30 Years After 8-Year-Old Girl Brutally Murdered, Police Finally Make Arrest


Just over 30 years ago, on April 1, 1988, April Tinsley walked out of her friend’s house to go back to her Fort Wayne, Indiana home. She never made it home.

The next three days were filled with a desperate search for the 8-year-old girl. The search only ended when a jogger found the little girl’s body lying in a ditch; April had been raped before her death.

“There was a lot of times where I had people say to me you should’ve kept her home, you should’ve kept her home,” Janet Tinsley, April’s mother, said, “You can’t prison your own child, you gotta let them outside and play.”

Law enforcement officers immediately began searching for April’s murderer but were unable to pinpoint a suspect.

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Dan Camp was one of the police officers who worked on the case back in 1988. He felt the pressure to avenge this innocent little girl and help give closure to her family. He investigated lead after lead and extensively interviewed eyewitnesses.

“You have to go over it and over it and over it, because being unsolved, there was something that I was missing, and I wasn’t seeing it, and that’s how I felt about it,” he told ABC21.

Starting in 2004, the murderer began mocking police by sending notes to various young girls talking about April. These notes also included a used condom and a photo of him from the waist down. DNA samples from the condoms in the notes matched the DNA found on April’s body.

Although law enforcement had many samples of the killer’s DNA, they were unable to find a match in any genetic databases, so April’s case remained unsolved.

Since then, police have not stopped investigating. On the 20th anniversary of her disappearance, Deputy Chief Karl Niblick said, “It’s a case that touched everyone’s heart at the time, we haven’t forgotten. It’s been 20 years and there’s still a lot that we’re doing. That we’re missing something, somewhere, that someone knows about, that can give us that clue that helps us break this case.”

It wasn’t until investigators partnered up with Parabon NanoLabs in May of 2018 that they finally saw a breakthrough.

Cece Moore, along with other genetic genealogists from Parabon, used the DNA found at the crime scene and in the various notes to young girls to find distant relatives of the suspect.

“What we are doing is looking for people who share a significant amount of DNA with the suspect,” Moore explained. “And if we find a second or third cousin or closer, we feel it’s a very promising case.”

It only took 8 hours for Moore and her team to find a relative on a public genetic database. From there, they followed the family tree and took into consideration factors such as age and location.

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They concluded that it would be one of two men: John D. Miller or his brother.

Investigators went to Miller’s house on July 9, 2018, and secretly found used condoms in his trash to pull DNA samples from. The DNA found in Miller’s trash matched the killer’s.

Law enforcement officers went to his house to make an arrest on July 15. When they asked Miller why he thought they were there, he answered with no hesitation, “April Tinsley.”

In a news conference on July 17th, Chief Steve Reed of the Fort Wayne Police Department said, “30 years. 30 years this family has waited for answers and on Sunday we were able to give them some of those answers. Hopefully, now they can start to have some closure. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Tinsley family.”

Miller is expected to appear in court later this week but has already heard the preliminary charges set against him.

This isn’t the first time genetic genealogy has been used to solve cold cases and it will most definitely not be the last. There’s no denying how effective this method can be.

Sgt. Ron Galaviz of the Indiana State Police said, “I know somewhere up there, there is a little girl dancing with her angels. She’s celebrating. So when you get on knees tonight and talk to her in your dreams and prayers, tell her, ‘They did it. They did it and we got him.'”

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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