Channel Guide Magazine: Weâre looking at a new season of Homicide Hunter. I imagine not a lot will change, other than the cases youâre covering. Or maybe Iâm wrong â what can we expect thatâs different in the new season?
Lt. Joe Kenda: I think you can expect a little higher level of production value. âŠ It has a much better look to it â itâs better lit, itâs better filmed, and itâs all filmed here, not in California. Itâs all in Colorado Springs. Aerial shots during the day, aerial shots at night â itâs very well done. The cases this time around are a little more complicated. A little newer â from the â90s. But the first episode is one that generated national interest at the time. It was in People magazine, they wrote several paperback books. They wanted to do feature film deals about it because it has the classic combination of sex, money and that sort of thing â meets the Hollywood plotline. And it involved a bunch of people who were college graduates â people who ought to know better than to get involved in murder plots.
CGM: You have a full season of Homicide Hunter under your belt at this point. Do you feel different than you did?
JK: Absolutely. My wife as an example: I had been retired for two years before I lost the venom and before I lost the general behavior [of a homicide detective]. I was sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee, and my wife â whoâs been my wife forever; we met in high school. She says, âHi.â I said, âWhy are you saying hi? Iâve been here all morning.â âNo â because now youâre the guy I married, again.â And I thought, well that was very nice. Iâm back to being normal. Of course it affects you â if youâre human, you canât avoid it.
CGM: Do you hear from other law enforcement officials who go through this?
JK: Oh, yeah. âŠ but everybody that I know who are cops or people that did this kind of work â they all like it because of how real it is. Itâs real for them, because they know thatâs what really happens. And itâs not an invention of a writer or the opinion of some Hollywood type. Itâs how the work is actually done. Thatâs what they like about it. Because itâs very real to them.
CGM: Youâve said that you had a 92-percent success rate. Do any of those outstanding eight percent cases still haunt you?
JK: Of course they do. You want to solve them all. I mean, if you look at that clearance rate of 92 percent and say, âMaybe this guy is a genius.â Or, âHeâs a dumb@#$% who doesnât know who killed eight percent of the people.â
CGM: [Laughing] I hope thatâs not how youâre taking my question!
JK: No, no! But thatâs the reality. I didnât ever want to miss anything. But you do. I mean, it just happens â you have circumstances beyond your control. You have evidence that isnât there. You have a victim who leads a highly risky lifestyle. You have too many suspects instead of not enough. There are all kinds of things that come into play. But in those eight percent, I know who did them all â and I canât prove it. Which is even more frustrating. Because in a modern court, itâs not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, itâs proof beyond any doubt. Thatâs the reality. âŠ Nothing about this is easy.
CGM: When you see cases that are being tried in the press, or are at any rate receiving a lot of publicity, do you find yourself playing your hunches, speculating on what really went down?
JK: True, but I also know something else that tempers that approach. The press is hopelessly inaccurate â no offense. You tell those guys the truth and they screw it up. They just do. I was asked, for example, on the famous case in Boulder â Jon Benet Ramsey. The chief of police in Boulder called me and said, âCan you help us with this case?â I said, âI have one question for you.â âWell, whatâs that?â âAre the press accounts of what youâve done so far reasonably accurate?â âWell, yeah, theyâre pretty accurate.â âIâm not interested.â âWell, why not?â âBecause youâve already destroyed the case. Youâre not going to get in a courtroom with a confession. Youâve made too many mistakes, and you canât get them back.â He was very insulted. I didnât care. Youâre the one who screwed it up â deal with it. Nobodyâs ever going to pay for killing that kid.
CGM: In the wake of this show, do you find yourself being asked to consult on current cases?
JK: I have not. I expect to, but Iâm a little difficult to locate on purpose â I had a lot of people try to kill me. And a lot of people who still want to. Iâm not off the grid, but youâd have to do some work to find me. So as a result, no, I donât get a lot of contact, although I wouldnât be surprised if I did. As an example, last season we had the case involving Vicki Ross, a girl who was found in a car, dead for five days. Her father, Jack, hadnât seen me since that happened in 1987. He showed up on the set to be interviewed, and as soon as he saw me, he started to cry. I said, âHello, Jack.â Because I looked the same as I always did. That pain never goes away.
CGM: How is your life significantly different than it was a year ago? Iâm sure you get recognized a lot more than you used to.
JK: Yeah, they do â itâs kind of funny. When I was working, everybody knew who I was, because I was on the news all the time. But everybody was afraid of me. So theyâd look at me and go, âOh, @#$% â thatâs that guy.â And everybody would disappear. [Laughs.] Youâd go to a movie theater, youâre alone in the lobby in about 30 seconds. And now that itâs been on TV, everybody wants to be my friend. They all want to shake my hand. I thought, âThatâs different,â you know? As far as it changing my life, not one bit. I told those TV people, too. I said, âIâm not a neurotic idiot. I donât need white lilies. I just need you basically to leave me alone. You want to talk about murder cases, we will.â I live in the same house, I drive the same car, Iâm going to continue doing that. The habits of a lifetime donât die.
CGM: On a lighter note, what do you like to do these days when youâre not hoofing it for Investigation Discovery?
JK: I like to travel. I just came back from Ireland. It was wonderful â it was two weeks, and I was at the Guinness brewery in St. James Gate and the Jameson Brothersâ distillery in the same city. And then I sampled their products around the country. I found them to be consistently good. [Laughs.] We had a great time. Iâve been there before, but we like to travel. And we go visit our kids, because our kids donât live here. So we go visit them, and weâre actually friends with our kids, which is a good thing, you know? Weâre buddies, so we hang out together. That sort of thing. Thatâs what I do. Stay busy, and I donât carry guns anymore.
JK: It always amuses me when you see all of these idiots today that want to carry a gun. The human body is not designed to carry a gun. It hurts no matter where you put it â and trust me, Iâve tried them all. I had to carry a gun. But I certainly donât have to now â and I donât. I have a neighbor â a little old man who comes over, he listens to the press that says, âYouâre all going to die any minute. Now the news, brought to you by Chicken Little,â you know? So he buys a gun. The guyâs 78. And he shows me this handgun he bought. He says, âYou know a lot about guns â anything I should do?â I says, âYeah â do you have a vice in your garage?â âYes.â I said, âGo put that in the vice and file off that front sight blade.â âWell, why should I do that?â I said, âSo when somebody takes it away from you and sticks it up your @#$%, it wonât hurt so bad when they take it out.â And he just looked at me âŠ he took the gun back to the store. Good choice. You donât need a gun.
I used to do a lot of public speaking for the police department. Iâd say, âWhatâs the position of the department on gun control?â Theyâd say, âThe department doesnât have a position â we enforce the law as itâs written.â âWould you like to know my personal opinion?â âAbsolutely!â â because itâs always a gun freak thatâs asking you the question. So I said, âPicture yourself at Mile High [Stadium] in Denver during a Bronco game. Youâre on the 50-yard line at halftime. You are surrounded by 74,000 emotional drunks. Behind you on a table are 74,000 guns. Would you give one to everybody there? Or would you try to be selective on who you gave one to?â And the crowd would laugh, and the guy would sit down. Nobody needs a gun. They all need a brain â but they donât need a gun. We shouldnât even let people drive, let alone people have guns. But they have cars, and they drive. But not guns â this society doesnât need guns. But itâs too late. There are 150 million guns in private hands. I canât tell you how many times I have investigated a death in a private home caused by a gun that was purchased to protect that same person â who is now dead from that gun, by accident; by suicide or by murder. So how did that purchase work out? Not very well.
Photo: Investigation Discovery