Man who murdered eight-year-old April Tinsley in 1988 and taunted police for years arrested after DNA match

A DNA match led police to arrest an Indiana man in the murder and rape of an 8-year-old girl more than 30 years ago

                            Man who murdered eight-year-old April Tinsley in 1988 and taunted police for years arrested after DNA match

On Sunday, an Indiana man confessed to the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in 1988. The confession came after investigators linked DNA samples extracted from used condoms in the suspect's trashcan to evidence found on the child's body and to a series of spine-chilling notes he sent after the killing, according to court papers.

Citing court documents, the Indianapolis Star reported that 59-year-old John D. Miller admitted to authorities he abducted, choked and raped April Tinsley on April 1, 1988. He was arrested by detectives from Indiana State Police at his residence in Grabill on July 15.

When asked if he had any idea why the authorities were at his house, Miller grimly responded: "April Tinsley." On the same day as Miller's arrest, Investigation Discovery aired an episode of "On the Case with Paula Zahn", which detailed the cold murder case of young Tinsley and the hunt for the attacker, in a strange coincidence.

Miller has reportedly been taunting law enforcement authorities for years after the murder, scrawling messages on a barn door and leaving notes across the Fort Wayne area after killing the eight-year-old.

Back in 1988, little Tinsley was abducted from her Fort Wayne neighborhood while she was walking to a friend's house. Three days later, her body was found by a jogger in a ditch about 20 miles away, and her shoes were found more than 1,000 feet away.

Investigators also recovered a sex-toy in a shopping bag left near the site. An autopsy showed the victim had been sexually assaulted and asphyxiated.

"You got an eight-year-old girl that was sexually assaulted and strangled," Fort Wayne Police Detective Cary Young told Crime Watch Daily at the time. "She suffered, and we don't know exactly how long she suffered. It could have been three days of horror."

In 1990, law enforcement authorities discovered a mysterious message in a barn written in crayon or pencil that read: “I kill 8-year-old April M Tinsley did you find her other shoe haha i will kill agin [sic].” Although police had recovered DNA evidence on the young girl's body, they could not find a match for the same.

Forensics concluded that Tinsley’s cause of death was asphyxiation with indications of sexual assault.

In 2004, police found four other notes on girls' bicycles that were left parked in yards nearby.

“The notes, all on lined yellow paper, were placed inside baggies along with used condoms or Polaroid pictures of the killer’s body. Several of the notes referred to April Tinsley,” the FBI wrote in a 2009 news release

"Hi honey. I been watching you," a note released by the FBI read. "I am the same person that kidnapped, raped and killed April Tinsley. You are my next victim."

Initially, after authorities spent years searching for leads of the suspect, the FBI believed he or she was a 'preferential' child sex offender who had seemingly developed “a specific sexual interest in little girls who have not yet reached puberty.”

In May 2018, investigators finally caught a break in the cold case after a detective arranged analysis on evidence and subsequent DNA testing at Parabon NanoLabs. By July, authorities were able to narrow down possible suspects to Miller and his brother in accordance with test results.

Immediately after, investigators began monitoring Miller's movements and searched the 59-year-old's trash to find three used condoms. Fortunately, the DNA collected from the condoms in July was a perfect match to the evidence found on Tinsley's underwear and the notes Miller left behind in 2004.

Court documents stated that Miller gradually provided macabre details of the 1988 incident after initially telling authorities on Sunday that he could not recall what happened to the young girl.

He finally admitted to taking Tinsley to his trailer, raping her, and then killing her. According to his account, he choked the 8-year-old so that she wouldn't tell anyone what happened to her. 

He added that it took 10 minutes for her to die and that after she was dead he violated her corpse, the affidavit said.

According to a probable cause affidavit, on April 8, 1988, Miller dumped her body in a ditch Spencerville the next day. 

He also admitted that he drove by the body the next morning after he did not see it on the news, according to the affidavit. He saw Tinsley's shoe left behind in the car, and so he threw it further down along the ditch.

Last April, Janet Tinsley, her mother, decided to hold a balloon release in a small neighborhood park near her home to mark the 30th anniversary of April's murder. More than 70 people came together to send balloons up into the grey April sky.

"We thought ain't nobody really going to show up," Janet Tinsley 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."

Miller is scheduled to make his first appearance in court Monday. Currently, he is being held in Allen County Jail on suspicion of murder, child molestation, and criminal confinement.