Indiana man arrested in 1988 rape, murder of 8-year-old girl after DNA match found on used condoms, cops say

An Indiana man confessed Sunday to the 1988 rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl after investigators linked evidence found on the child's body ─ and in a series of creepy notes sent after the killing ─ to DNA samples extracted from used condoms in the suspect's trash, court documents showed.

John D. Miller, 59, was arrested at his home in Grabrill and admitted to authorities he abducted, choked and raped April Tinsley on April 1, 1988, the Indianapolis Star reported, citing court documents.

Authorities said they asked Miller if he knew why they were at his home, to which he allegedly responded: “April Tinsley.”

In an odd coincidence, on the same day as the arrest, Investigation Discovery premiered an episode of “On the Case with Paula Zahn” detailing Tinsley’s cold case murder and the hunt for the attacker.

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A photo of the note left on a barn two years after April Tinsley was murdered.  (FBI)

Miller is accused of murdering the 8-year-old and taunting police for years after the slaying by scrawling messages on a barn door and leaving notes throughout the Fort Wayne area.

Tinsley was walking to a friend’s house in 1988 when she was abducted from her Fort Wayne neighborhood. Her body was discovered three days later, in a ditch 20 miles away from the town. Her shoes were found about 1,000 feet away.


Authorities found DNA evidence on Tinsley’s body, but couldn’t find a match. In 1990, police discovered a cryptic message written in pencil or crayon that read: "I kill 8-year-old April Marie Tinsley. I will kill again."

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One of the notes left on bikes in 2004 mentioning April Tinsley.  (FBI)

Four other notes appeared in 2004 on girls' bicycles that were left in yards.

“The notes, all on lined yellow paper, were placed inside baggies along with used condoms or Polaroid pictures of the killer’s body. Several of the notes referred to April Tinsley,” the FBI wrote in a 2009 news release.

"Hi honey. I been watching you," a note released by the FBI read. "I am the same person that kidnapped, raped and killed April Tinsely. You are my next victim."

Authorities searched for clues for years. The FBI initially said they believed the suspect was a preferential child sex offender who had developed “a specific sexual interest in little girls who have not yet reached puberty.”

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A photo was included in the notes in 2004 of the bedspread allegedly involved in Tinsley's murder.  (FBI)

Investigators finally got a break in the cold case in May 2018. A detective arranged for DNA testing and analysis on evidence at Parabon NanoLabs and, in July, the DNA sample narrowed down possible suspects to Miller and his brother.

Investigators began monitoring Miller and searched the 59-year-old’s trash in order to collect three used condoms. The DNA on the condoms collected in July matched the DNA on the condoms left with the 2004 notes and on Tinsley’s underwear.

Miller had initially told police Sunday he couldn't recall what happened to Tinsley, but slowly provided gruesome details of the 1988 incident, court documents stated.

April Tinsley

April Tinsley was abducted on April 1, 1988.  (FBI)

Miller admitted he took Tinsley to his trailer, raped and killed her. He described choking the 8-year-old so she wouldn’t tell anyone what happened. He added Tinsley died 10 minutes later.

The next day, he dumped the body in Spencerville, according to court documents.

Miller is being held on suspicion of murder, child molestation and confinement. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Monday.

Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @bykatherinelam