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Friday, April 14, 2000

Ex-sailor claims
killing prostitutes
in Hawaii

But local police say no
unsolved slayings here
match his victims' profile

By Jaymes K. Song


A former sailor accused of killing five Detroit prostitutes, has admitted to slaying more than a dozen other prostitutes around the world including two in Hawaii.

John Eric Armstrong, 26, has admitted to at least 16 slayings, but no evidence has been found, as of today, linking him to any cases outside of Michigan, a Detroit police official said.

His claims are "unconfirmed," the official said, adding that Detroit police have not contacted any Hawaii authorities for assistance.

Armstrong, a crewman aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, was charged today in Michigan with four counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Investigators are trying to connect him to unsolved murders in the cities in which the USS Nimitz docked from 1992 until he was discharged in 1999.

The Nimitz was in Hawaii only twice during those years -- 1996 and 1993, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman said. The 1996 visit was four days; the '93 visit was one day.

Honolulu police have looked into the unsolved murders for both those years. But none match the profile of Armstrong's victims.

The only local case with a similar victim profile was that a stripper who was found dead in her Waikiki apartment in November 1994, police said.

Lisa Fracassi, 36, was found dead in her Nahua Street apartment with injuries to her neck. She was a dancer at what was then Exotic Paradise on Keeaumoku Street.

But there is no evidence linking Armstrong to Hawaii in 1994, Homicide Lt. William Kato said.

Some investigators warned that Armstrong, a husband and father, may be exaggerating in his confession.

"There are gaps in his time line that we are concerned about," Detroit police Cmdr. Dennis Richardson told the Detroit Free Press. "However, nothing outside of Michigan has been confirmed yet."

According to Honolulu police and state records, Armstrong has no arrests in Hawaii. He also has no arrest record in his hometown of New Bern, N.C.

Armstrong also is being investigated in three slayings in the Seattle area, including the lone male victim, two in Hong Kong and one each in North Carolina, Virginia, Thailand and Singapore.

Police said Armstrong went port-to-port, strangling women, during his eight years on the USS Nimitz. He also might be linked to the deaths of several prostitutes in Japan, Korea and Israel.

"Basically, he told us he either killed, or tried to kill, every prostitute he'd ever had sex with," Assistant Police Chief Marvin Winkler told The Detroit News. "He expressed remorse several times, and was crying like a baby."

Armstrong was arrested early Wednesday in an area of Detroit frequented by prostitutes.

The investigation began when police found the bodies of three strangled prostitutes in a Detroit railroad yard on Monday.

Police said Armstrong was cooperating with their investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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