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The Journal Gazette

  • File Fort Wayne police chief Rusty York, at lectern, asked the public for information related to April Tinsley's slaying during this 2006 news conference. Looking on, from left, were Prosecutor Karen Richards, Steven Godfrey of the prosecutor's office and Allen County Sheriff Jim Herman.

Monday, July 16, 2018 1:00 am

Editorial

Justice for April

Persistent police work yields long-sought arrest

More than 30 years have passed since the search for April Tinsley ended with a heartbreaking discovery. But the determination of skilled investigators – buoyed by a community instilled with hope for justice – might finally have brought this horrific story to an end.

The final pieces in the abduction, molestation and murder case of the 8-year-old Fort Wayne girl are falling into place. John D. Miller, preliminarily charged with April's 1988 death, will appear in Allen Superior Court today on a probable cause affidavit. Formal charges will follow if probable cause is found.

Expert police work following the discovery of April's body in a DeKalb County ditch on April 4, 1988, appears to have laid the groundwork for Sunday's arrest and charges. According to the affidavit, a DNA profile of an unknown male began to be built with the collection of evidence from the forensic exam. 

In 1990, a message found on a barn in northeast Allen County taunted police – “I kill 8 year old April M Tinsley did you find her other shoe haha I will kill agin.” Fourteen years would pass before the next clues: Used condoms at three sites, along with notes from someone again claiming responsibility for April's death. DNA from the condoms was consistent with the sample from 1988.

Both incidents served to remind the community that a killer was at large and to fuel hope an arrest might be imminent. 

Each spring brought the sad anniversary of April's disappearance and death, including this year, when Janet Tinsley joined retired Fort Wayne Police Detective Dan Camp and others in a balloon release close to where her daughter was abducted 30 years ago. 

Cary Young, a Fort Wayne homicide detective working on the police department's Cold Case Unit, said in March there were “700 or so names” on the suspect list this past spring. 

He told reporter Matthew LeBlanc that investigators received three to five voicemails a week on a special tip line created for the Tinsley case, plus two or three emails a week in an email account designated for tips.

“It's still at the forefront of our minds,” Young said earlier this year. “We're still actively working on it.”

Indeed. The charging affidavit indicates Detective Brian Martin arranged in May for a DNA test and analysis of the sample. Earlier this month it was traced, using a public genealogy database, to one of two men. Solid investigative work then led to Sunday's arrest of Miller, who – according to the affidavit – admitted to killing April.

California authorities charged 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo with eight counts of first-degree murder in late April, possibly solving the Golden State Killer mystery. DNA evidence and a genealogy database similarly appeared to provide the break in that notorious case.

New technology might have provided long-sought answers, but the dogged determination of the Fort Wayne Police Department, the Allen County Sheriff's Department, the Allen County prosecutor's office and other state and local law enforcement officials seems to finally be delivering justice in April's tragic death.