For over three decades, the killer behind the abduction and murder of April Tinsley has evaded Indiana investigators—until now.
Thanks to advances in DNA technology, John D. Miller was officially charged with murder, child molestation, and criminal confinement of a victim under 14. Messages Miller sent to four young girls years after the murder also helped put him behind bars.
In a police interview, Miller reportedly admitted to kidnapping, raping, and choking April—who was 8 years old at the time—to death. In court on Monday, Miller was given no bond, and his next hearing is scheduled for July 19.
So, what happened to April Tinsley?
On Good Friday in 1988, April was abducted in her Fort Wayne, Indiana neighborhood. Her mother, Janet Tinsley, reported her missing that evening, but her body was not discovered until three days later.
According to an autopsy, the victim was sexually assaulted and asphyxiated. Eyewitnesses allegedly saw a girl matching April’s description being forced into a blue truck near her house, but investigators failed to track down any substantial leads. DNA evidence in April’s underwear also failed to point to a suspect.
Two years later, a message appeared on a barn near where her body was discovered, which read, “I kill 8 year old April M Tinsley. [D]id you find the other shoe haha I will kill again.”
Who killed April?
April’s killer continued to taunt police investigators, leaving disturbing messages for other young girls in the state, along with used condoms and Polaroids of the sender’s nude lower body.
In 2004, three notes were found on bicycles. One read, “I have been watching you I am the same person that kidnapped an rape an kill Aproil tinsely you are my next victim [sic].”
The killer also demanded the girl report the note to the police, threatening to blow up her house if she didn’t. The DNA evidence on the used condoms matched the evidence at the Tinsley crime scene, but it wasn’t until recently that the police could link John D. Miller to the cold case.
This past May, police submitted the evidence to Parabon NanoLabs, which used public genealogy databases to narrow down the possible suspects — Miller and his brother. Investigators were able to track down Miller to a trailer park in Grabill, Indiana and compared the DNA to more used condoms found in his trash. Unsurprisingly, it was a match and Miller was arrested.
Police are expected to hold a press conference on Tuesday, July 17, with more details.
April Tinsley’s parents today:
Earlier this year, April’s mother Janet held a balloon release in small park dedicated to April to mark the 30th anniversary of her death. More than 70 people attended the vigil. “We thought ain’t nobody really going to show up,” Janet told the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.
“But then all the sudden we see a lot of people. It made me pretty happy. And hopefully they’ll continue supporting her, and thinking of her, and bringing up her name.”
In 2015, Janet also opened up about how the unsolved murder affected all these years later. “Oh, it weighs on your heart and your thoughts real heavy,” April’s mom told NBC News. “You’re thinking every day — it’s like, ‘Who can it be?'”
True crime aficionados who have been following the case for decades are hopeful justice will be served for April’s family.
“2018 is kicking a– for solving cold cases!!!! We never thought we’d see this day! Police make arrest in notorious April Tinsley homicide cold case,” one Twitter user wrote following the news before another added, “This was one of the most chilling cases I ever covered during my time at America’s Most Wanted. More than 30 years later, an arrest is made in April Tinsley case
A third chimed in, “I can’t believe they finally arrested a suspect in the April Tinsley murder case… 30 years later. Technology is really amazing.”