Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Police Reveal Sex Toy Evidence in Unsolved 1988 Child Murder During Filming of America’s Most Wanted

Photo: Fort Wayne PD. Click to see uncensored.

John Walsh, host of the crime-solving series America’s Most Wanted visited Fort Wayne, Ind., yesterday along with a slew of cameras to film a second episode focused on the unsolved 1988 murder of 8-year-old April Marie Tinsley. Walsh, who created the show after his own son was murdered, interviewed retired detective Dan Camp, one of the lead investigators on the Tinsley case, along with a detective currently on the squad. The police department revealed a previously sealed piece of evidence: a large penis-shaped hand-crank sex toy that was found in a box inside a sears bag about 20 feet from Tinsley’s body. Fort Wayne police said the evidence had previously remained unreleased so that police would be able to use it to identify a suspect who knew something about the case that the public did not. Now, they’re hoping that either a sex shop worker who sold the toy, or someone who had been intimate with the killer would recognize the item and phone police. Police are not sure if the object was used to rape Tinsley. The original April Tinsley episode of America’s Most Wanted aired in April, 2009. Read below for more details on the case.

April Marie Tinsley. Handout.

April Marie Tinsley was 8 years old on Good Friday in 1988 when she was abducted while walking home from a friend’s house in Fort Wayne, Ind.  Three days later, her body was found some 20 miles away, in an area of farmland.  Extensive effort put forth by the Fort Wayne police department and other law enforcement agencies did not result in the capture of her killer. Two years later, a note appeared on a barn door near where April’s body was found. The note, seen below, read “I kill 8 yea old April marie tisley. I will kill agin (sic.)” Near the message, “ha ha” was faintly scrawled. Fourteen more years had passed when four more notes in a similar handwriting began appearing at several Fort Wayne residences. Three were left on little girls’ bicycles; the fourth was in a mailbox. The notes claimed responsibility for the murder of April Marie Tinsley and threatened to kill again.  They were written on yellow lined paper and placed in baggies that included used condoms or Polaroid pictures. Since 2004, the killer has not been heard from.

If you have any information regarding April Marie Tinsley’s killer, call 1-866-60A-PRIL or email

Thanks to reader Sara for suggesting this case. If you know of an unsolved murder you’d like to see featured on Crime Library, email us at

The note left on a barn door in 1990. Photo:

One of the notes left in 2004. Photo:


The four notes left in 2004 were written on yellow paper and found in plastic baggies. Photo: Fort Wayne PD


This bedspread is seen on a Polaroid left along with one of the notes in 2004. Photo:

A map of events in the April Marie Tinsley case. Photo:


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