Almost 30 years after someone taunted the investigators of an 8-year-old girl’s murder, police say they’ve arrested the killer.
John D. Miller was arrested Sunday for the 1988 murder of April Tinsley, the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel reported. When authorities asked the 59-year-old if he knew why he was in custody, Miller said “April Tinsley” and later confessed to killing the girl, according to court records.
In 1990 and 2004, someone claiming to be Tinsley’s killer left eerie messages scrawled on barn doors and threatened to assault other little girls.
“I expected a monster, which is exactly what I (have) seen,” Teresa Tinsley, April’s aunt told the News-Sentinel after Miller’s initial court hearing, held Monday morning. The girl’s parents were too distraught to attend the hearing, according to the aunt.
Miller lived 17 miles away from Fort Wayne, where Tinsley disappeared. Residents in Grabill, a town of more than 1,000 people, were horrified to learn they lived so close to a suspected murderer.
“It’s almost terrifying he was here,” Emily Almond told the Journal-Gazette. The mother often passed Miller’s trailer to get to the baseball diamonds.
But neighbor David Roberts was not surprised, telling the Journal-Gazette that Miller often cursed to himself and threw objects around his property, where he lived alone.
Allen County Prosecutor’s Office has until Thursday to formally file charges against Miller, Robyn Niedzwiecki, the office’s chief of staff, said in a statement.
“The investigation is ongoing by the Fort Wayne Police Department and the Indiana State Police,” with help from the FBI and the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.
Authorities tracked down the suspect in the 30-year-old cold case by matching DNA evidence found at the crime scene to condoms found in Miller’s trash, according to the affidavit.
“Thank God for DNA,” Teresa Tinsley told the News-Sentinel. “If not for DNA, I’m not sure they would have gotten him.”
Investigators said Miller confessed to murdering Tinsley on April 1, 1988, according to the affidavit, saying he choked her to death so she wouldn’t report the sexual assault to authorities.
The suspect had sex with Tinsley’s dead body after killing her, according to the affidavit. Miller told authorities it took 10 minutes for his victim to stop breathing.
The next day, he dumped her corpse in a ditch, according to the affidavit, and returned to the scene on April 3 to throw one of her shoes near the side of the road.
Investigators searched for Tinsley’s killer for years with no luck. In May 1990, police found a note scrawled onto a barn: “I kill 8 year old April M. Tinsley did you find her other shoe haha I will kill again.”
The case remained dormant until 2004, when police received a tip to three places in Fort Wayne, where they found used condoms in each location left with notes on girl’s bicycles, court records state.
“Hi honey. I been watch you. I am the same person that kidnapped, raped and killed April Tinsley. You are my next victim,” the notes read, according to IndyStar.
The DNA found in the used condoms was “determined to be consistent with the profile developed from the underwear of April Tinsley,” according to the affidavit.
Indiana State Police and the Fort Wayne police partnered with genealogist CeCe Moore to match the DNA found in Tinsley’s underwear with the DNA found in 2014. Moore helped track down the suspected “Golden State Killer” in California this spring.
In July, police took trash from Miller’s house and found three condoms, according to the affidavit. Less than a week later, lab results concluded that all three DNA samples matched.
Earlier this year, the victim’s mother and 70 people gathered at the site of April’s disappearance to release balloons in remembrance of the eight-year-old, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette reported. Tinsley would have been 38 years old this March.