DNA, genealogy breakthroughs led to break in Tinsley case

April Tinsley (left), John D. Miller (right)


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) – A judge has given prosecutors until Thursday to formally charge a man who’s being held in the 1988 slaying of an 8-year-old Indiana girl.

Fifty-nine-year-old John D. Miller of Grabill was arrested Sunday on preliminary murder, child molesting and criminal confinement charges in the abduction, rape and killing of April Marie Tinsley.

The Fort Wayne girl’s body was found three days after her April 1988 abduction in a ditch about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away.

Court documents say Miller’s DNA matches DNA recovered from Tinsley’s underwear.

Miller appeared Monday morning before an Allen County judge, who gave prosecutors 72 hours to formally charge Miller in the killing.

He’s being held without bond. It wasn’t clear if Miller has a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WOWO): DNA evidence was ultimately what led to a breakthrough in a 30-year cold case in Fort Wayne yesterday.

59-year-old John D. Miller of Grabill was arrested Sunday after police investigating the 1988 rape and murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley say DNA evidence led them to him.

They had help from Parabon NanoLabs, which is based in San Diego. Lead genealogist CeCe Moore tells our Partners in News at ABC 21 how they did it:

“What we’re doing is we’re looking for people who share significant amounts of DNA with a suspect,” Moore says. “If we find a second or third cousin, we feel it’s a very promising case.”

Their work with the public genealogy database and DNA evidence collected from the case narrowed it down to two brothers, then a search of John Miller’s trash narrowed it down to him. Police say Moore confessed when they interviewed him.

This is the 5th cold case Moore’s team has solved this year.

The quiet town of Grabill has been shaken by the revelation that a killer could have been hiding among the town’s residents in plain sight.

Some community members and neighbors told the Journal Gazette they find it hard to believe that something like this could be happening in Grabill, and others call the revelation “horrifying.”

Miller’s neighbor, David Roberts, didn’t seem surprised, telling the paper Miller has a “bad temper” and would “kick and throw objects” around his home.


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