Sailor Accused Of Killing Navy Payroll Officer, Robbing ShipRON WORD , Associated Press
Apr. 13, 1988 6:33 PM ET
MAYPORT NAVAL STATION, FLA. MAYPORT NAVAL STATION, Fla. (AP) _ The sailor accused of killing the USS John Hancock's payroll officer and stealing $94,000 reported for duty as usual each day since the crime a month ago, Navy investigators said.
Petty Officer 1st Class Ruben Colon, a 14-year Navy veteran, was in the brig Wednesday after being arrested aboard the ship the previous day on a charge of murder and theft.
The Navy said $94,629 in cash, plus blank U.S. Treasury checks, were stolen from the ship's payroll office. On Tuesday, investigators found $89,000 in cash as well as blank checks in a bank safe deposit box rented by Colon.
Because visits on ships such as the Hancock are tightly restricted, authorities had suspected the killer might be among the 320 officers and sailors aboard the destroyer.
Lt. j.g. Ratish Prasad, 24, was shot and choked before his body was shoved into a storage area of the ship in the early morning hours of March 15, a payday for the sailors aboard the Hancock.
Colon, 34, was confined Wednesday in the Navy brig at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, said David L. Brant, special agent in charge of the Naval Investigative Service office at Mayport. The killing occurred while the ship was docked at Mayport.
Colon of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, has been assigned to the Hancock since 1984 and worked as a career counselor. Brant said Colon had reported for duty regularly since the killing.
Colon will be arraigned by the end of the week, and later a military board similar to a civilian grand jury will convene to determine what formal charges would be brought, Brant said. No hearing dates have been set.
If Colon is charged with premeditated murder and convicted in military court, he could face the death penalty, Brant said.
Investigators refused to disclose what led them to Colon, but Brant said NIS and FBI agents obtained a search warrant Tuesday for a safe deposit box rented in Colon's name at a bank in Jacksonville.
Agents recovered $89,000 in cash, plus most or all of the missing blank U.S. Treasury checks, and Colon was soon arrested, Brant said.
''This is the most intensive investigation undertaken by this office,'' Brant said. ''We've been working on this case for nearly four weeks, and more than 40 agents from NIS and the FBI have been involved.''
Prasad, the only son of Indian-born parents, enlisted in the Navy in April 1985 and had been stationed on the Hancock since May 1986.