KERRY HUBARTT COLUMN: Solving 30-year old Tinsley murder case top story of 2018

Kerry Hubartt

A News-Sentinel tradition through the years has been to highlight the top news stories of the previous 12 months as we step into a new year.

So I’m listing here what I personally consider the top stories in Allen County and Indiana in 2018.

APRIL TINSLEY CASE SOLVED

In my opinion, no story was bigger to Allen County residents than the arrest and sentencing of a man accused of the killing of April Tinsley, the 8-year-old Fort Wayne girl who was abducted, sexually molested and murdered on April 1, 1988.

John D. Miller, 59, of Grabill, was arrested July 15 on charges of murder and child molesting. Tinsley’s body was found three days after her disappearance in a ditch beside DeKalb County Road 68 near Spencerville. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

The murder stunned county residents, and the story circulated nationally and internationally. After 30 years, the chilling knowledge that a child-killing monster might still be lurking in our midst hung a pall of worry and fear over our community.

But DNA profiling and research by genetic genealogy expert CeCe Moore identified two brothers as potential suspects in the case. And police found DNA from items in Miller’s trash that proved a match with DNA reportedly left by Tinsley’s killer.

Miller confessed to the crime and was sentenced on Dec. 21 in Allen Superior Court to 80 years in prison.

DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT

The flurry of decisions and construction in the development of several areas in Fort Wayne have been monumental in plans to reshape the future of downtown.

Not the least of the plans is a project to transform the 39-acre former General Electric campus on Broadway into commercial, residential and retail space.

The beginning of the Electric Works project was given the green light when the Capital Improvement Board approved a bond last month, pledging the last of the requested $65 million in local public funds for the planned redevelopment. Now developer RTM Ventures must make good on its assurances that the $250 million project will attract enough support from private investors and tenants to make it work.

Besides Electric Works, construction has already begun this year on other redevelopment projects, such as the riverfront and Columbia Street.

THE MIDTERM ELECTION

President Trump brought one of his Make America Great Again rallies to Fort Wayne on Nov. 5, packing the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum with an estimated 17,000 people as he stumped for Republican candidates in Indiana’s midterm election. It was the first appearance of a sitting president here since Ronald Reagan in 1982.

One of the primary focuses of his visit was businessman Mike Braun of Jasper, who was running for the Senate seat held the last six years by Democrat Mike Donnelly. Braun’s victory was a key win in the GOP’s effort to maintain control of the U.S. Senate.

NOBLESVILLE SCHOOL SHOOTING

A 13-year-old boy shot a teacher and classmate at Noblesville West Middle School on May 25, spreading the national cancer of school shootings into Indiana.

The boy came to school carrying a .45-caliber handgun and .22-caliber handgun with an attached silencer, shooting then-seventh-grade student Ella Whistler and teacher Jason Seaman, who reportedly threw a small basketball in the shooter’s direction, then rushed him and tackled him while the boy continued firing. Both survived.

A judge’s ruling last month will likely result in the boy (unnamed because he was not tried as an adult) being held at a maximum-security juvenile jail, perhaps until he is an adult.

SUNDAY ALCOHOL SALES LEGALIZED

Indiana had restricted Sunday alcohol sales since becoming a state in 1816. For decades, efforts to overturn the law were derailed by the opposition of special interest groups — most notably liquor store owners, who stood to lose business to big box retailers on a major shopping day.

But Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into a law in February a bill that allows package liquor, grocery, convenience and drug stores to sell alcoholic beverages for carryout noon-8 p.m. on Sundays.

Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.

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