County prosecutor explains why she didn’t go for death penalty in April Tinsley murder case

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) – The prosecutor who reached a plea deal with a cold case murderer says she wishes she could’ve personally been the one to execute him.

John D. Miller, 59, was sentenced to the rape and murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley from back in 1988.

“What he did was so violent, so depraved, so senseless and so awful. It just defies words. And the anger that you have towards someone who would take the life of a little girl like that is unbelievable,” Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards said moments after the sentencing hearing.

“I think you could’ve found 50 people in that courtroom who would’ve pushed the button, or given the lethal dose, or pulled the lever on the electric chair. And I certainly am one of them. I’m not ashamed to say that,” Richards said.

Many people inside the courtroom were visibly emotional, including Richards who held back tears as she addressed the court.

“It was emotional for everybody, and it’s emotional because it could’ve been anybody. It could’ve been any of our daughters. Any of our sons. And this kind of case really shakes the feeling of safety that the community has,” Richards said.

Many community members, including April’s family, want to know why the prosecution didn’t go for the death penalty in this heinous crime.

In short, Richards says the death penalty would not have been carried out even if the judge granted the order.

In her experience, the appeals process is incredibly long for death penalty cases, on top of the time it would take the case to come to trial.

“The last death penalty case where the death penalty was ordered? It’s 21 years later and we’re no closer to Joseph Corcoran’s execution than we were the day he was sentenced,” Richards said.

“So when you look at a death penalty case, people think you get sentenced to the death penalty, and then 30 days somebody gets executed. You’re lucky if you get somebody executed in 30 years. And in 30 years, this defendant won’t be alive.”

Richards said that if they went for the death penalty and were granted that sentence, she says the prosecution would be in effect asking for a sentence that could never be carried out.

“It is fruitless to ask for the death penalty for someone who won’t live long enough to be executed,” Richards said.

April’s family has said that they are unhappy with the sentence, and wished Miller was sentenced to death.

“We’re glad the case is stopped. It’s come to closure a little bit, but in a way she didn’t… April didn’t really get the justice that she deserves but, it’s a start,” Janet Tinsley said to reporters outside of the courtroom after the sentencing hearing.

Miller received 50 years for murder and 30 years for child molesting.

He’ll serve both counts consecutively.

Miller admitted to kidnapping April Tinsley, taking her to his mobile home in Grabill where he said he sexually assaulted her, and then suffocated her before dumping her body in a DeKalb County ditch.

Over the years, April’s killer appeared to taunt authorities, scrawling on a barn in 1990 that he killed her, and would kill again.

In 2004, police believe he put threatening notes on girls’ bicycles along with other clues that contained his DNA.

DNA evidence linked to an open genealogy database narrowed the suspect search to John D. Miller of Grabill.

Watch our full interview above with Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards.

Click here to see our team coverage of The April Tinsley Tragedy.

Kayla Crandall

Kayla Crandall

Kayla Crandall is the Social Media and Digital Content Manager at Fort Wayne's NBC. She also serves as the weekend producer on NBC.

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