John Eric Armstrong: The Model Sailor
Detroit, Michigan March 2000
The prostitutes who work the streets on Detroits hardscrabble southwest side were scared. Since the late spring, there had been a john on the prowl who liked to play rough. A couple of hookers had been picked up by the guy in the dark late model SUV and barely escaped with their lives. The man looked innocent enough, but he had issues with women who sold it for money. He had tried to choke them, and had talked about his hatred of prostitutes while trying to strangle two of them.
Prostitutes make easy targets for killers and sexual sadists, psychologists say. James Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston told the Detroit Free Press that such women are commonly attacked.
They are the most common target, Fox said. They are women who get into cars and find themselves at the mercy of strange men. For the killer, it is psychologically easier to kill them because he already views them as worthless sex machines who exist only to give pleasure.
The working girls were scared, but that didnt stop Kelly Hood from continuing to sell herself on the streets. She no longer had a choice. The drugs crack and heroin were her masters now and she only knew one way to make enough money to satisfy her need.
Hood had come down to Detroit from Muskegon, a northern Michigan town that, despite its smaller size, seemed to have a lot of the same problems that plague the larger urban centers. Beneath its attractive appearance Muskegon has more than its share of poverty and like a lot of Michigan cities that survive on the generosity of the tourists, the city on Lake Michigan changes in fits and starts depending on the economic cycles.
Kelly didnt come to Detroit to be a prostitute and a drug addict. She moved to the big city after meeting her future husband who worked on the line at the Chrysler auto plant. They lived in a nice house in a working class neighborhood in Detroit and settled down to raise their family. The three children came quickly in succession; this year they turned 7, 8 and 9.
But five years ago, something changed in Kelly and along with a friend she became a user of crack cocaine and heroin: "chasing the dragon," in street parlance. Soon, Kelly and her friend Linda were addicts and about a year ago, she left her husband and children for a life on the streets as a "buffer," or woman who engaged in prostitution to support her habit.
It was cold that night but it wasnt too cold for a crack addict to be out on the streets and it wasnt too cold for the man in the black Jeep to be out trying to satisfy his own demon. Like Hood, the man was not a native to the Motor City, but unlike her, he had only recently arrived in town after a nondescript Navy career. In the waning hours of the night, he prowled the dark city streets.
Driving down Michigan Avenue, the man spotted Kelly Hood standing beneath the street lamp, her fake-rabbit fur jacket pulled up high around her ears in contrast to the short skirt she wore. The mans demon spoke to him and he pulled the Jeep to the side. She was the one.
There was still one rational part of his mind left and the man argued with himself about whether to stop or not. This was different than the other times...He was soiling his own nest here, this wasnt any three-day furlough: he lived here and that meant he could get caught. The demon inside his head laughed. Hadnt he gotten away with it before? Hadnt the police tried to trap him into admitting he killed that other woman, and hadnt he managed to throw them off?
"Howzitgoin," Hood said to the man snapping him back to reality. "Wanna party?" She asked.
He said nothing as he leaned over and opened the door. The dome light flicked on and in the dim light Kelly Hood got a good look at the last face she would ever see.
The man was young, but his hairline was already receding. He wore glasses and he sported a three-day growth of blond beard. He was a big man, nearly 300 pounds, but built like a power forward. The two of them haggled for a moment about the particulars of their transaction and, satisfied that the man wasnt a cop, Hood got in the Jeep.
The inside of the Jeep was warm and inviting and Hood directed the man to drive about a block away and turn down an alley. Without comment he did so. He pulled the Jeep far into the alleyway and took it out of gear.
Turning to Kelly Hood, he muttered something under his breath.
Huh? she asked, her mind on the rocks of crack this trick would bring her.
The mans hands seemed huge to Kelly as they lunged forward and closed around her neck.
I said, I hate whores, the man growled as he choked the life out of her.