FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) – The anniversary of April Tinsley’s disappearance and death this year took on a different dynamic.
Family members of 8-year old April Tinsley, for the first time on Monday, marked the anniversary with knowledge that the girl’s killer has been caught and sent to prison.
An event in April’s Garden also allowed Tinsley’s mother to talk with the person who helped police track down the man responsible for the crime.
On April 1st, 31 years to the day after Tinsley went missing, Mrs. Tinsley, along with other family and friends, placed flowers and Easter eggs in April’s memorial garden in honor of the little girl who was abducted, sexually assaulted and suffocated in April 1988.
The anniversary of her disappearance and death has been recognized before, but this year is different.
“Now we know it’s over, she can rest,” Janet Tinsley said.
As time passed since the awful crime, negative thoughts built that there might never be an answer about who did it.
The case remained unsolved until last July, when Parabon Nanolabs used DNA evidence from the case and a public genealogy database to make a connection to John D. Miller of Grabill.
He confessed, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 80 years.
Family members are grateful for resolution, but many of them wanted the death penalty and still feel unsettled about the outcome for Miller in the court system.
“I told him that, I looked him dead in the eye and told him, I cannot wait for the day that I get the phone call that you die,” said Barbara Smith, April Tinsley’s cousin.
She testified at the sentencing hearing.
The event at April’s Garden offered an opportunity for Janet Tinsley to meet someone from the scientific community that helped bring about Miller’s arrest.
CeCe Moore is the chief genetic genealogist with Parabon Nanolabs.
She worked on the Tinsley case and came to Fort Wayne for a rendezvous with Mrs. Tinsley.
“She feels like she (Janet Tinsley) can breathe easier now, and that’s really all we can hope for, because we can’t undo the damage, we can’t provide a happy ending unfortunately. But I hope that families getting answers lessens that burden,” Moore told us.
John D. Miller had no real criminal history before the murder of April Tinsley.