America’s Most Wanted’s Strangest Capture
The Green Parrot Cafe, according to the cover of its menu, was “a private club” in Salt Lake City, Utah, open seven days a week for the benefit of “members and their guests.” Early in the morning of May 17, 1992, a few visitors entered who did not fit that description. A foursome known as the “Preppie Bandits” — so named because of their clean-cut attire and penchant for coffee shops was menacing the city, and the Green Parrot was, as police would later charge, next on the list. According to the allegations, some mix of the quartet decided to knock off the cafe, but something went wrong and a cook named Merritt Riordan died during the attempted heist. Two members of the group, brothers Adam and Aaron Galli, were charged with the robbery and murder. But Adam Galli didn’t stick around. He ended up fleeing Utah before he could be brought to trial.
Galli was captured two years later in Minnesota, thanks in part to a television show called “America’s Most Wanted.” America’s Most Wanted “profiled cases involving the search for and apprehension of fugitives wanted for serious crimes,” as Wikipedia well describes. Each sixty-minute episode featured the re-enactment of at least one crime, focusing on a fugitive whose whereabouts were then currently unknown. Adam Galli’s story was featured on America’s Most Wanted (AMW) a few times during his two years on the run, and on July 29, 1995, Galli was arrested after a tipster who had seen his story on AMW called the show’s hotline.
But, again, that wasn’t Galli’s first appearance on AMW. His debut, so to speak, occurred in March of 1993, just a few months after the robbery and murder. The staff and patrons of the Green Parrot didn’t let the occasion of the AMW broadcast go unnoticed; they tuned in to watch. According to various reports, the entire staff gathered to view the re-enactment, joined by many patrons. After AMW moved onto the next case, many people went on their way, and some televisions were switched over to a local basketball game. But a few people hung around to watch the rest of the AMW episode.
Those who watched the rest of the show started calling the police shortly thereafter.
The second re-enactment AMW aired that evening described the crimes allegedly perpetrated by a guy named Kenneth Lovci, a former Texas police officer. Lovci, AMW explained, had a warrant out for his arrest for molesting a ten year old boy in Rollingwood, Texas, a 20 hour drive southeast from Salt Lake City. America’s Most Wanted and, for that matter, the police had no idea where Lovci was. But patrons and staff at the Green Parrot did. He was in the kitchen, flipping burgers. Kenneth Lovci had recently taken a job as a cook at the same cafe where Merritt Riordan was murdered just a few months prior.
The Cafe’s manager, Brad Summerhays, told the Deseret News that the realization was surreal:
After we watched the segment on the Galli boys, we turned a couple of the sets to the U. game and left the other on “America’s Most Wanted.” When Lovci’s segment came on, we joked around and said, “That looks like our cook in back.” After a few minutes, we said, “Wait a minute, that is him.”
The bartender called the police while management kept Lovci at the cafe (his shift was ending) until the authorities could arrive. Lovci was arrested and extradited to Texas. He was convicted and served seven years in prison.
The name “Code Adam” has a connection to America’s Most Wanted. John Walsh, the long-time host of AMW, started the show because in 1981, his six-year-old son Adam was kidnapped from a Florida mall and murdered; the elder Walsh devoted his life to criminal investigations afterward. As part of the public response to Adam Walsh’s abduction and John Walsh’s later efforts, Wal-Mart created the “Code Adam” alert system (described here) in 1994. Since then, many other stores and businesses open to the public have adopted the alert as well.
From the Archives: Lunch and a Murder: The lunch bunch that meets to solve cold cases around the country.
Take the Quiz: Name the crime TV show based on the premise described.
Related: “Tears of Rage,” the autobiography of John Walsh. 4.6 stars on 122 reviews.