DNA leads Indiana police to suspect in 1988 murder case

(Reuters) - An Indiana man was charged on Monday with sexually assaulting and murdering an 8-year-old girl in 1988, police said, a day after they said he had confessed to the crime.

John Miller, 59, of Grabill, Indiana, appeared briefly in court in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to face charges of murdering April Tinsley, officials said.

DNA evidence and records on publicly accessible genealogical websites helped investigators track down the suspect, the Fort Wayne police department said in a court filing on Sunday. That followed a pattern similar to that used to track down the "Golden State Killer" in California earlier this year.

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.

Miller was being held at the Allen County Jail on Monday after being preliminarily charged with murder, child molestation and confinement of someone under 14 years old, jail records showed.

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.

Police say Miller confessed to raping and then choking April Tinsley to death in April 1988 at his mobile home.

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.

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

It was not clear from court records whether Miller had retained an attorney. Calls on Monday to the prosecutor's office were not immediately returned.

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'."

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Editing by Scott Malone and Dan Grebler)

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