On April 1, 1988, Good Friday afternoon, 8-year-old April Tinsley was walking to a friend's house in her south Fort Wayne neighborhood when she disappeared. Four days later, her body was found in a ditch near a rural road in DeKalb County. The tragedy left the whole community in fear for its children.
Through the decades, authorities never gave up on the search for her killer. Leads surfaced and faded away. In the end, the murderer was found by searching genealogical databases for a match to his DNA. At the time of April's murder, the dawning science of DNA profiling had never been presented as evidence in an Indiana courtroom, but then-Allen County Prosecutor Stephen M. Sims foresaw that the new technology might help them identify the killer.
Earlier this year, Fort Wayne police Detective Brian Martin sent the DNA evidence collected all those years ago to a lab that specializes in genealogical matching, an investigatory technique that has only emerged recently. The test results led police to John D. Miller of Grabill, who pled guilty Friday to April's abduction, sexual assault and murder. Miller will be sentenced Dec. 21.
The years of effort by countless local law enforcement officers and the new technical avenues that led to justice for April should send a message to others who contemplate heinous acts. Not all crimes are solved, but crimes such as this aren't forgotten. As Chaucer once put it, “murder will out.”
An inscription on April's headstone aptly reads, “Never Forgotten.” We hope the resolution of the case offers some solace to April's family and others who have kept her memory alive all these years.