Murder suspect in 30-year-old case pleads guilty

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) –The man who police say raped and murdered 8-year-old April Tinsley 30 years ago pleaded guilty Friday.

59-year-old John Miller appeared in court for a change of venue hearing Friday. Miller faces charges in a 30-year-old case. The case dates back to April 1988 when April Tinsley disappeared after leaving her Fort Wayne home on April 1. She was found dead three days later in a ditch about 20 miles away.

FULL COVERAGE: Cold Case Breakthrough

Miller was arrested on July 15, 2018 after investigators were able to pinpoint him as a suspect based on genealogy databases. He was charged with murder, child molestation and criminal confinement.

Miller pleaded guilty to murder and child molesting during the hearing. If the judge accepts the deal he will face a maximum of 80 years in prison. 50 years of the sentence is for murder 30 years is for child molesting.

During the hearing, Miller read a prepared statement saying he abducted 8-year-old April Tinsley, had sexual intercourse with her and strangled her with his bare hands.

April’s mother was in the courtroom Friday. She cried as Miller was admitting what he did.

Family members told ABC21 they opposed any arrangement that took the death penalty off the table.

Miller’s attorneys previously requested a change of venue in the case.

Anthony Churchward and Mark Thoma, wrote in their change of venue motion that they don’t believe he can get a fair trial with a jury pulled from Allen County because of “Public hostility against him, public outrage over the offenses alleged, and speculative opinions as to his guilt and character.”

Criminal lawyer Michelle Kraus, who recently secured a change of venue for death penalty defendant Marcus Dansby in a different Allen County murder, says even if media outlets get the facts straight in covering a big case, potential jurors could be tainted by reckless claims from the public posted on social media sites.

“We have to look beyond just what you guys are reporting to see what people are saying about what you’re reporting,” Kraus said.

Miller is scheduled to be sentenced on December 31.

Jacob Burbrink

Jacob Burbrink

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