A Monster in Fort Wayne; The Murder of April Marie Tinsley

A Monster in Fort Wayne, The Murder of April Marie Tinsley


Finding the right words for this post proved to be difficult. It’s hard not to feel a connection to people you write about, or to feel sorry for what happened to them, but researching and writing about the abduction, rape, and murder of April Marie Tinsley, took me to a place I don’t go to often.

April Marie Tinsley was a happy eight year old girl living in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1988.  On Friday, April 1st of that year- both April Fool’s Day, and Good Friday, April was abducted as she walked home from a friend’s house. What followed the abduction was heartache for her family, evidence of a sick and twisted monster responsible for her abduction, and a trail of taunting clues that would frustrate Investigators for years, and leave Fort Wayne in fear.

Immediately after her abduction, nearly a hundred police and residents searched in vain hoping to find any sign of April. They did not find her, but a major lead surfaced. A witness reported seeing a man in a light blue pickup truck pull April inside it.

Three days later, on April 4th, April’s body was found by a jogger in a ditch about twenty miles from where she was abducted. Although she was clothed, an autopsy would show that the little girl had been raped and suffocated.  Not far from the body, police discovered a sex toy.

Investigators found DNA that belonged to April’s killer. Despite the DNA, and the eye witness report, there were no arrests, and the case cooled off.

Two years later, in 1990 not far from where April’s body had been found, a teenage boy witnessed a man writing a message on a barn. The chilling message scrawled on the barn read, “I kill 8 year old April Marie Tisley I will kill again HaHa”. The writing looked like a child’s scrawl, and included misspellings. The teenage boy was not able to identify the man writing on the barn. It would take fourteen more years for the writer to make contact again, but he was not nearly finished with his taunts.

In spring of 2004, four handwritten notes turned up around Fort Wayne. These notes would be discovered in mailboxes and most shockingly of all, on bikes that belonged to little girls. The notes, all written on lined yellow paper, and with handwriting and misspellings that were similar to the previous barn writing, were left in plastic baggies, along with used condoms and Polaroid photos that partially showed the killer’s Body, and him masturbating. DNA collected from this new evidence, proved to be a match with the DNA of April’s Murderer. There was no doubt now, the sadistic writer was also April’s killer. One of the letters read as follows:

“Hi Honey I been watching you I am the same person that kidnapped and raped and killed April Tinsley. You are my next victim. If you don’t report this to police or I don’t see this in the paper tomorrow or on the local news or I will blow up your house”

This news once again sent area residents into a panic, with the realization that there may very well be a monster walking among them. After these letters were received the killer went silent and has not been heard from since.

Leads were followed up, and Suspects looked into, but no arrests were ever made. Despite the lack of an arrest, and the passage of almost 30 years, the killer left behind valuable clues that could one day help identify him.

There are the various writing samples.  There’s the sex toy that was found with April’s body.  There are the eye witness descriptions of the killer when he abducted April, and when he was seen writing on the barn. These eyewitness accounts have lead to rough sketches being produced of the killer. The Polaroids themselves may be a big clue to his identity. First off, Polaroid cameras were not widely used in 2004, so he likely owned one or borrowed one. The photos reveal that the killer was circumcised, and had hair on his legs. In at least one photo, there is clearly a distinct blue-green paisley-patterned bedspread.

Police believe that in 1988, the killer either owned or borrowed a light blue truck, and in 2004, owned or borrowed a green pickup truck with a matching camper shell that had dark tinted windows. The most important clue left behind by the killer was his DNA. This is one clue that will solidify a link between killer and Victim. In 2016, a cutting edge DNA technology was used to create a new composite sketch of what the Killer may very well look like based on his DNA.

Any murder is awful, but murder of a child is disgusting and unforgivable, and the levels of depravity in this case in particular, are especially nauseating. The pride he took in April’s rape and murder, and complete lack of remorse by this Killer, reminds us of the evil there is in this world. This monster still may be walking among the residents of Fort Wayne but it’s not too late to catch him, and bring closure to this case, and to April’s Family. My hope is that this post will be shared on social media, and that the associated photos and clues contained here, may be enough to make somebody come forward with a tip that solves this case. For April’s sake, and for the sake of the Children in Fort Wayne, let’s hope this case is one day solved, and that at least one Monster, can be taken off the streets.

If you have any tips or information about this case, please contact the Fort Wayne Police Department



38 thoughts on “A Monster in Fort Wayne; The Murder of April Marie Tinsley”

    1. Hi Mary, thanks for reading. I don’t actually know if they did familial DNA or not. Various states have laws about what kinds of DNA can be checked and how far investigators can go to look. We should have a single national database. ANYBODY that commits a felony, their DNA automatically goes in and when DNA is found at a crime scene or on a victim, that DNA is compared to everybody in the system. Why do we value and choose privacy over justice for victims of violent crimes? Why does red tape have to stand in the way of families of murder victims like April getting justice?

      1. Obviously the man has never been in jail to the extent they collected DNA. How BMV data base was that checked for all light blue trucks owned at that time?

      1. That’s not what they mean by familial DNA. They mean taking the DNA of the killer and putting it through databases to see if they get a match via family connections.

        “Familial testing is a two-step process in which unmatched DNA found at a crime scene is analyzed for similarities with known samples in state databases in order to find family members of the suspect.”


        1. One can run the DNA through an Ancestory database to find out if there have been any other relatives who have sent their DNA to the same type of database. This will tell if anyone is distantly related as well. Family Historians can help track down and trace relatives from that. I think L.E. should at least try that. I’m not sure how big the sample has to be in order to do a genealogical sample though.

          1. I think there are certain rules & regs about DNA being submitted by police to DNA places like Ancestry.com & 23andme.com

  1. I was locked up back in 2010 in the Allen County Jail for 31 days. My cellmate was actually questioned about this case. I’m not exactly sure why the FBI was interested in him, but he told me he knew who the killer was and he knew every detail about how she died and especially how she was suffocated. Horrific. Apparently, nothing ever came of their investigation.

    1. The person who witnessed the abduction is my niece’s children’s paternal grandmother. She stated that there were in fact 2 people who abducted April. They hypnotized her on more than one occasion to see if they could get more details, but they could not.

    2. And for some reason I’m
      NOT surprised at all that they didn’t follow up. I had a very bad SLOPPY experience with FT WAYNE DETECTIVES/ CORONERS. Everyone is merely a number, until it happens to THEIR OWN. I shake my head in disbelief.

  2. I read in another article he left multiple letters in baskets of bikes and mailboxes over a number of years. All with condoms. And the fact that he knew one of Aprils shoes were missing a detail never released to public. This was their guy! Sick sick disgusting individual!!!! So incredibly heartbreaking

  3. Michael did you ever let authorities know this about your cell mate so they may be able to seek further?
    Do you mind sharing just the first name of cell mate?

  4. I actually tried to contact the tipline after it was on Unsolved Mysteries for months. I grew up in the area where April’s body was found. I also had a man who we felt could be a possible suspect of the case however NONE of my calls were ever responded to or answered. I honestly believe this man may live in the surrounding area which is where the notes were left and the barn was written on. Some of the details in the story don’t match what I know of…..I know people who were there when her body was found. This little girl and her family DESERVE justice!!!!! This is a sad sickening case that has gone unsolved way to long!!!

    1. Wow. I would reach out to them again, maybe Detectives now would be able to tell you if they got your tip. This is way too long for justice for this little girl and her family

      1. My friends son was murdered and after a few months, they just stop investigating.. They stop returning calls, etc. They are pretty much moved on to the next thing. My cousin is a detective and he also told me they do not get very much funding for investigations

    2. Yes!! I agree! Case shoved aside, instead of putting EFFORT INTO YOUR JOBS and providing justice and closure for this family and others !!!! What’s happened to society? WORK!!! PUT FORTH EFFORT!! DO YOUR JOB, instead of moving onto an easier case !!!!!! VERY TWISTED!!!

    3. Sara, would you be open to talking sometime? I’m working on a story to try and revive this case in the media and I’m trying to talk to anyone who might know something.

  5. If ANYone knows of a potential suspect, please call the Fort Wayne PD. Aprils parents are wonderful people, I have talked to both of them many times. I also went to a memorial dedication for April of a flower garden. What her parents and the folks of that area did for her remembrance was amazing. Just put yourselves in their shoes, with your own child. Even after 30 yrs of bringing no one to justice for her murder, you would never be able to rest if you had no closure (if there is really such a thing when it involves your child), and no justice. I have to wonder if even the Fort Wayne PD hasn’t given up on this case. Or maybe there is a cover up? I am an avid watcher of the Investigation Discovery channel, and even cold cases typically don’t go for 30 years with no one being brought to justice. Especially with the technology we have today. I am heartbroken for this family and have been for the past few years when I first learned of the case. It is local to me and April would have been just a little bit younger than me. If anyone knows anything, please come forward. Even if you don’t want to contact the PD, than at least contact Aprils parents. They have waited for nearly 30 years.

    1. Don’t contact FT WAYNE POLICE DEPARTMENT. Contact individuals who will move forward and put effort into helping this family. FT WAYNE detectives LAZY!!!!!! That’s why it hasn’t been solved. This family DESERVES closure !!!!! I can tell you that April is NOT related to FT WAYNE DETECTIVES… if so, closure would have been completed YEARS AND YEARS AGO.

  6. I believe the police thought it was an older gentleman that has since passed away. It was all over our newspapers. If they had the DNA, why didn’t they check it with the old mans? Also- was there DNA data based in 1988?

    1. I also remember this news article. It stated that an older gentleman who knew April Tinsley’s family as well as Sarah Bowker’s family (Sarah was also murdered) was responsible for both murders. I always found it odd that this never came out until the older man passed away and was never held responsible. My grandaughtet was murdered by her own father 8 years ago. This nightmare will never end for our family. I cannot imagine the pain and anguish this family has endured for over 30 years. I cannot imagine never having justice or closure. I pray that this page, in being shared over and over, will result in someone with a conscience who knows something or funding or a cold case squad or even fresh tips will give April and her family justice.

  7. There was another abduction murder of a young girl in the very early 90’s, I think she lived in an apartment complex on Coldwater road, I don’t think that case was ever solved either.
    There has to be a special place in hell for anyone that would commit such a heinous act as this!

  8. This is prob a coincidence but reading this makes my skin craw and think back to a year ago where I work in the area as a mechanic. I was working on the older mans car who was just plain creepy and just off… I honestly haven’t thought of this since but it was a older truck with a cab. When I was finished with the mans car he was out in the lobby just gabbing away on his phone out loud and I was almost baffled at what I was hearing considering he had to known I could hear him and made me doubt what I was indeed hearing. He said something along the lines of talking about a girl he had a interaction with and had to “get her” “I pulled up next to her and had to chase her down…ended up having to throw her in the back” i also remember something to the effect of him also saying something about plastic barrels that made me think he was talking about a disposal of some sort. I was so creeped out after that I wrote down his plates and information without any other reason other than the simple fact of what I heard and the overall creepy vibe this older man gave out. I was also tempted to call police but also didn’t want to get involved without having any clue about who or what he was talking about…

  9. Now that Abby and Libby in Delphi IN have been murdered this case came to mind. I just can’t accept this killer has not been caught. If the old man that died is the killer then we deserve to know. Who was he? I am haunted by a memory of a man who exposed himself to my friend and me walking back to school from lunch. We were only 4th graders and he was vile. This happened 2 other times to us walking alone to Southgate plaza. I can’t help but wonder if he was stalking us and intended to kidnap us. We never reported the other 2 incidents as we were afraid our parents wouldn’t allow us out of the house again.

  10. Why not look up the sex toy purchase history and go from there? I realize it’s a long shot but perhaps the company who sells them has purchasing logs that the police can use to narrow their search. Maybe one of the guys on their list shows up on the logs?

  11. I live in Fort Wayne Indiana and was 7yrs old at the time it happened. This case haunts our community as have many other crimes, but this case to this day stands out and you can ask any child who April was and they can tell you something about the case. Personally I remember before being able to go to friends houses and play in our yards. However after every kid I knew was basicly not allowed to leave our yards. This also impacted the way I patented my five children they hate that I’m on them so much and don’t give them freedom but I’d rather have a mad child than morn them . I wish that April’s family could have closure, I couldn’t imagine the pain the have endured and continue to live with because of this. There were other crimes against children around that time that I remember hearing about I remember hearing about a young girl I thought was found in Bloomingdale park and was impaled, another was found face down under a bridge in a little bit of water off the trail behind centliver apartment complex on Westbrook Dr I cannot remember if these were solved either.

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