Vulnerable in Ventura; The Case Of Cindy Lee Mellin

Vulnerable in Ventura, the case of Cindy Lee Mellin

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, long before the comfort and security of a cell phone to aide in an emergency, or the cameras along every street to provide clues in the cases of missing persons, young women simply vanished from the face of the Earth never to be seen again. One such woman was Cynthia Lee Mellin.

On January 20,1970, 19 year old Cindy Lee Mellin, as most people knew her, left her job at Broadway department store in Ventura,California  located in the Bueanaventura Shopping Center.

At 10:30 pm after closing, two of Cindy’s co-workers noticed Cindy standing by her car in the parking lot next to an unknown male,tall and slim, approximately 35-40 years old. The man was in the process of jacking up Cindy’s car. About thirty minutes later, after grabbing a cup of coffee, the co-workers passed by Cindy’s car once again. This time, they saw no people around it, and figured that Cindy’s father had come to pick her up after having car trouble. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

 

The next morning, at 4:45 am, Cindy’s father awoke and immediately noticed that Cindy wasn’t home, and her car wan’t in the driveway. He quickly got dressed and drove to Cindy’s work to see if her car was there. He found her car,still up on the jack with the flat tire still on the car.  Cindy’s father knew something was wrong and immediately alerted police.

The police came to the scene, and quickly determined that Cindy was likely the victim of foul play, as she was a ‘good girl’ and not the type to run off or vanish on her own. The only thing police had to go on was the vague description of the man seen helping Cindy, and he quickly became a suspect.  One sinister fact stood out in Cindy’s case. Cindy’s father later examined the flat tire on her car, and found that it had been deliberately punctured with a large slash in one side.

Over the years, Cindy’s case went cold and she quickly became just another in a long line of young women missing in California during the time.

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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

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