The Bizarre Case of April Marie Tinsley
by Robert A. Waters
For twenty-one years, a killer has stalked the streets of Fort Wayne, Indiana, taunting police and threatening children. As far as investigators know, he’s murdered only one child--April Marie Tinsley. There’s plenty of physical evidence, including DNA, and it should be easy to convict him if he’s ever caught. Like the BTK Killer, he enjoys publicity. That could be his downfall.
April 1, 1988 was cool and stormy in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When eight-year-old April Tinsley came home from school, she asked her mother if she could play outside with friends. With a piece of Easter candy in her hand, April headed out the door.
A report on the FBI website describes what happened next: “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 , 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.”
April had blonde hair cut short, blue eyes, and was a petite youngster. Her abduction and murder enraged the community. Investigators determined that the note scrawled on the barn was indeed written by the killer. Unfortunately, the teenager who saw the man couldn’t identify him.
Of the four messages found at residences in and around Fort Wayne, three were left on bicycles belonging to young girls and one was left in a mailbox. Each was written on yellow lined paper and placed inside baggies. Some had Polaroid pictures, while at least one contained a used condom. (The semen was tested for DNA and matched the profile obtained from April’s body.)
One note, placed in the basket of a child’s bicycle, read: “Hi Honey I been watching you I am the same person that kidnapped an rape an kill April tinsley you are my next viteam if you don’t report this to police and I don’t see this in the paper...”
Some investigators believe the killer’s grammatical and spelling errors were purposely written to make them think he was illiterate.
In April, 2009, twenty-one years after the murder, a multi-agency task force began to reinvestigate the case. The Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI issued a profile of the killer.
According to the profile, the killer is a white male who would now be between forty and fifty years old. He is attracted to pre-pubescent girls. Although he may be married, his attraction to these types of children will never be satiated. According to the profile, the killer may go to places where young children congregate. He may make inappropriate comments about young girls (i.e., “She sure is sexy, isn’t she?”). He may collect items related to little girls, such as toys and photographs. He may live or work in Fort Wayne or surrounding counties. The killer is probably in the low to medium-low income bracket. He may have owned or borrowed a Polaroid camera in 2004. In the same year, it is believed he was driving a forest-green pickup truck with a matching camper shell that had dark tinted windows.
One of the photos sent to a child in 2004 showed the lower portion of the killer’s body. He was circumcised and had hair on his lower legs.
It’s obvious that this killer is deranged. Yet he’s been smart or lucky enough to evade capture for 22 years. Anyone who has any knowledge of this case or knows someone who fits the FBI profile is asked to call 1-866-602-7745.