Cases That Made a Difference
These are some of the young victims whose kidnappings and murders have helped change laws and raise awareness.
Etan Patz, 6, vanished from a Manhattan street in broad daylight in 1979, and the case remains unsolved. May 25, the day he disappeared, is now National Missing Children's Day.
Adam Walsh, 6, was taken from a mall in Hollywood, Florida, in 1981 and later found dead. His dad, John Walsh, went on to cofound the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Jacob Wetterling, 11, was abducted while riding his bike in his Minnesota neighborhood in 1989. He was never found. The case prompted the first-ever law to create a statewide sex-offender registry.
Polly Klaas, 12, was snatched from her Petaluma, California, home in 1993, and later found dead. Her murder led to the creation of tougher penalties for child predators.
Megan Kanka, 7, was raped and killed in 1994 by a New Jersey neighbor who was a convicted sex offender. A law named for Megan requires state residents to be notified when a sex offender moves into the area.
Amber Hagerman, 9, was kidnapped while riding her bike near her grandparents' home in Arlington, Texas, in 1996. The "Amber Alert" system designed to help find abducted children was created in her memory.
Elizabeth Smart, 14, was abducted at gunpoint in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002 and found nine months later living in a nearby suburb with her captors. Her parents have become active lobbyists for tougher sex-offender laws.
Jessica Lunsford, 9, was kidnapped and killed in Homosassa, Florida, in 2005 by a registered sex offender. A law in her name increased prison sentences and other penalties for sex offenders.
Shawn Hornbeck, 15, and Ben Ownby, 13, were allegedly kidnapped by Michael Devlin. Hornbeck had lived with Devlin for four years before being found (along with Ownby) last January. The case raised awareness of the dangers of child predators once again.