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Sailor Sentenced To Life In Payroll Officer’s Killing

July 15, 1988

MAYPORT NAVAL STATION, Fla. (AP) _ A sailor convicted of murdering and robbing the paymaster of the USS John Hancock was sentenced to life in prison Thursday, naval officials said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Ruben Colon was also given a dishonorable discharge, broken to the lowest pay grade and forced to forfeit all pay and allowances, said Lt. Cmdr. Tim Taylor.

Colon, 34, was convicted Wednesday of murder, robbery and kidnapping in the killing of Lt. j.g. Ratish Prasad and the theft of $94,000 from the ship’s safe while it lay at anchor at the Mayport Naval Station.

The sailor, now in the brig of the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, could have faced the death penalty for murder, but under his life sentence would be eligible for parole consideration in 10 years, said Taylor.

″He will stay in the Navy system, in one brig or another, during the appeal process,″ said Taylor. If the sentence holds up after the appeals, Colon will be transferred to the federal prison system.

Colon was charged with murdering Prasad on March 15 and taking more than $94,000, more than 2,500 blank U.S. Treasury checks and a payroll check for $419 made out to a Hancock crew member.

He was arrested April 12 after investigators found more than $87,000 and the blank federal checks in a safe-deposit box rented in his name.

He did not testify at his four-day court-martial, but at the hearing, Colon proclaimed his innocence and urged the five members of the court - the equivalent of a jury at a civilian trial - to reconsider their decision to convict him.

″There was no one more surprised at your findings than myself,″ he said, reading from a statement. He argued that the contents of the safe-deposit box should not be enough evidence to convict him.

″My life and death is in your hands,″ he said. ″You have all the time in the world to decide.″

After he made his statement, the panel recessed to take a written ballot to determine whether to reopen deliberations on any of the charges. Following the brief recess, the panel members returned and announced the same verdict.