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John Walsh is Crimefighter of the Year


In the heart of Music City over the weekend, CrimeCon 2024 honored NCMEC co-founder John Walsh at its annual CLUE Awards ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee. 

“The only reason this man is getting the Crimefighter of the Year award is because CLUE doesn’t yet have a Lifetime Achievement award,” said Joe Petito, Gabby Petito’s father. 

As last year’s recipients of the award, The Gabby Petito Foundation presented John with the Crimefighter of the Year award, recognizing his lifelong commitment and unwavering dedication to combating crime and seeking justice for victims and their families. 

When their daughter, Gabby, disappeared in the fall of 2021, John contacted the Petito family to offer resources to bring attention to her case along with his personal support.

“We can personally attest that, even after four decades, John doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks it with the people who need him most,” said Jim Schmidt of the Gabby Petitio Foundation. “And that’s why we are here tonight – to honor and thank the man who has helped so many people at the worst times in their life for so many years.”

John graciously accepted the award on stage from the Petito family. 

"You can make a difference,” John said to the audience in his acceptance speech. “You’re my partners. You help me catch these guys. It wasn’t just me. It was you. This award is for us.” 

john walsh stands at podium next to four members of the gabby petito foundation

John Walsh accepts Crimefighter of the Year Award. Credit: CrimeCon.

In addition to John, another NCMEC team member was honored at the awards. Laura Tierney, who is a senior inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service in the missing child unit and a NCMEC liaison, received the America’s Greatest Detective award. The award, given by Law&Crime, is meant to recognize “the most brilliant investigative work done by a team or an individual working in or adjacent to law enforcement.” 

Most recently, Laura helped lead and facilitate Operation We Will Find You to successfully locate 225 missing children.

laura accepting award at podium on stage

Laura Tierney accepts America’s Greatest Detective Award. Credit: NCMEC.

The recognition of John and Laura at CrimeCon’s CLUE Awards underscores the invaluable impact of NCMEC's work in the fight against child exploitation and the tireless pursuit to bring home missing children. 

Since its inception in 2017, CrimeCon has evolved into a captivating weekend-long gathering of enthusiasts, investigators and passionate advocates, dedicated to all things true crime and mystery. The event also hosts the CLUE Awards, designed to celebrate outstanding projects and people who “adhere to a commitment to leadership, understanding, and excellence in true crime storytelling.” 

In his message to attendees, Executive Producer of CrimeCon Kevin Balfe spoke on the inception of the CLUE Awards and what they mean for the true crime space. 

“Tonight, we will showcase the best of what true crime content should aspire to be,” Balfe said. “Since imitation is the greatest form of flattery, we hope that more people will start to copy the things our winners are doing right.”

“Together we can change the perception of what it means to produce quality content in this space.” 

This year's ceremony was hosted by Ashleigh Banfield, award-winning journalist and current host of “Banfield” on NewsNation.


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All weekend long, CrimeCon celebrated NCMEC’s 40th anniversary and highlighted the work we do on cases each day. Come back Thursday for part two of this blog to read more about our weekend at CrimeCon. 

We’ll be looking for your pictures on social media, and we may highlight them! Don’t forget to tag @NCMEC in your social posts from the weekend.

Watch the video below to learn more and join us in celebrating NCMEC's 40th anniversary.