The Unsolved Murder of April Marie Tinsley

April Marie Tinsley was a beautiful child.
Now, all that’s left is a beautiful headstone marking her grave.
For too many of the years since 8-year-old April Tinsley was abducted, raped and murdered, her case has been cold. Police have had plenty of leads but no real breaks, and the atrocity has continued to haunt the community of Fort Wayne, Indiana and the surrounding areas.
April was abducted about 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon as she walked to a friend’s house through her south-central Fort Wayne neighborhood. Her disappearance prompted an immediate, massive search by 25 police and 50 neighborhood residents. A witness reported seeing a white man in his mid-30s pull April into a light-blue pickup, but neither was found.
Her body was found three days later at the bottom of a ditch along a rural DeKalb County road. The case stalled, but in May 1990, a teenage boy saw a man draw the message “I kill April Marie Tinsley. I will kill again” on a barn near the intersection of St. Joe Center and Schwartz roads. In 2003, a series of hand-written notes were left on mailboxes and bicycles threatening further killings such as Tinsley’s. The notes contained misspellings and grammatical errors similar to the message left on the barn.

The following information is from the FBI website at

Help Solve 1988 Murder, Part 1

Eight-year-old April Tinsley was abducted, raped, and murdered on Good Friday, 1988.
Eight-year-old April Tinsley was abducted, raped, and murdered on Good Friday in 1988.
The innocent face of 8-year-old April Tinsley is projected from a large screen in front of the conference room as about 50 law enforcement officials—including a special team from the FBI—begin their meeting.
April’s picture was a powerful reminder of why the group had gathered: on Good Friday 21 years ago, the young girl was abducted from her neighborhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana and then raped and murdered. Her killer is still at large.
The meeting at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Virginia took place because state and local Indiana law enforcement officers—who remain dedicated to solving the case—have asked for help from our Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team, known as CARD.

CARD Teams were created three years ago to bring together a variety of experts in child abduction cases who could quickly respond on the ground to help local authorities with time-sensitive investigations. Team members include:

  • Personnel from our Behavioral Analysis Unit, who profile offenders’ personality traits and possible motives;
  • Agents and analysts from our Crimes Against Children Unit;
  • Coordinators from the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime; and
  • Representatives from the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP).

CARD consists of 48 members organized into 10 teams in five regions around the country. Since the program’s creation, teams have deployed 38 times and aided in the recovery of 18 children.
As the name suggests, CARD Teams respond rapidly in cases of non-family abductions, ransom abductions, and the mysterious disappearances of children. But CARD also works cold cases, such as the April Tinsley murder. And as team members discovered, there is enough evidence—including notes, pictures, and DNA left by the killer years after the murder—to make investigators hopeful they can break the case.

April Tinsley case

It was a chilly Friday afternoon in 1988 when April was abducted walking home from a friend’s house. Her body was found three days later about 20 miles away in a rural area dotted with Amish farms. Despite an intensive search, police were unable to find her killer. Two years later, a message written in pencil or crayon appeared on a barn door not far from where April’s body had been discovered. The writer claimed responsibility for the murder.

Then, in the spring of 2004, four notes appeared at various residences in the Fort Wayne area—several placed on bicycles that young girls had left in their yards—believed to be written by the killer. The notes, all on lined yellow paper, were placed inside baggies along with used condoms or Polaroid pictures of the killer’s body. Several of the notes referred to April Tinsley.

During the spring of 2004, the killer left four similar notes at residences in the Fort Wayne area.
During the spring of 2004, the killer left four similar notes at residences in the Fort Wayne area.

In 1990, two years after April Tinsley's murder, this note appeared on a barn door near where her body was recovered.
In 1990, two years after April Tinsley’s murder, this message appeared on a barn door near where her body was recovered.

Since those 2004 notes, the killer has not been heard from. But he has left a trail of evidence that the CARD Team hopes to exploit during its deployment to Fort Wayne, tentatively scheduled for later this spring. Investigators believe the case is “highly solvable,” and after 21 years, their desire to bring April Tinsley’s killer to justice is stronger than ever.

This paisley-patterened bedspread appeared in a photograph the killer included in a 2004 note left at a Fort Wayne residence.
This paisley-patterened bedspread appeared in a photograph the killer included in a 2004 note left at a Fort Wayne residence.            

We need your help. Contact your local FBI office or the Fort Wayne Police Department if you have information about the notes pictured here or the style of paisley bedspread that appeared in one of the Polaroid photos.

This is a profile of the killer, according to the FBI:
Members of our Behavioral Analysis Unit created the profile below of April Tinsley’s killer based on case evidence and their experience with other sexual predator investigations.
The one significant advantage that we as criminal behaviorists have in looking at this case is the sheer volume of offender behavior we have to consider. This behavior has been demonstrated over the course of 16 years from 1988, when April Tinsley was abducted, raped, and murdered through 2004, when the same individual left messages claiming responsibility for April’s death as well as forensic evidence tying him to that crime.
Two tremendous clues he has provided are his age range and his race. He is Caucasian and would currently be in his 40s or 50s. Age and race are important because they give the police and the public a way to narrow the pool of possible suspects. However, the greatest benefit of being able to see the variety of behavior exhibited over a 16-year period is the way it begins to inform our opinion of the kind of offender he is (not all child sex offenders are the same). It also gives us insight into the underlying personality which drives the decisions he makes, including the way he interacts as a member of a family, a neighborhood, a community, and a workforce.
What do we know about April Tinsley’s killer? We call this individual a Preferential Child Sex Offender. By that we mean he has a long-term and persistent sexual desire for children. In this case, the offender has demonstrated a specific sexual interest in little girls who have not yet reached puberty. In other words, he is attracted to hairless, undeveloped girls. This interest will not go away. Girls between the ages of 5 and 10 would greatly appeal to him. This does not mean he cannot interact sexually with adults or even older children, but his overwhelming sexual fantasies and desires focus on young girls. He may be married; however the vast majority of Preferential Child Sex Offenders are not. If he has a long-term intimate adult partner, that partner will have an idea that this individual has a sexual interest in little girls, but may be in denial regarding the extent of that interest or his ability to act on it. This offender may establish relationships that give him access to little girls; for instance, he may date or befriend someone in the little girl’s family. Perhaps he’ll seek employment or volunteer activities that give him proximity to little girls. He will be drawn to places where children congregate—playgrounds, swimming pools, parks, etc. Wherever he goes, if a little girl is nearby, his eyes will follow her. He may go out of his way to interact with her. In an unguarded moment, he may even make a casual sexual reference about a little girl which, if overheard, would strike someone as very inappropriate such as “She’s a sexy little thing, isn’t she?” Most of us do not associate adult attention toward a child with sexual attraction. People noticing his interest in little girls, may simply interpret it as someone who just “loves kids.” This offender prefers the company of children to the company of adults and he may be socially awkward or inappropriate when interacting with adults.
A Preferential Child Sex Offender tends to collect things that serve to support his fantasies and are consistent with his sexual preferences. In this case, since our offender’s preference is for little girls, he may collect images of little girls, perhaps clothed, candid pictures or even child pornography and probably both. He may take these pictures himself or he may find them through other sources. He may also collect other items that are arousing to him and remind him of the little girls he wants. These other items could range from articles of clothing to advertisements depicting little girls to Hello Kitty items or any toys that little girls find appealing.
The public tends to think that once a person kidnaps, rapes, and kills, he will always kidnap, rape, and kill. In reality, a Preferential Child Sex Offender can engage in a lot of different behaviors that satisfy his sexual needs, but do not rise to the level of the prior offense. The offender may substitute nuisance sex offenses like peeping, indecent exposure, and leaving obscene notes or sexual items for a child to find. If the item is left in a mailbox or on the front door, the resident may think it was intended for the adult female in the home rather than the little girl who lives there. Oftentimes, these incidents are not reported because the significance of the offense is not recognized by citizens at the time. If the Preferential Child Sex offender has a criminal history, it is more likely to involve sex offenses against children.
After 2004, there has been no known activity by this offender, but we’ve seen gaps of years in his activity before (1990s) and this could be explained in a number of ways: 1) He could be institutionalized (hospital or prison); 2) He could have ongoing access to a victim that satisfies his desire for a child partner through a relationship with the adult caretaker; 3) He could have relocated or, 4) He could be deceased since June 2004.
The primary value of describing this offender is to appeal for the public’s help in identifying him. This offender has demonstrated that he has strong ties to northeast Fort Wayne and Allen County. This is where he likely lives, works, and/or shops. You may be standing next to him in line at the grocery store, sitting beside him in the pew at church, or working beside him on the production line.
We’ve said that the offender is currently in his 40s or 50s; however, if you know someone who seems to fit the characteristics described above, but is a few years older or younger, please do not hesitate to report this information. If you have any information to provide please contact the tipline 1-866-60April (1-866-602-7745).

  • White/male/circumcised;
  • Current age—40s through 50s;
  • Lives and/or works in the northeast section of Fort Wayne/Allen County;
  • Frequents places where children are likely to be—focus on little girls;
  • Low- to medium-low income;
  • Owned/borrowed a Polaroid camera in 2004;
  • Hair on lower legs;
  • In 2004, possibly owned/borrowed a forest green pickup truck having a matching camper shell with dark tinted windows.

 These are the links to the FBI’s story on April:

This is the CNN page on April’s case:

I ask you, please, if you know ANYTHING that might help the police or any law enforcement officials solve this case, PLEASE  – Do the RIGHT thing- contact officials and bring some closure to April’s family. 


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