Crimes Against Children

April Marie Tinsley
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Help Solve Cold Case, Part 3  




An FBI crime analyst (left) provides support to agents in the field investigating the April Tinsley case.



On a beautiful spring morning in the farm country outside Fort Wayne, Indiana, one of our agents knocks on the front door of a well-kept home. In this quiet neighborhood nearly 20 years ago, an incredible clue appeared in a murder case—a message scrawled on a barn door by the murderer himself.


“I killed 8-year-old April Marie Tinsley,” it said. And there was also this: “I will kill again.”


A woman answers the door—she had been working in her garden—and our agent—part of a special FBI team working with Indiana law enforcement to help solve the 1988 abduction and murder—introduces himself, shows his badge, and asks for her help. Did she live here when the barn door message was discovered in 1990? Was there anyone in the neighborhood at the time who made her feel uncomfortable? Did she know anyone who still used a Polaroid camera?


This scene was being repeated in many Fort Wayne neighborhoods, as the cold case we have written about recently is getting a fresh look by Indiana law enforcement and our Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) Team.


Working with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Fort Wayne Police Department, the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, and the Indiana State Police, the CARD Team set up a command post in Fort Wayne earlier this month to manage about 75 agents, detectives, analysts, and command staff involved in the investigation and to track the leads—old and new.



At the command post for the April Tinsley investigation, one of our agents (front left) offers instruction on ORION, our new crisis management system.







           Inside the Investigation


Although we can’t reveal sensitive information about an ongoing investigation, here are some of the leads being worked in the Tinsley case:


One of the killer’s 2004 notes contained Polaroid pictures of his body. Investigators are trying to identify suspects in the Fort Wayne area still using Polaroid cameras and where they purchased their film.



In one of the Polaroids, a green paisley bedspread can be seen. Investigators have visited dozens of Fort Wayne hotels and bedding suppliers to determine where that style of bedspread was used.



Of the four notes found in 2004, three were placed on the bicycles of young girls, in the girls’ yards. Among the questions investigators are asking: Who might have dropped the notes in those locations without arousing suspicion? Was there a connection between the girls who received the notes? Had there been anyone around the neighborhood during that time who bothered the girls or made them uncomfortable?



Investigators are looking at area misdemeanor offenders at the time of the murder and the 2004 notes. Minor offenses such as Peeping Tom, indecent exposure, trespassing, and burglary may be predicators of more serious sex crimes.


- April Tinsley, Part 1 
- April Tinsley, Part 2
- CARD Team
- More on ORION

- April Tinsley, Part 1 
- April Tinsley, Part 2
- CARD Team
- More on ORION

One reason the Tinsley case is getting such close scrutiny after all these years is public safety: as recently as 2004, the killer left provocative, threatening notes around Fort Wayne taking credit for the murder.


The CARD Team was created to bring together a variety of experts in child abduction cases who could help local authorities on the ground. So about a dozen team members from all over the country arrived in Fort Wayne and got to work on the Tinsley case:


Agents with our Crimes Against Children Unit received packets—some with suspects’ criminal histories and last known addresses—with leads to investigate.

Members of our Behavioral Analysis Unit, who assess offenders’ personalities and possible motives, crafted a list of interview questions, and later issued a profile of the killer based on existing evidence.

Coordinators from our National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime and representatives from our Violent Criminal Apprehension Program were stationed at command post computer terminals, ready to supply investigators in the field with everything from license plate checks to satellite maps.

“Our approach with this case is that no lead is too small to work,” said Special Agent Robert E. King, one of the agents leading the CARD Team investigation.


The entire effort was a cooperative one. Our agents paired with local detectives—25 two-person teams worked day and night shifts—to re-canvass neighborhoods, conduct interviews, and ask for DNA samples from possible suspects. Investigators then entered their findings into our new crisis management system (see details).



FBI agents and analysts, along with Indiana law enforcement, staff the April Tinsley investigation command post in Fort Wayne.




So far, April Tinsley’s killer remains at large, but there is always another lead to pursue and another door to knock on.


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



If you have any information on any crimes having to do with Crimes Against Children Please Do Not Hesitate to call the FBI if you wish you do not have to report your name just please call if you know any information concerning a child.
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