In an investigation of a crime where the suspects are identified, DNA samples obtained from the individuals are compared to evidence from the crime scene.

The comparison helps establish if the suspects were physically present at the crime scene and whether they committed the crime being investigated.

In cases where authorities have not yet identified any suspect, DNA samples collected from the crime scene will be compared to existing profiles in DNA databases.

There have been plenty of investigative success stories of how the police utilized DNA technology to determine the perpetrators of a crime, even in cold cases from decades ago. The murder of April Tinsley is an unmistakable reminder. 

On a cold and stormy April 1, 1988, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, an 8-year-old April Tinsley didn’t go straight home after school.

She spent time at Nicole’s house before walking down to another friend’s house nearby to retrieve an umbrella.

It was raining, and she never took the umbrella; April disappeared somewhere in her route between West Suttenfield Street and Hogland Avenue. After early investigation, the case went cold until more than 16 years later.


10 /10 Not Home For Dinner

On April 1, 1988, the clouds appeared unfriendly in the skies over Fort Wayne, Indiana. It certainly did look like rain, but April Tinsley was still not home.

The 8-year-old, dark-eyed, blonde-haired first-grader was at Nicole’s house just two streets away from home, and she did not come home after the rain.

When there was still no sign of her by dinner time, her mother reported April missing. Nicole knew that her friend had walked toward home, but now no one knew where April was.

9 /10 Her Body Found

The worst had happened. Three days later, a jogger noticed the presence of a body in a ditch near Spencerville.

One of her shoes was located about 1,000 feet away from the location of the body. It was not surprising since the water-filled ditch was twisting through rural fields.

The police recovered a shopping bag containing a sex toy not far from the site. An autopsy revealed that April Tinsley had been sexually abused and strangled. She died of asphyxiation on the day she disappeared.


8 /10 Suspect Identified

The early investigation led the police toward a 34-year-old suspect with a history of child molestation charges in a separate case.

Authorities later determined that the suspect could not be linked to April’s death, and he was also acquitted of other wrongdoings in the other case a month later.

Some witnesses claimed to have seen a girl matching April’s description being forced to get into a blue truck near her house.

The police also offered a reward for any information that might help with the investigation. There was no new lead, and the case went cold.


7 /10 Taunting Message

In May 1990, the police found a message written on a barn in St. Joseph Township. The person who wrote it claimed to be April’s killer and taunted the police about whether they found the other shoe.

It was written with crayons, later found lying around just a few steps away from the barn. The police and the community saw the message as irritating, but they couldn’t do anything because it didn’t lead to any new hint about the killer anyway.

Soon enough, the murder of April Tinsley became the most notorious unsolved case across the Midwestern states.


6 /10 Once Again, A Cold Case

Investigators could gain nothing from the message. Without new leads, the case went cold again. Similar messages suddenly appeared in 2004; this time, the notes were neatly put inside a clear plastic bag.

One of the messages also indicated that the sender was the same person who raped and killed April Tinsley 16 years ago.

At the end of the note, the line read, “you are my next victim.” One of the most disturbing parts was that the sender put the message in a little girl’s bicycle basket.

5 /10 Used Condom

There were many spelling errors in the note, and investigators assumed the errors were intentional to help conceal the sender’s identity.

The police found a photograph of a man’s naked body and a used condom in the other plastic bags. Although the authorities could conclusively say that the picture was of the killer himself, the taunting messages were getting too much to handle.

They want to identify whoever wrote and sent the notes and other filthy items and whether or not the investigation could be connected to April’s case.

4 /10 No Prankster

The FBI was now involved in the investigation. The bureau concluded that the killer left the notes and other items, not some pranksters.

Investigators were able to obtain a DNA sample from the used condom. Comparing the sample with the evidence collected in 1988 confirmed a match.

It was a breakthrough but not as productive as anybody had hoped. The DNA profile found no match when compared to the criminal database. The investigation once again was forced to go back to square one.

3 /10 Behavioral Analysis Unit

Reinforcement came to the surface in 2009. As the FBI began reinvestigating the case, the bureau assigned its Behavioral Analysis Unit to build a comprehensive profile of the suspect, not a DNA profile, but personality traits or characteristics and personal history based on the available evidence, including the notes.

The unit determined that the killer was most likely a Caucasian male aged 40 – 50, living or working in northeast Allen County. It did not narrow down the suspects by much but progress nonetheless.

Public Domain

2 /10 Genealogy And DNA

In May 2018, the police used the DNA sample to find a match – not directly to the suspect but to any existing relatives through genealogy. Based on the finding and the suspect’s profile, they narrowed the suspects down to two brothers.

The police collected DNA samples from items in their trash and found three used condoms.

Samples taken from the articles were then compared to existing data, and there was a match. The person who raped and killed April Tinsley was John D. Miller, also from Indiana.

Allen County Sheriff’s Department

1 /10 Confession

Investigators from the Indiana State Police and Fort Wayne Police Department arrested Miller on July 15, 2018.

When questioned about the disappearance and death of April Tinsley in 1988, the suspect confessed to kidnapping, raping, and killing her. Miller said he strangled April to death before violating her corpse.

In December 2018, John D. Miller was sentenced to 30 years for child molestation and 50 years for murder. He is now serving time at New Castle Correctional Facility, and he will stay in prison until he is at least 99-years-old.

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