DETROIT (WWJ) – One of Detroit’s most high-profile investigators will find himself in the spotlight Thursday night, all because of his work that helped put a serial killer behind bars.
Inspector Donald Johnson, Jr. will be featured in the television documentary “Very Bad Men,” airing on the Investigation Discovery channel at 10 p.m. The story will be on the serial killer John Eric Armstrong, a Navy Sailor who was charged for the murder of eight prostitutes.
Today, Johnson is Commanding Officer of the Detroit Police Department’s Homeland Security, but in 2000 he was an officer assigned to the Violent Crimes Task Force on the Armstrong case.
Armstrong, a husband and father of two, seemed to be living an ordinary life in Dearborn Heights, but Johnson said that was just on the outside.
“He had gotten married and moved here to southeastern Michigan area. He was actually working and things of that nature but at night he was a definite prowler,” Johnson told WWJ Newsradio 950.
Then, bodies of young women, some known to be sex workers, turned up in Detroit, all which appeared to have been strangled. Police ramped up their patrols of known high-traffic areas where prostitutes converged.
Police were especially focused on patrolling in the area of Michigan Avenue and Livernois after consulting with FBI agents. Johnson said cops on the street got lucky when Armstrong drove by as they were interviewing a witness in the area.
“Police were talking with a citizen that was on the street, a known street-walker, and as they were talking to this particular individual she said ‘There goes that guy right there,’ I mean, I’m cleaning it up a little bit but she was like ‘There goes that guy right there that tried to kill me,'” said Johnson.
Once Armstrong was apprehended, Johnson was handed the task of interrogation, something he said was very challenging but eventually led to a confession.
“It was a lot that we endured as well just listening to him and actually going out to the scenes. There was one particular scene we went to in which we had three females laying on the side of the railroad tracks, and for him to talk me through each one of those homicides and what he did, for me it was very overwhelming,” said Johnson.
In 2001, Armstrong was convicted of murdering four women in the Detroit area and later confessed to killing over 30 others all over the world.