then, feeling she needed to get away from it all, she attended the International Academy of Film and Television-Cebu in her mother’s native Philippines. Garcia returned to Florida and forged a career in the film industry.

At a film festival in 2011, Garcia met Wonder Woman and Monster director Patty Jenkins.

Garcia spoke to Jenkins about her biopic script and asked if she would direct it.

“She was like, ‘No, I want you to get there,'” Garcia said. “But she was always available with sound advice when I needed it.”

Untold, starring Jason Landon and Terri Ivens, was released in 2014 and made the rounds at film festivals.

Yet, even though she wrote, directed, and produced the film, Garcia was unhappy with the narrative.

“It became everyone’s version of my story, and it didn’t feel right to me,” Garcia said. “I let too many people tell me what the story should be.”

The biggest problem, she said, was that her character was portrayed as a victim, not someone who overcame PTSD.

Garcia therefore shelved the film until 2020, when she saw it again with her brother, and he convinced her to edit the film to reflect the story she wanted to tell.

It was released again in September as Untold: This Is My Story and premiered at the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.

“I wanted the film to show people that no matter how bad it is, no matter how traumatic you are, you can get through it,” she said. “I crossed to the other side.”

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