NewsPublic Affairs / July 15, 2018

Arrest Made In 30-Year-Old Allen County Homicide Case

Article origination WBOI-FM
Arrest Made In 30-Year-Old Allen County Homicide Case

Eight-year-old April Tinsley was abducted from the south side of Fort Wayne in April 1988. Her body was found days later in Spencerville.

FBI/Allen County Sheriff's Department

On Sunday, Allen County prosecutors announced the arrest of a 59-year-old Grabill man in connection with the 30-year-old abduction and murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley. 

John D. Miller was arrested on preliminary charges of murder, child molesting, and criminal confinement.

Around 3 p.m. on April 1, 1988, Good Friday, Tinsley went missing while walking home from a friend's house. Her mother reported the girl missing to Fort Wayne Police, and three days later her body was discovered along DeKalb County Road 68 in Spencerville.

The cause of her death was asphyxiation, and there was evidence of sexual assault, according to court documents.

For decades, the case remained cold, though periodically police received messages -- such as graffiti on a barn and notes with DNA samples -- from someone claiming to be her killer.

DNA collected from three used condoms left along with the notes was consistent with DNA collected from Tinsley's body, according to court documents.

Over the course of the past few years, the FBI, Indiana State Police and Fort Wayne Police Department kept interest in the case alive. 

But it was in a manner similar to the conclusion of the Golden State Killer case that Fort Wayne and Indiana State police zeroed in on Miller.

Using the DNA from the 2004 evidence, Fort Wayne Police Detective Brian Martin arranged for new DNA testing in May. Using a private laboratory that specializes in "snapshot DNA phenotyping," investigators narrowed the pool of potential matches.

That testing reduced the pool to two of Miller's surviving brothers via open public geneology databases. Police began watching Miller, according to court documents.

Miller lived alone in a mobile home in Grabill, about 15 miles northwest of Fort Wayne. Earlier this month Fort Wayne police went through his trash and found more used condoms, and additional DNA tying him to Tinsley, according to court documents.

Sunday morning, Martin and a state police detective approached Miller outside his mobile home. When asked why police would want to talk to him, Miller offered "April Tinsley", according to court documents. 

He told police he abducted the girl, sexually assaulted her and then killed her to keep her from reporting him to the police, according to court documents. 

He said he dumped her body in along the road early in the morning of April 2, 1988, according to court documents.

Miller is scheduled to appear in Allen Superior Court Monday morning for an initial hearing. Prosecutors have 72 hours to file formal charges in the case. 

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