RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Hours after “America’s Most Wanted” was canceled, a small, passionate campaign emerged online to save the Saturday night staple that allowed anyone with a television set to become part of a nationwide manhunt.
The show has been rescued before. In 1996, an outpouring of support from fans, politicians and law enforcement compelled Fox executives to reconsider after they announced they were taking the show off the air, and a handful of Facebook pages aim to recapture that groundswell of support.
“Criminals all over America will be rejoicing if AMW is cancelled,” said Jim Sitton, who credits the show for catching the man suspected of killing his 6-year-old daughter and three other relatives on Thanksgiving 2009.
The show helped capture Paul Michael Merhige, who disappeared after the shootings. Merhige was found after a couple who owned a Long Key, Fla., motel saw a promotion for the show during a January 2010 college football game and recognized him as a guest.
Hours later, Merhige was arrested. His trial is set for later this year.
On Tuesday, a day after the announcement that the show is being canceled, Sitton’s page had 500 followers. Hundreds of others had “liked” or commented on other websites and pages dedicated to saving the show.
“I think somehow, some way America needs the service that John Walsh provides,” Sitton said. “He can bring the heat on criminals like nobody else.”
The show says it has helped catch more than 1,150 fugitives–including 17 of the FBI’s most wanted–and find more than 50 missing children.
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