Home News Stories 2009 April April Tinsley Murder, Pt. 1

April Tinsley Murder, Pt. 1

Cold Case Heats Up
Help Solve 1988 Murder, Part 1

04/03/09

Eight-year-old April Tinsley was abducted, raped, and murdered on Good Friday in 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.jpg

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 message 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.

Resources:
- CARD Team
- Help find more missing persons
- More Crimes Against Children stories