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Negotiators hope fatigue wears down hostage-taker

December 12, 1997

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Police negotiators used sleep deprivation and a constant stream of conversation Thursday to try to wear down a murder suspect holding two preschoolers hostage in their home for a third day.

John Edward Armstrong, 39, had demanded a car at the start of the standoff and threatened to kill the youngsters, Malcolm Phillips, 4, and his cousin Tedi Priest, 2, if he didn’t get it. But police have since refused to say what his demands are.

Police Thursday kept in contact with Armstrong on the phone and on a bullhorn when he wouldn’t pick up the phone.

``He’s real tired. He’s working through what his options are,″ said Capt. Sal Lomonaco, commander of the negotiating team. ``He talks about, when the time is right.″

Earlier in the day, police were optimistic that Armstrong would eventually release the children. But as the talks dragged into Thursday night with no progress, negotiators became increasingly frustrated.

``We thought we had developed a rapport and a working relationship,″ Lomonaco said during a nighttime rain. ``I don’t understand why he hasn’t released the children.″

Officers would not specifically say what actions they would take to end the stalemate.

Armstrong, 39, is suspected of killing a man and wounding a woman in a nearby park and leading police on a car chase that ended near the children’s duplex Tuesday. He barged into the home at random, chased the youngsters’ mothers out at gunpoint and took the children hostage.

The standoff unfolded with repeated televised pleas from relatives of both Armstrong and the hostages to free the children. Dozens of people called police offering to trade places with the youngsters.

The children’s mothers made a videotape to be viewed by Armstrong, but police hadn’t decided whether to deliver it.

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