"America's Most Wanted" was back in town Monday with host John Walsh, taking another look at the 24-year-old cold case of April Tinsley.
Tinsley was just 8 years old on April 11, 1988, when the Fairfield Elementary first- grader was abducted as she walked to a friend's home through her south-central Fort Wayne neighborhood to pick up an umbrella. She was murdered, and a jogger discovered her body three days later in a ditch along a rural DeKalb County road.
Tinsley's killer remains unknown despite at least five written taunts and threats that were sent years apart. Even with that the case has been considered “cold.”
"America's Most Wanted" first aired a program about the Tinsley killing April 11, 2009, and aired a follow-up July 18 that same year. The first segment prompted more than 100 tips. Since the second show, there have been 710 tips. Five hundred thirteen suspects have been narrowed down to 81. Of those 81, said Fort Wayne Police crime scene tech Chris Meihls, 12 have refused to let their DNA be tested. Several of those have refused twice.
“We have some new evidence released today by the Fort Wayne PD, so we are going to go hard on this case until we find this coward,” said Walsh.
The evidence he was referring to was a white plastic Sears bag with a hand- crank sex device found 20 feet from the crime scene. The device is shaped like a large penis with a metal crank on the bottom. The product is called a “Ben Wa Squirmy Manual Crank.”
“Now after all these year, federal agencies and the Fort Wayne Police Department have come forward with this. If this helps us, if there was a former sex partner or someone who sold this to this creep, they might recognize it and come forward,” Walsh said.
Walsh said he would like to be able to give the family and the community closure on this crime. Walsh's six-year-old son was abducted and murdered, and his murderer was not found for 27 years.
“We never give up hope and maybe this new evidence will be the clue that will break this case,” Walsh said.
Former FBI profiler Jennifer Eakim was also interviewed by Walsh, and she said it is very likely this guy had the sort of job that has allowed him to come and go in the community without being noticed. Someone working as a postal carrier, meter reader or animal-control officer tends to fly under the radar.
Walsh said parents here should be on the lookout. This person, Walsh said, was arrogant enough to leave used condoms and to send threatening letters to little girls. People shouldn't be afraid to come forward with their suspicions. Walsh encouraged people to contact his show.
“Don't be afraid. Give us the tip. Somebody knows who this creep, and it is more then likely he is still in the community,” Walsh said, adding: “God forbid he decides to come out and do it again. They never stop; they do it until they die.”
Walsh said the Fort Wayne Police Department and the Allen County Prosecutor's Office have said that DNA given will be used only for this case, so people shouldn't be afraid to cooperate.
Detective Zagelmeier of the Allen County Sheriff's Department has been involved with the Tinsley case since 2004, when he was asked to come on board as a part of a task force that went back and re-investigated the case.
“It wasn't did we do something wrong, it was really more did we miss anything,” Zagelmeier said.
Like Meihls and Walsh, he also stressed that the DNA given on this case will only be used for this case.