February trial set for Indiana man charged in 1988 slaying
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — A judge on Friday set a Feb. 11 trial date for an Indiana man charged in the 1988 abduction, rape and killing of an 8-year-old girl.
Allen Superior Judge John Surbeck set aside two weeks for the trial of John D. Miller, 59, of Grabill, who is charged with murder and child molestation in the killing of April Tinsley. Surbeck scheduled the next hearing in the case for Oct. 5.
Miller, with his hands clenched together, appeared to tremble during the hearing. He wore an orange-and-white Allen County Jail jumpsuit and was shackled at the wrists and ankles. He did not address the judge directly.
The victim’s mother, Janet Tinsley, sat in the front row wearing a blue T-shirt with her daughter’s photo on it and the words “Never Forgotten.” She was surrounded by about a dozen friends and family members.
Public defender Anthony Churchward said afterward that he had not assessed Miller’s fitness to stand trial. He said that if the defense team feels Miller can’t assist in his defense, the court would require a competency evaluation.
“That determination will be one of the first things we’ll address,” Churchward said. “It will be made sooner rather than later.”
Investigators allege that Miller confessed July 15 to abducting, sexually assaulting and strangling the Fort Wayne girl in April 1988. Her body was found three days later in a ditch about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away. He’s being held without bond.
Investigators say DNA evidence and genealogy databases helped link Miller to April’s killing.