A Brainerd man who served in the Navy with the suspected Detroit area serial killer said he never would have guessed him as a murderer.
Chris Staples, 24, served with suspected killer John E. Armstrong, 26, on the USS Nimitz from 1997 to 1998.
Armstrong was to be arraigned today on five charges of murder and three attempted murders of Detroit area prostitutes.
Armstrong is suspected in at least 11 other slayings since 1992: three in the Seattle area, including the lone male victim, two in Hawaii, two in Hong Kong and one each in North Carolina, Virginia, Thailand and Singapore.
Chris Staples of Brainerd had this picture of John E. Armstrong from when they served on the USS Nimitz together.
Staples said he worked in the supply department with Armstrong on the Nimitz and talked with him often. He said Armstrong was a big person at about 6-feet 2-inches tall and about 220 pounds, but not the type of person one would expect to be accused of murder.
"He didn't seem like the kind that would be a killer. He was mild-mannered, calm," Staples said. "I never once saw him get angry. He was one of the most mild guys on the ship, which is something considering that when you're out for six months on a ship tempers can flare. He had the personality of a person you would not expect to get violent."
And when Staples saw Armstrong was in the news, accused of killing Detroit area prostitutes and a suspect in some international killings, he knew right away the man was his old Navy acquaintance
"To know him, have seen him every day, then to see something like this, it's kind of scary," Staples said. "He's not really someone you would consider doing something like that. It shocked me."
In the supply department on the Nimitz, Staples worked in quality assurance and he said Armstrong worked in the barber shop cutting hair, as well as in the ships stores. Often, Staples said, he would run into Armstrong while doing audits on the stores, which is how they got to know each other.
Staples also saw Armstrong when the ship would give liberty, or shore leave, to the crew while at a port. Police said Armstrong went from port to port strangling women. He may also be linked to the deaths of several prostitutes in Japan, Korea and Israel.
Staples said the crew would get five days of liberty while at port. Though he never saw Armstrong by himself while on leave in Hong Kong and United Arab Emirates -- two places he distinctly remembers meeting Armstrong -- Staples said it wouldn't be hard to get away.
"It would be easy to be alone, especially in a big group, you can just take off," Staples said. "But I know for a fact I never saw him alone."
(This story contains information from The Associated Press.)
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