Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Eric Armstrong: The Model Sailor

Cat and Mouse

Dearborn Heights - - January 2000

The way Wendy Jordans body had been discovered was puzzling to the police.

Let me get this straight, the investigating detective was saying to the big man. You were out for a walk and you were gonna puke so you went over to the side of the bridge and while you were heaving, you saw the body?

The man was adamant.

Thats pretty much the way it happened, Eric Armstrong replied. How many times do you want me to tell it. Im not the bad guy, here. I called you guys, remember?

That didnt mean much, the cop thought to himself. It wouldnt be the first time that a killer had caused his own arrest for the sake of notoriety or excitement.

****

You are dealing with a sadist, state prison psychologist Richard Walter told the Free Press. A serial killer likes to play cat-and-mouse with the police; catch me if you can and you terrorize the community at large. Generally, its their arrogance that gets them done in.

Armstrong had called Dearborn Heights police just a few days before, right around the first of the year to report a womans body in the Rouge River. It was Wendy Jordan, a former drug addict and prostitute, whose family had filed a missing persons report on New Years Day.

Armstrong had been taking a walk, he said, when he began to feel ill. He was atop a bridge spanning the icy water of the Rouge River and as he leaned over the side, he saw something on the riverbank twenty feet below. Looking closer, he told the police, he recognized that it was a body. That was when he dialed 911 and summoned the authorities.

Wendy Jordan had been strangled, a preliminary examination revealed, and there was some evidence of a struggle. She had recently had sexual intercourse and a semen sample was taken. That would go a long way toward helping authorities confirm the identity of her killer.

Not only were police a little skeptical about Armstrongs account of how he found the body, they would later find additional witnesses who said they saw Armstrong on the bridge before he claimed he happened upon the scene.

 He was an oddball, Royal Oak Police Sgt. James Serwatowski told the press. Armstrong vehemently denied having anything to do with Jordans death, but sometimes when investigators were going over his story and pointing out where it diverged from known facts, Armstrong would hang his head and close his eyes, Serwatowski said.

Hed never admit to anything, but he wouldnt argue either, he said.

Other officers on the case had already begun to investigate Armstrong. He hadnt been in town that long, having just been discharged from the U.S. Navy. He had been working as a refueler at Detroits Metro Airport, putting the skills he had learned in the navy to work. Prior to taking that job, Armstrong had been a security guard in Novi, a well-to-do suburb north of Detroit, and a clerk at a Target store.

Police talked to Armstrongs neighbors who could shed little light on the newcomer. The only suspicious activity anyone could report was the day Armstrong left about 5 a.m. and returned an hour later.

What day was that, the neighbor was asked.

It turned out to be New Years Day, the date Wendy Jordan was killed.

The authorities decided to put a little pressure on Armstrong, to see how he would fare. They tipped their hand a little.

Were going to be watching him, they told one neighbor. If he leaves with a lot of luggage, please give us a call.

Police continued to watch Armstrong, and he complained to neighbors that they were harassing him.

 

 

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