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Cold case closed: Tinsley killer sentenced

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - The man who abducted, molested and killed 8-year-old April Marie Tinsley in 1988 in what was Allen County's most notorious cold case is headed to prison.

In a hearing inside Allen Superior Court Friday morning, the only one on the court's calendar at the time, John D. Miller was sentenced to 80 years on charges of murder and child molesting. The sentence fell in line with a plea agreement with Allen County prosecutors he agreed to earlier this month.

At 59 years old, Miller will likely die in prison.

It was 30 years ago when Tinsley was abducted from her south-central Fort Wayne neighborhood as she walked to a friend's home to pick up an umbrella. 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.

The case went cold until mid-July, when police announced they’d made an arrest.

According to a probable cause affidavit, police found Miller after a DNA technology company that was working with Fort Wayne Police narrowed down a suspect to two brothers: Miller and another man. After that early July development, police began surveillance on Miller's mobile home in Grabill and began to analyze his trash.

Police recovered three used condoms from Miller's trash. The DNA pulled from those was used to tie Miller to Tinsley's rape and death.

Miller was charged with murder and child molesting in the case. He was scheduled to stand trial in February, but in a surprise hearing Dec. 7, Miller pleaded guilty to the charges through a plea agreement.

Tinsley's family, including her mother, Janet, had expressed frustration with a plea agreement after that. On Friday, though, Janet said the family was "numb and emotional," and the sentence had offered at least a little bit of closure.

“We’re glad the case is solved and has come to closure a little bit, but in a way … April really didn’t got the justice that she deserves,” said Janet Tinsley, dressed in a blue T-shirt with April’s photo on it and the word’s ‘Never Forgotten.’ “Right now, it’s a start. But we’re never going to forget her. Her name’s going to be out there.”

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