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On April 1, 1988 — both April Fool's Day and Good Friday — April Marie Tinsley, a first-grader from Fort Wayne Indiana separated from her friends to grab an umbrella due to the impending rain storm.
She never made it back.
Around dinner time, April's mother, Janet, reported the little girl missing. Three days later, her murdered body would be found by a jogger in a rural area about 30 miles away from where she was taken. Despite DNA evidence, no match was ever made and her murderer walked free while her family's wound remained open.
But that's not where this story ends.
Two years after April was found raped and murdered, scrawled on a barn near the site of her death, was a message:
"I kill 8 year old April M Tinsley (D)id you find the other show haha I will kill again"
The case remained cold and no further communication from the murderer took place.
Notes containing used condoms, threats, mentions of April, and photos of the sender's genitals were tied to bikes belonging to young girls. Law enforcement were able to match the DNA from the used condoms to that of the DNA found during April's investigation to confirm this was, in fact, the same person.
30 years went by before a break in the case would happen. Using a genealogy database, detectives were able to narrow down the suspect to John D. Miller.
On Sunday, July 15, 2018, John D. Miller was arrested for the rape and murder of April Marie Tinsley.
Here is the press conference from July 17, 2018, where prosecutor Karen Richards confirms that John D. Miller will be formally charged on July 19, 2018:
Here are details of the murder, facts about the case, and photos released by law enforcement:
1. What happened to April Marie Tinsley?
It was a cloudy Friday and rain was due soon. April and her friends were playing outside, like most little girls do.
April wanted to grab an umbrella before the rain came so she left her friends for what should have been less than a 5 minute walk.
Witnesses say they saw April being grabbed and tossed into a blue truck, crying and resisting.
Every parent's worst nightmare came true for the Tinsley's when she was found three days later dumped in a ditch, having been raped and suffocated.
At the time of her murder, April had a little brother, Paul who was 2 years-old.
“You've got so much going through your mind, you don't know what to think,” Janet Tinsley told The Journal Gazette “At the time, I had a 2-year-old to focus on. If it wasn't for him, I'd be in my own padded room.”
2. The taunts of the murderer.
The first taunt to police and the community came just two years after April's death.
Law enforcement wasn't positive it was the murderer as the phrasing seemed that of a child's and had been written on the barn door in crayon and/or a pencil.
All remained quiet until 2004, when baggies filled with used condoms, notes, and some Polaroid pictures were tied to bikes that belonged to little girls in the Fort Wayne area. The notes mention April and threaten that he will kill again.
Investigators matched DNA from the evidence he left to April's crime scene and confirmed the murderer and the person sending these notes were one and the same person. Unfortunately, DNA did not match anyone in the database, and the case went cold again.
3. John D. Miller was arrested for the murder on July 15, 2018.
Credit: Fort Wayne PD
Using the similar technology that brought the Golden State Killer to justice, cops used uploaded their profile to the site Parabon, a forensic consulting firm, to see if there were any hits.
And there was: John D. Miller, who lived in a mobile home park in Grabill, Indiana; just a few miles from where April Tinsley's body was found.
Neighbors of Miller barely recognized him and said he kept to himself.
Old classmates revealed that he was in special education classes for a learning or developmental disability, but that even as an adult, he still needed to be cared for from time to time.
Though Walmart declined to say how long his employment lasted, they did confirm he worked at an Indiana location at some point, and released the following statement:
“We're shocked at these reports, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of April Tinsley. We will work with law enforcement however possible, and will refer additional questions on this matter to them.”
Unbeknownst to Miller, police had been covertly monitoring him and grabbed some DNA evidence from his trash, like used condoms, to identify and match him as April's killer.
When police approached him at his house, it's alleged that officers asked if he knew why they were there.
Miller's chilling response: April Tinsley.
4. John D. Miller's brother is done with him.
In an exclusive interview with WPTA-21, Miller's brother, who requested not to be named, told reporters that his brother was "a little slow" and never had a girlfriend.
"As far as I'm concerned, when they told me that he confessed to this crime, my brother died. I'm done."
Speaking of their mother, he said, "I don't know if she knew for fact, but she said he got molested in there (reform school Wood Youth Center). If that happened, maybe that triggered something in him that he thought was all right or something. I don't know ... What he did is just sick ... I'm done with him. Like I said, his arraignment was today, I didn't go to that. If they want me for a witness or something in court, they're going to have to subpoena me or something because I don't have any intentions of going and seeing him or anything."
5. Could John D. Miller be the Delphi Killer?
A year and a half after the murders of Abigail "Abby" Williams and Liberty "Libby" German at the Monon High Trail in Delphi, Indiana, armchair detectives and community members want their case to be closed as well.
Rumors online indicate that Miller could be "Bridge Guy," the man in the photo circulating that law enforcement believe killed the two girls in February of 2017.
Credit: Fort Wayne PD/YouTube
Despite a reward sum of over $240,000, thousands of tips, and a team of highly trained detectives, the Delphi murders have yet to be solved.
6. What do the locals think?
I reached out to the family but as of the time of publication, have not received a response.
However, I was able to speak with Ashley Flowers of the true crime podcast, Crime Junkies, who has been following this case for a while in her hometown of Indiana.
As a community member, Ashley said, "We are so relieved that this guy is off our streets. There was so much speculation for years that whoever did it was long gone or dead and people should just give up but I’m glad they never did. I can’t imagine what April’s family is feeling right now after 30 years of unrest."
When asked if she thought there was a possible connection to Delphi, Ashley was a hard no. "I don’t believe this is connected to Delphi for a number of reasons. It would be great to knock out two huge cold cases with one “stone” but I just don’t think it’s the case."
Liza Walter is a writer who focuses on current events, pop culture, and true crime. She loves cheese, Game of Thrones, her husband, and son. Not necessarily in that order. You can follow her on Twitter @NerdyLiza.