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Fort Wayne-area law enforcement officials say hard work, perseverance led to arrest in April Tinsley murder case

At a recent news conference, Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards thanked law enforcement personnel, and others who helped lead to an arrest in the 1988 April Tinsley murder case. Such cold cases require a lot of resources, however, which is one reason Richards is seeking an extra $513,000 for her office next year. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)
A bank of TV cameras lined the back of the room today for the news conference about the arrest of John D. Miller in connection with the 1988 April Tinsley murder case. The stations attending the event at Rousseau Centre included local TV outlets as well as crews that appeared to be from Indianapolis and possibly beyond. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

Joy, a few watering eyes and a lot of gratitude filled the room today at the news conference regarding Sunday’s arrest in the 1988 April Marie Tinsley murder case.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards set the tone from the beginning, saying the purpose of the news conference was to thank all those who assisted with investigating the case, including the public and local and national media.

“There has not been a day, month or year that has gone by without someone working on this case,” Richards said, who noted the case has haunted the Fort Wayne community for 30 years.

That changed Sunday when local law enforcement officials arrested John D. Miller, 59, of the 13700 block of Main Street in Grabill, on preliminary charges of murder, child molesting and confinement in connection with the Tinsley case.

Then 8-year-old April Marie Tinsley was abducted April 1, 1988, from Hoagland Avenue near her home. Her body was found April 4 in a ditch in the 5000 block of DeKalb County Road 68 near Spencerville. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

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

After being picked up for questioning by detectives from the Fort Wayne Police Department and Indiana State Police, Miller allegedly confessed to abducting and sexually assaulting Tinsley and then choking her to death to prevent her from reporting him to police, a probable cause affidavit filed in the case said.

Miller is scheduled to appear Thursday in Allen Superior Court, at which time formal criminal charges will be filed against him in the case, Richards said. Until then, he is being held without bond in the Allen County Jail.

Citing the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys, which prevent prosecutors from discussing details of the case, Richards declined to answer media questions about whether she will seek the death penalty against Miller or what steps may be taken to ensure he receives a fair trial.

She also declined to say whether he is a suspect in any other crimes. In writing discovered in May 1990 on a barn at Schwartz Road and Indiana 37, the writer took credit for killing Tinsley and threatened to kill again.

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But Richards and others readily voiced gratitude for the apparent resolution of the case and for the hard work that made it happen.

“This case was solved by the tireless efforts of people in this room and the agencies represented by the people standing behind me,” Richards said during her time at the podium.

She also acknowledged the contributions of others in the room, glancing toward three now-retired Fort Wayne Police Department detectives who were among the initial investigators of the case.

“Wonderful,” retired Det. Sgt. Dan Camp said when asked how it felt to have an arrest in the case. “We all are just elated it all has come to fruition.”

“Happy for the Tinsley family,” retired Det. Danny Jackson said. April Tinsley’s mother, Janet, now finally will have some answers, Jackson added.

“We are so happy the department carried on the investigation,” retired Det. Gary Grant said.

Today’s better DNA and other technology helped in solving the case, but it still took a lot of traditional detective work, Grant added.

“Today is a big win for law enforcement,” said Supervising Special Agent Jim Keszei of the local FBI office.

Along with thanking investigators, the public and media for their help with the case through the years, Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed and Sgt. Ron Galaviz, public information officer for the Indiana State Police post in Fort Wayne, said they hope the arrest gives the Tinsley family answers, peace and closure.

“I know there is a little girl up there dancing with her angels,” Galaviz said. “When you get on your knees tonight and you talk to her in your dreams and prayers, tell her, “We did it. We did it. We got him.”

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