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April Tinsley: Cold Case Solved 30 Years Later

April Marie Tinsley was abducted and killed in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

April Marie Tinsley was abducted and killed in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

April Tinsley Abduction

April Marie Tinsley was just your regular small-town eight-year-old girl living in Fort Wayne, Indiana when the unthinkable happened. On April 1st, 1988, a day which happened to be Good Friday and April Fool's Day, little April Tinsley was abducted by a stranger as she walked home.

The abduction shocked her family and the community when they realized someone evil was walking among them. This evil monster would end up taunting the police.

Right away hundreds of locals and law enforcement began searching for any sign of the little girl. Police did receive a serious lead—a witness came forward about witnessing a man pull the girl inside a light blue truck.

A Shocking Discovery

Sadly, everything came crashing down for the Tinsley family and the community of Fort Wayne. A jogger discovered the dead body of April Tinsley in a ditch nearly 20 miles from where she had been abducted.

Even though she was still clothed, it was later revealed that she had been raped and suffocated. Investigators found DNA that belonged to the murderer. However, even with the DNA and a witness statement, no arrests were made and the case grew cold.

Timeline of the Ashley Tinsley murder

Timeline of the Ashley Tinsley murder

A Possible Suspect Emerges

Another witness came forward who reported seeing a man writing a message on a barn, not far from where April's body was discovered. The message written was ultimately both a confession and a threat to kill again.

The police noticed the writing was full of misspellings and appeared like a child wrote it. However, the witness could not identify the possible suspect. It would be a little over a decade before the writer would make contact.

In 2004, four handwritten notes were found all over Fort Wayne. These notes were found in mailboxes and some were found on bikes that belonged to young girls. These notes happened to be written on the exact same lined yellow paper, and similar to the barn message.

The letters were left behind in plastic baggies. The baggies included used condoms and very explicit Polaroid photos, giving the police a few leads. DNA from the used condoms matched the DNA of April's murderer. This eventually led police to connect the new messages to April's murderer.

Letter From the Killer

Some of these letters were left to be found by young girls. One of the letters said that the killer was watching them and they would be his next victim. He admitted in the note that he was the man that kidnapped and raped April Tinsley. He also threatened to blow up their house if the note was not shared to the police and published in the paper.

Note left by the killer

Note left by the killer

Update: Killer Finally Caught

More than 30 years later after her 1988 murder, justice was finally served for April Tinsley.

In May 2018, investigators sent the suspect's DNA samples to a forensic company, which used the website GEDmatch to see if the suspect's relatives could be identified. In July 2018, the list of suspects was narrowed down to two brothers, one of whom was John D. Miller of Grabill, Indiana. After obtaining samples from his trash, they were able to match the suspect's DNA to Miller.

When Miller was confronted by detectives and asked if he knew why they wanted to talk to him, according to police, Miller replied: "April Tinsley."

Miller confessed to murdering April, and in December 2018, he pled guilty and was sentenced to 80 years in prison: 50 years for the murder of April Tinsley, and 30 for child molestation.

John D. Miller, aka prisoner #264854, is currently serving his sentence at the New Castle Correctional Annex in New Castle, Indiana. He will be eligible for release in July 2058, when he will be 99 years old.

© 2022 Lawrence Lease