Home News Stories 2009 April April Tinsley Murder, Pt. 2

April Tinsley Murder, Pt. 2

Hitting the Airwaves
Help Solve Cold Case, Part 2

04/14/09

Moments after America’s Most Wanted aired a story Saturday evening about the 1988 rape and murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley—how her killer had left notes on young girls’ bicycles years after the crime but had still managed to avoid capture—phones in the Washington studio started ringing.

Under the glare of multi-colored studio lights, about 20 hotline operators wearing headsets began taking tips on the case, and our special agent working to find the killer—along with detectives from Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the murder occurred—was standing by to talk with callers who might have critical information.

John Zagelmeier (standing), a detective with the Allen County Sheriff's Department in Fort Wayne, Indiana, listens to a caller's tip about the April Tinsley case on the set of America's Most Wanted.
John Zagelmeier (standing), a detective with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department in Fort Wayne, Indiana, listens to a caller’s tip about the April Tinsley case on the set of America’s Most Wanted.


Although there would be no break in the Tinsley case on this night, nearly 50 tips were called in (most of them from the Fort Wayne area) providing information relating to the killer’s distinctive notes, a paisley bedspread that appeared in a picture taken by the killer, and even the names of potential suspects.

“We are very pleased to get national publicity about this cold case,” said Special Agent Robert E. King, with our Crimes Against Children Unit. King is one of the agents coordinating the Bureau’s effort to help local law enforcement catch April Tinsley’s killer. “Cases are solved through strong partnerships,” he said, “and we are happy to be working with America’s Most Wanted.”

Our partnership with the popular TV show, known to many simply as “AMW,” goes back a long way. In addition to having featured some of our unsolved fugitive cases since the show debuted in 1988, a member of our Violent Crimes Task Force in our Washington office has staffed the Saturday night show every week since 2007 to offer FBI assistance.

“We help out in any way we can,” explained our agent during last week’s program. “If tips or leads come in and we need to react in hours instead of days, we can contact our field offices immediately to aid local investigators.”

Antonio Jones (center), an FBI intelligence analyst, on the set of America's Most Wanted. He has been a hotline operator for 21 years, nearly as long as the show has been on the air.

Antonio Jones (center), an FBI intelligence analyst, on the set of America’s Most Wanted.
He has been a hotline operator for 21 years, nearly as long as the show has been on the air.

 

AMW gets results. To date, the show has helped catch more than 1,000 fugitives worldwide, including a dozen criminals from our Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. The premise is simple: Each week several stories are aired about missing persons or bad guys on the run. Viewers with information are encouraged to call in, and callers can remain anonymous unless they choose to leave their contact information.

Many of the hotline operators are working in or retired from law enforcement careers. Antonio Jones, an intelligence analyst in our Criminal Investigative Division at FBI Headquarters in Washington, has been an AMW hotline operator longer than anyone else—he started a few months after the show began 21 years ago.

April Tinsley Investigation: Picture of April Tinsley
Eight-year-old April Tinsley was abducted, raped, and murdered on Good Friday, 1988.

During that time, Jones has fielded many calls that led to direct captures of fugitives. “When that hot call comes in,” he said, “you know it right away. You get a cringe in your stomach.”

Although there were no “hot” calls for the Tinsley case, Agent King said callers provided plenty of valuable tips to follow up on. “We want to help local authorities catch this guy, and we’ll take every lead we can get.”

We need your help. If you have any information about the April Tinsley case, contact your local FBI office or the Fort Wayne Police Department.

Resources:
Help Solve Cold Case, Part 1

- More Crimes Against Children stories

- Help find more missing persons