Jay J. Armes

Julian ArmasJulian Armas was born in Texas in 1932. At the age of 11, an accident resulted in both his hands being amputated two inches above the wrist. He quickly learned how to use his prosthetic hands and would go on to become a successful private investigator. He also learned how to drive a car, fly a plane and scuba dive using prosthetics. In the 1970s, a U.S. toy company released an action doll based on him – and the doll had detachable prosthetics.

In 1972, Armes and his team successfully recovered Marlon Brando´s kidnapped son, and in 1975, People Magazine named Armes one of “The 25 Most Intriguing People” of the year.


Julian Armas was born on August 12, 1932. (He would later anclizes his name to Jay J. Armes.) His parents Pedro (a grocer) and Beatriz were Mexican-Americans living in Ysleta, a low-income area near El Paso, Texas.

When he was 11 years old, Armas and his friend Dick Caples (who was seven years older than Armas) broke into a Texas & Pacific Railroad section house and stole railway torpedoes. Armes rubbed two torpedo sticks together, which caused them to detonate and destroy both his hands. Caples was standing nearby, but was not injured in the accident. Armas was brought to the Hotel Dieu Hospital in El Paso, where both his hands were amputated two inches above the wrist.

Four weeks after the amputations, Armas went back to school. He had a German Shepherd dog named Butch who worked as his service dog. Eventually, Armas was fitted with prosthetic hands and learned how to use them.

Despite the loss of his hands, Armas remained active, participating in sports and even learning how to shoot a gun.


  • He graduated from Ysleta High School at the age of 15.
  • He earned his degrees in criminology and psychology through New York University correspondence courses.
  • He later learned how to fly a plane and scuba dive.

Before being a PI

Armes had a contract with Twentieth Century Fox in Hollywood from 1949 to 1955, but little is known about his career with them.

In 1956, Armes moved back to Texas and became the operations director of Goodwill Industries in El Paso. Founded in 1902, Goodwill Industries is a non-profit organization that provides job training, employment, placement services and other programs for people who have barriers to their employment.

Armes the private investigator

Armes started his private investigative agency in El Paso in 1958 and named it The Investigators.

The Christian Brandon kidnapping case

In 1972, when the actor Marlon Brando wad filming “Last Tango in Paris” in France, The Investigators were hired to retrieve Brandon´s son Christian Brando (born in 1958) who had been sequestered away. Christian´s mother Anna Kashfi, who had been briefly married to Marlon Brandon in 1958-1959, had taken Christian from school and brought him to a group of hippie friends in Baja California, Mexico. Allegedly, she had promised to pay them $10,000 to hide Christian away, and when she later refused to pay the group hid the boy. Marlon Brando hired The Investigators to find Christian, and a possey led by Armes rescued the boy late one night. Christian was found living in a tent and suffering from bronchial pneumonia. Anna Kashfi was arrested for DUI and disorderly behaviour after being pulled-over on a road close to the Mexican border. Eventually, Marlon Brando was awarded full costudy of Christian.

The rescue of Christian Brando inspired one of the season seven episodes of the TV-show “Mysteries at the Museum”, which aired on the Travel Channel.

Outreach and training

Right from the start, Armes was interested giving others a chance to learn more about the world of private investigation, and his The Investigator´s assistant James Cheu would frequently visit high schools in the El Paso region to give talks about the PI work.

In 1978, The Investigators created an investigative course for children in collaboration with the Ideal Toy Corp, who had recently launched a toy line based on Armes. The course wad introduced to a number of school districts in the United States.

1978 was also the year when Armed authored an investigative training correspondence course and established The Investigators Training Academy.

Other notable points

  • In the 1960, Armes created a small privte zoo in his home in North Loop, El Paso. He raised German Sherpherd dogs and big cats, and kept a chimpanzee. Later permits allowed him to keep the chimpanzee, several monkeys, a cheetah, a cougar, and a tapir.
  • In 1970, Armes unsuccessfully ran for office as Justice of Peace in El Paso Precinct 2.
  • Armes played the villain in the Hawaii Five-O episode Hookman, which first aired on 11 September, 1973.
  • In 1976, Armes published his autobiography “Jay J. Armes, Investigator”. ( ISBN 0-02-503200-3)
  • In 1976, the Ideal Toy Corp. launched the Jay J. Armes Toy Line. It featured a Jay J. Armes action figure with detachable prosthetic, a Mobile Investigation Unit, and various associated gadgets.
  • Armes served on the El Paso City Council from 1989 to 1993. He unsuccessfully sought election to the council again in 2001. After losing the election, he returned to his investigation business.


Armes had three children with his wife Linda Chew.

In 1994, Armes and his son Jay J. Armes III were featured in the Time Life book series “Crimes of Passion” for their work on an international murder case.

This article was last updated on: September 19, 2022