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DNA Match Leads to Arrest in 1988 Rape and Murder of Indiana Girl After Decades of Taunts From Killer

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A DNA match led police to arrest an Indiana man in the murder and rape of an 8-year-old girl more than 30 years ago.

April Tinsley’s killer spent decades taunting police, leaving behind clues that later helped police in Fort Wayne, Indiana crack the case, according to court documents.

John D. Miller, 59, was booked in Allen County Jail on Sunday and charged with murder, child molesting and criminal confinement.

According to a probable cause affidavit, on April 8, 1988 police found Tinsley’s body in a ditch in Spencerville – about 20 miles from Fort Wayne. An autopsy determined that Tinsley’s cause of death was asphyxiation with indications of sexual assault. Forensic examination of Tinsley’s underwear found DNA from an unknown male, the affidavit said.

John D. Miller
John D. Miller was arrested in connection to April Tinsley's 1988 murder.Photo Courtesy Allen County Sheriff's Department

According to the affidavit, in May of 1990 police found a note in a barn saying “I kill 8 year old April M Tinsley did you find her other shoe haha i will kill agin.” In 2004, police found three used condoms and a note saying that the person who left them had raped and killed Tinsley, the affidavit said.

In 2018 detectives arranged for the samples to be taken in for genetic DNA testing. The tests helped police narrow down the suspects to two surviving brothers, according to the affidavit. In July 2018 police obtained Miller’s DNA by collecting several items from his trash, including three used condoms, the affidavit said. Police said the DNA extracted from the condoms was consistent with the DNA found in the condoms in 2004 and the DNA recovered in Tinsley’s underwear in 1988, according to the affidavit.

On July 15, detectives from Indiana State Police approached Miller in front of his home. When they asked if he had any idea why police wanted to talk to him, Miller responded “Ashley Tinsley,” the affidavit said. When detectives asked Miller to explain what happened to Tinsley he said “I can’t” and admitted that on April 1, 1988 he abducted Tinsley and took her to his trailer where he had sex with her and killed her, according to the affidavit.

Miller told detectives he choked her to death so that she wouldn’t report him to police. Miller added it took 10 minutes for her to die and that after she was dead he violated her corpse, the affidavit said.

Miller told detectives that the next morning he dumped her body in a ditch and that he drove by the next day when he did not see it on the news according to the affidavit. He said he saw Tinsley’s shoe in the car and threw it along the ditch, according to the affidavit.

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Write to Gina Martinez at gina.martinez@time.com