April 13th, 2009
12:01 PM ET

Good Friday killer: Why case is “highly solvable”


Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

My blog on the cold case murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley drew hundreds of comments. Several of the people responding said they couldn’t believe Fort Wayne, Indiana detectives consider the 1988 homicide “highly solvable.” A reader named Trey wrote: “HIGHLY SOLVABLE!!! Yeah, that is why they haven’t caught him yet! This sick man is smarter than all of the law enforcement officials. He gets away with murder for 21 years and then mocks the police efforts and they call it highly solvable!”

Others offered theories on the identity of the killer. Some analyzed the handwriting left in messages by the suspect. Robert shared this opinion: “From a graphology standpoint the writer's scroll reveals much about his personality, perhaps most importantly that he has an instinctual [congenital] “criminal mind’ and, despite the numerous grammatical and spelling errors, a calculating logic, which makes him cunning…and all the more ellusive and difficult to catch.”

Several people said they vividly remembered this horrific story. Lu even had a personal connection: “I have lived in Fort Wayne practically all of my life and was a little bit older than April when she was abducted. The barn in this article was at the end of my street and when someone painted that message on it it freaked out all of the kids in my neighborhood. We were told it was a prank probably done by teenagers and was soon painted over and forgotten about. It is just strange to have something somewhat personal from your childhood pop up on CNN almost 20 years later.”

To get more details on the search for a suspect, I talked to Officer Michael Joyner, spokesperson for the Fort Wayne Police Department, and Paul Shrawder, captain in the investigations unit. Here’s what they told me:

Officer Joyner on why he believes the case will be solved:

“Because we have so much evidence that would point to one individual; we have DNA, we have handwriting samples; it’s chicken scratch, and very unique chicken scratch. Most investigations have very little to go with but in this case we are blessed with more evidence.”

Captain Shrawder:

“The FBI profilers have looked at this several times, they believe it’s most likely a male white that would now be in his mid-range 40s to 50s, of a general education, no more than high school; they believe he is familiar with the Fort Wayne area because of the location of where the letters were placed. But on the other hand, due to the long range of times between the messages, they believe he is very mobile. The profilers felt that, given the style and writing, there would be people who would recognize something; that they would know or possibly know someone that talks or writes like that."

The Departments web site adds more insight on the chilling notes: “It is believed that many of the errors contained in the notes may have been made intentionally. However, even if a writer is attempting to disguise his identity, there will often be evidence of his normal, everyday writing style. In this case, someone acquainted with the writer may recognize the use of specific words, phrases, sentence structure, style or even mechanics that are unique to him. Such unique features are often habitual and may provide clues about the writer.”

Investigators have his DNA. They have his unique handwriting samples. What they need now is the one big tip that will lead them to the killer of April Tinsley.

Contact the FBI or the Fort Wayne Police Department if you have any information.

Filed under: 360º Follow • Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. JAX

    WOW!!! I hope they catch this sick guy

    April 13, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    21 years ago – that is a cold case. I hope that the police do capture the person responsible for this murder. He or she has been allowed 21 more years of freedom than April lived – if she had lived she would be almost 30 today. Whoever killed her needs to be caught and punished – I'm glad there is no statute of limitations on murders.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  3. rivirivi

    Again, all child killers and child rapists should be shot on sight.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  4. Tracy

    This case can be solved, but the detectives on the case ought to be very careful in their wording. It's been 20+ years since this crime occured with no positive leads. This little girl deserves justice, but it's terrifying that this individual has been loose for so long. How many others has he done this too? There's no much thing as a perfect crime, eventually all crimes are solved (whether the criminal involved is dead or alive when solved, the crime is eventually solved).

    I pray this case closes and I pray even harder no other little girl has been exposed to this man. Goodness knows what this monster is doing right now.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:23 pm |