EXPOSED to some of the most ghastly murders in his 25-year tenure with the Colorado Springs Police Department, former Lieutenant Joseph “Joe” Kenda was far from retiring his crime-solving mind when he left.
Rather than settle into a blissful daily routine of relaxation, maybe a bit of golf, he dived back into that dark world… albeit as a narrator/expert for TV.
Three seasons into Homicide Hunter for the Crime & Investigation Network, with two more seasons confirmed, he sheds light on how it all came to pass – and does so with a wicked sense of humour. That he is a compelling storyteller too, made him an ideal anchor for the show.
“I had been on news broadcasts on many occasions. A producer who remembered me approached me by letter. I threw it away.
“Finally, my wife Kathy insisted I call him back. So I did. Of course, she is a blue-eyed Irish woman with a temper like a chainsaw. Apparently, she was right. Here we are now – and she never forgets to remind me either.”
During his time on the force, he solved 92 percent of the 387 homicide cases assigned to him and his Major Crimes unit.
In Homicide Hunter, Kenda, given his wealth of experience, is given carte blanche on what he says on camera, which he enjoys. The only “scripted” part is his narrative for the re-enactments.
And there is no dearth of material either.
“In Colorado, they have an Open Records Act, meaning major events, like a homicide, is a matter of public record, but only after the case is resolved, all appeals are exhausted and there are no jury issues,” he says. “What the network does is buy the records that have been classified as open and review those. Once they like a particular case, they turn on the camera.”
Of course, in revisiting old cases, suppressed feelings emerged for Kenda.
“You live with the families of the victim. It is the price you pay for this kind of work. Was it worth it? Yes. But there is a price. It was always a very difficult balancing act. I would try and protect my wife and two kids.
“There are moments when Kathy watches the show now and, while she generally knew what I was up to, she would look at me and say, ‘I didn’t know you did that’. And I would say, ‘I was protecting you’.
”One of the nicest things she said two years after I retired was, ‘Hi. Now you are the person I married’.”
On how the show has transformed his life, he notes: “Doing this has been therapeutic for me. I’ve said more to that camera than I have ever said to anyone. It helps relieve the pressure. Also, I thought it would help me sleep better. And it has.”
Although forensic science has become a vital tool in solving crimes, Kenda says “murders are solved with conversation”.
“My approach never changed, although it is enhanced by forensic techniques. You are generally punching in the dark in murder cases. When someone says ouch, you stop.”
Season three kicks off with the case of Michael Faast, a furniture salesman who is found behind the wheel of a speeding truck that crashed into a residential building.
However, a point-blank shot to his temple confirms it was foul play and Kenda works tirelessly to track down the elusive killer.
And this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to deadly cases of this season. Whodunit fans are going to love it.
• Homicide Hunter 3 airs on the Crime & Investigation channel (DStv channel 170) from Friday, April 24, at 9pm.