April Tinsley’s killer to spend 80 years behind bars

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) – After 30 years, Fort Wayne’s most notorious cold case has been put to rest.

John D. Miller, 59, of Grabill, was convicted of murder and child molesting charges in the rape and slaying of 8-year-old April Tinsley in 1988.

John D. Miller, 59, was arrested on Sunday, July 15, in connection to the kidnapping, rape and murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley in 1988.

In court earlier this year, he read a prepared statement where he 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.

Before the judge accepted Miller’s plea agreement, three of April Tinsley’s family members, including her mother Janet Tinsley, looked directly at Miller.

They talked about how he destroyed their lives by taking 8-year-old April Marie from them.

In court on Friday, Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck sentenced Miller to 80 years behind bars – 50 years for murder and 30 years for child molesting.

He’ll serve those sentences consecutively.

After the sentence, the Judge asked Miller if he wanted to say something.

Miller’s attorney read a prepared statement signaling that he was sorry, and he wishes he wouldn’t have done it.

April’s family is not happy with the plea agreement, and said they wanted the death penalty.

Judge Surbeck is retiring at the end of the year, and has said he wouldn’t retire the robe until he could preside over April’s murder case.

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.

READ MORE: How DNA evidence linked John D. Miller to April Tinsley kidnapping, murder

See a full timeline of the case here: 

“The abduction and death of 8-year old April Tinsley, that finally culminated in an arrest on Sunday, has haunted this community for over 30 years,” said Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards said in the moments after Miller was arrested.

Sergeant Dan Camp, a retired Fort Wayne detective, worked the April Tinsley case tirelessly for years, keeping her picture in his wallet until the day he retired.

Camp told Fort Wayne’s NBC he knew a suspect would eventually be caught even though it didn’t happen on his watch.

“They gave us the profile of the person that probably killed April. Matches him to a T. 29, white, single? Yeah, the whole nine yards. They hit it right on the head to what John Miller looks like and his characteristics today,” Camp said.

MORE: TINSLEY SUSPECT CO-WORKER: Miller was problematic, reclusive

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

You can read the original probable cause affidavit here:

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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