July 17, 2018 / 7:59 AM / 5 months ago

Murder suspect due in U.S. court after DNA cracks open 1988 case

(Reuters) - A 59-year-old Indiana man will be formally charged on Thursday with the 1988 murder of an eight-year-old girl after the decades-old cold case was cracked open by DNA evidence linked to a genealogical website, authorities said on Tuesday.

John Miller of Grabill, Indiana, was arrested in nearby Fort Wayne on Sunday after DNA evidence and records on publicly accessible genealogical websites helped investigators track him down. Investigators followed a pattern similar to that used to track down the “Golden State Killer” in California earlier this year.

Miller on Monday was preliminarily charged with murder, child molestation and confinement of someone under 14 years old, 30 years after eight-year-old April Tinsley was found dead in a ditch. He has been ordered held without bond.

Formal charges will be filed against Miller when he appears in court on Thursday, Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards told a news conference on Tuesday.

Tinsley’s mother reported her missing from her family home on April 1, 1988. Investigators found her body three days later, about 20 miles (32 km) away.

Police asked Miller at his residence before his arrest if he had any idea why the police wanted to talk with him. Miller replied, “April Tinsley,” according to the affidavit.

The Tinsley family was notified on Sunday afternoon that police had a suspect, Richards said.

A defense lawyer for Miller was expected to be hired or appointed by the court, authorities said.

The arrest affidavit said that police, using outside labs, compared DNA evidence with information on genealogical websites, which narrowed the search to Miller and his brother.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Earlier this month, police began to watch Miller, and took three used condoms from his trash, the affidavit said.

According to court papers, police in 1990 discovered writing on a barn wall near Fort Wayne that said: “I kill 8 year old April M Tinsley did you find her other shoe haha I will kill agin’.”

(This version of the story corrects year of murder to 1988, not 1998, in first paragraph, headline.)

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Susan Thomas

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