30 years later: Fort Wayne girl’s killing remains unsolved

Local News

Fort Wayne’s most notorious cold case is now 30 years old.

April Marie Tinsley was abducted April 1, 1988 from her south-central Fort Wayne neighborhood as she walked to a friend’s home to pick up an umbrella that Good Friday. The first-grader’s body was found by a jogger three days later in a ditch along a road in southern DeKalb County.

She had been sexually molested, suffocated and dead for at least two days.

“I can’t believe it’s gone on this long,” Janet Tinsley, April’s mother, said. “It’s hard not knowing. That’s the main thing that hurts the most. You don’t know why he did it.” 

In the three decades since, police have investigated at least five separate written taunts and threats, made years apart, that they believe were scrawled by the 8-year-old’s killer.

Investigators have followed hundreds of tips, each have which have come up empty. They’ve whittled down a list of 700 suspects to 100 and are hopeful the killer is one of the names left on the list. Police have DNA evidence from the crime scene and the notes left in 2004. They just need to find the person who matches that DNA. 

“It’s very frustrating. It’s been a roller coaster. You have a suspect come in that looks promising, but then they’re ruled out by either the DNA not matching or they were incarcerated at the time of the crime,” Fort Wayne Police Homicide Detective Brian Martin said. 

With more than 800 pieces of evidence, there are boxes and boxes full of huge case files. 

Tinsley’s cold case has been featured on “America’s Most Wanted” and “Crime Watch Daily,” among others.

Wednesday night, April’s mother Janet Tinsley held a public balloon launch in memory of April’s death at the corner of Hoagland and Masterson avenues.

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