Show Notes: 2 Detroit Serial Killers

This show, “Michigan and other Mayhem”, is a sort of factual, slightly comical, always earnest podcast about interesting stuff in Michigan and around the world. It is done by two sisters-in-law (Ali and Jenn) that like to talk about random interesting stories.  Expect cults, mysteries, murder, fast talking, and a couple of mental palate cleansers… and cuss words.  Those happen on this show, a lot.

Episode 40: Two Different Serial Killers in Detroit

Alerts:

  • Pretend podcast music because Jenn likes it. 
    • Ali has a weird laugh.  It is often loud.

Detroit has had multiple serial killers who target sex workers in each decade since 1980.  Sex workers are particularly a vulnerable crowd. Jenn said that the Detroit police was claiming that the sex workers aren’t open with them about information. In Ali’s story, they were cooperating.

John Eric Armstrong

On January 3, 2000, the body of Wendy Jordan was found strangled to death, with her body in a bay off the Rouge River, in Detroit. Wendy, who was 39 years old at the time of her death, had previously been a sex worker in Detroit. Her sister, Bonnie Jordan, insisted that her sister had gotten clean two years ago and was no longer active in sex work. Her family had last seen Wendy on New Year’s Day 2000, around 9 p.m.  Wendy told her family that she was going out for the night, but she never returned home.

When medical examiners inspected Wendy, they found that she had struggled with her attacker while being strangled. Wendy had recently had sexual intercourse and a semen sample was taken from her body. Examiners were also able to recover tiny fibers on Wendy’s clothes that investigators believed came from a vehicle during Wendy’s struggle with her killer.

John Eric Armstrong, who was 27 years old at the time, preferred to go by his middle name, Eric. He dialed 911, and was connected the Detroit police, telling them that he had found the body of a deceased woman along the Rouge River.  It ended up being Wendy Jordan.  Eric told police that he had been out for a walk when he began to feel sick to his stomach.  When Eric leaned over the railing of a bridge to vomit, he saw her.

Eric had been newly discharged from the Navy and recently moved to the Detroit area. He was currently working at Detroit Metro Airport. Witnesses at the scene where Wendy Jordan was found, claimed to have seen Eric walking along the bridge looking over the railing for a while before he found the body. While investigating Eric, police found that he had recently been employed as a security guard in Novi. When he was performing his guard duties, in November of 1999, Eric dialed 911, reporting that he had been attacked while stopping a robbery.  Eric had superficial wounds, small cuts, on his face and arms. After investigators pressed him, he did admit to fabricating the whole story, including cutting himself to create injuries.

Eric’s behavior, his earlier false police report, and his curious behavior while discovering Wendy, made detectives interested. Investigators from Wayne county asked Eric for a DNA sample and if they could gather fibers from his car. He agreed. The samples were sent off to a crime lab in Lansing, but police did not take him into custody.  They needed decisive evidence before initiating an arrest and investigators were waiting to see the conclusion of the tests before moving forward.

Unknown to the investigators, while the samples were being processed, it gave Eric time to kill Monica Johnson, who was 31 years old.   She had been a sex worker who was found strangled, unconscious, but still clinging to life near expressway I-94. Monica, a mother of four, was taken to a hospital in Detroit, where she passed away before police could question her.

A woman named Wilhelmenia Drane said she was waiting at a bus stop when she accepted a ride from a man in a black jeep.  He stopped along a side street, claiming he needed to get something out of his coat, but when the car stopped, he tried to grab her by the throat.  Wilhelmenia fought back, knocking off his glasses. When he grabbed her throat, he also had to get a grip on her scarf, which partially blocked him. As Wilhelmenia was beginning to lose consciousness, she was able to grab her pepper spray from her coat, managing to get him in the face.  She then jumped from the car and ran. Wilhelmenia’s charge against Eric, that of assault with intent to murder, was dropped when she refused to testify in court.  Wilhelmenia, who had spoken openly with the media, said she wouldn’t testify due to the presence of cameras in the courtroom.

On April 10, 2000, Detroit police found the bodies of three women who had been strangled to death.  Rose Marie Felt, age 32, Kelly Hood, age 34, and Robbin Brown, age 20. All three had been sex workers.  Their bodies had been placed in the dump site near railroad tracks within the last month. The three women had been discovered by a someone on one of the passing trains.

This prompted an investigation into a serial killer. There were 80 crime personal brought to the scene, which had been cordoned off. Different Detroit police units worked with the FBI, state police, and Conrail Railroad Police.

(Side note: Another body was found by the site, but it was believed to be an unrelated murder.)

Several sex workers in the area had complained of a man attacking them, giving matching descriptions of the same white male. The women told police that he drove a dark, late model SUV. The man looked harmless, but he was often rough with them, choking them. While he choked them, he would talk about his hatred of women that exchanged sex for money.

Meanwhile, Eric continued to contact sex workers, attacking them in his dark colored, late model Jeep. Police used the description given by sex workers who had survived the attacks to search for the suspect. They started 24-hour patrols of high-traffic areas of sex workers on the southwest side of Detroit, where he seemed to frequent.

On April 12, 2000, police arrested John Eric Armstrong at 12:30 a.m. in his Jeep and brought him to the precinct for questioning. Eric quickly broke down and began confessing. Eric cried and showed remorse during his police interview. He confessed to between 11 and 30 murders throughout his career in the Navy. Eric had worked as a serviceman on the USS Nimitz from 1993 until 1999. This reopened investigations into murders in all the ports the ship stayed at during deployment. This includes Hawaii, North Carolina, Washington state, Hong Kong, Virginia, Thailand, and the Middle East.

Eric claimed his hatred for sex workers was due to a former girlfriend, Kelly, leaving him in high school for another guy who had given her material gifts.  Eric considered the gifts a form of prostitution. Eric’s father was neglectful, and he claimed to imagine his father’s face in place of the sex workers that he was strangling. His first name, John, reminded him of his dad, a man that he despised, which is why he preferred to be called Eric. Eric claimed that his father molested him. Eric and his mother were abandoned by his father when he was five years old, so his father could be with another woman.  It was right after Eric’s brother, Mikey, died after riding his bicycle into the street and was hit by a car.

Eric had spent some time in a psychiatric hospital when he was a teenager.  He was sent to the hospital after he had locked himself into a bathroom because he believed a girl in his high school wanted to have sex with him.

During his confession to police, Eric claimed to have killed two prostitutes in Seattle, as well as another man, due to an argument. Eric said he had beaten the man to death with a pipe. Eric went on to describe the details of multiple murders. He also claimed to sometimes go back to the dead bodies of his victims to have sex with them again. Eric was able to be linked to the murder of a 34-year-old Linette Hilig, who had a string of prostitution arrests in Virigina. Other than that, officials were not able to attach his confessed murders to him with evidence.

Eric’s wife, who was pregnant with their second child as they Eric went to trial, was in denial of her husband’s crimes.

Eric was convicted of first-degree murder of Wendy Jordan, who had been found in the Rouge River. He plead guilty to the deaths of the three women found near the railroad tracks, Rose Felt, Monica Johnson, and Robbin Brown. He was also sentenced to life in prison for the death of Monica Johnson, found strangled to death near I-94. Altogether, John Eric Armstrong was given two life sentences, one for first degree murder and one for first degree premeditated homicide. He was also given three sentences of 30 years each for second degree homicide. He is currently living in the G. Robert Cotton Correctional facility in Jackson, Michigan.

http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/psyc%20405/serial%20killers/armstrong,%20john%20eric.htm

http://mdocweb.state.mi.us/OTIS2/otis2profile.aspx?mdocNumber=362407

https://murderpedia.org/male.A/a/armstrong-john.htm

Detroit Eastside Serial Killer 2019

An ongoing case that has currently two survivors and three, possibly four, deceased victims. The suspect, who was arrested, is D’Angelo Martin.

March 19, 2019, Nancy Harrison, age 52, was found partially dressed inside a vacant house on the eastside of Detroit.  (Almost all of his victims were found in abandoned houses, were in their 50’s, were sex workers, and were partially dressed.) The coroner confirmed that Nancy died of blunt force trauma. Nancy Harrison’s family said she was no longer a sex worker but had been previously.

May 7, 2019, an unnamed victim, age 26, was said to be a drug addict from Port Huron.  She went to D’Angelo’s grandmother’s house for drugs. It is claimed that he demanded sex from her and was turned down. When the woman turned him down, he flew into a rage. D’Angelo beat her and stabbed her in the throat, before running off. D’Angelo’s grandmother called the police and he was arrested. The woman survived and was in the hospital when this podcast was recorded. She is the only victim that deviates from the pattern of killings associated to D’Angelo.

May 24, 2019, Trevesene Ellis, age 53, was found dead and partially dressed in an abandoned house on the eastside of Detroit. At the time of the recording, there hasn’t been an official cause of death given by the coroner.

June 3, 2019, an unnamed victim, said to be in her 50’s, was dragged into a vacant house on the eastside of Detroit.  She was able to fight the man off and get away. The house he dragged her into was the same house where later, on June 5, that another woman’s dead body would be found.

June 5, 2019, Tamara Jones, age 52, was found in that house partially dressed. The coroner hasn’t released the cause of death by the time we recorded this podcast.

D’Angelo Martin was charged with the assault of the unnamed victim he attacked in his grandma’s house. He has no criminal history of violence. His record only contains driving violations. There may a possible fourth victim, Deborah Reynolds.  Her age isn’t known, but she was last seen drinking with D’Angelo.

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