FORT WAYNE, IN — Police have arrested a suspect in one of Indiana’s most notorious and haunting cold cases: the 1988 abduction, rape, and murder of eight-year-old April Tinsley.
Armed with a probable cause arrest affidavit, authorities arrived at the mobile home of John D. Miller, 59, on Sunday morning. When a detective asked Miller if he knew why they were there, the suspect reportedly responded: “April Tinsley.”
Police say that Miller then immediately confessed to the crime, stating that he grabbed April back in 1988 and took her to his trailer where he sexually assaulted the child and “choked her for about 10 minutes” so that she would not tell anyone what he had done.
Miller also admitted to sodomizing the little girl’s dead body, according to the affidavit. Afterward, Miller said he drove April’s remains down a county road and dumped them in a ditch.
Upon discovering April’s shoe in the car on the way back, Miller tossed it out the window. A passerby found April three days later.
The crime immediately captivated the public and generated intense media scrutiny. Despite the attention the trail got cold fast and remained that way for decades. Police were able to obtain a male DNA sample from April’s underpants, but no matches ever came up in the criminal system.
Compounding the horror, the killer seemed to taunt investigators through the years. In 1990, for example, a note scrawled on a rural barn stated:
“I kill 8 year old April M Tinsley did you find her other shoe haha I will kill again”
The next apparent taunt actually led to an eventual break. In 2004, police were summoned to three separate locations where used condoms had been placed alongside notes claiming that they belonged to the man who murdered April Tinsley.
Investigators used those condoms and notes to establish a DNA profile of a potential suspect. The next steps took years, but snowballing DNA technology consistently led authorities in the direction of John D. Miller.
Earlier in 2018 police obtained Miller’s DNA from used condoms he discarded in the trash. Authorities now allege it matched the sample from both April’s clothing and the 2004 condoms.
Over the course of 2016 and 2017, DNA tech company Parabon created and released increasingly detailed forensic composites of what April Tinsley’s killer might look like.Authorities have indicated that Parabon’s efforts proved vital, but they are withholding complete details until a press conference scheduled for Tuesday takes place.
Aside from a handful of minor traffic violations John D. Miller has no criminal record. That is believed to have made it particularly difficult to line up his DNA with that of April’s suspected killer.
Officers took Miller to the Allen County Jail where he was booked and is being held on suspicion of murder, child molesting and confinement. He is expected to make his first court appearance Monday.
The arrest of John D. Miller occurred on the very same day that Investigation Discovery covered the search for April Tinsely’s killer on the premiere episode of On the Case with Paula Zahn.
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Main photos: April Tinsley [FBI], left, and John D. Miller [Allen County Jail]