Listen to the full interview with Lt. Joe Kenda here:
Listen to the full interview with Carl Marino, the actor who plays Lt. Kenda in Homicide Hunter, here:
WASHINGTON (WMAL) – When retired Colorado Springs Police Lieutenant Joe Kenda got a letter asking him if he was interested in starring in a TV show, he ignored it. After three days of prodding by his wife, the lieutenant finally gave in and called the person who sent the letter. That call changed his life.
Over the course of nine seasons Investigation Discovery’s Homicide Hunter – now in its last season – developed a cult following and catapulted the quick-witted lieutenant to stardom. He even has his own bobblehead.
“No one in their right mind would have ever thought that, including me,” Kenda said of the show’s surprise success. “I’m living proof that even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while.”
Kenda told WMAL during his retirement party at the Death Becomes Us –True Crime Festival at George Washington University Nov. 9th, he decided it’s time to end the popular show for a simple reason: he’s run out of cases that work for TV. The ones not covered in the show are either too simple or too disgusting according to Kenda.
“So we’re left with wanting to go out on the top of my game and not be that player that played one season too long, or the singer that remained on the stage after they lost their voice,” Kenda said.
In the true crime documentary show, an unscripted Kenda recounts some of the cases he’s solved over his 23-year career with the Colorado Springs Police Department using his characteristic dry humor and catch phrases.
Perhaps his most recognizable catch phrase, “Well my my my” was one he said he used frequently in interrogations when he caught suspects in lies.
The way Kenda tells the audience about the heinous murders he worked to solve isn’t just something invented for TV. Kenda said his gallows sense of humor was useful in terms of keeping investigators professional and focused while dealing with the harsh reality of murder.
According to Kenda there are only two ways to deal with emotional trauma: crying or laughing.
“Crying is very old. Laughter tends to break the ice,” Kenda said.
The approach seemed to work for Kenda, who had a 92 percent closure rate for the 387 murder cases he worked. Of the 31 that were unsolved when he retired in 1996, three have since been solved by a cold case unit thanks to advances in DNA.
Kenda said he remembers all of his cases well, so well, in fact, that he said he didn’t even need to review old case files before filming episodes of Homicide Hunter.
“I wish I could forget these cases, but I can’t. I won’t ever,” Kenda said.
Kenda admitted he suffers from PTSD, something that he said will never go away.
His experience resonated with attendees of a panel discussion at the festival who are police officers or military members. Many asked him how he copes with it.
“You understand it for what it is. It’s a bad time in your life. Think about the positive things that are going on today in your life and not focus on that worry because that’s gonna be there forever anyway. Just carry on. Carry on. You’ll be alright. I’m alright,” Kenda said.
While he has no more cases left to tell, fans won’t need to rely on Homicide Hunter re-runs to get their Kenda fix. When a fan asked him what’s next during a panel discussion at the festival, he said he will star in a new ID show that he expects will debut in 2020.
“It is of course a military secret. If I told you the name, I’d have to kill you, your family, you know, all of your friends. It would be murder on an industrial scale. We don’t want that,” Kenda joked.
The season finale will air Jan. 29, 2020.
Copyright 2019 by WMAL.com. All Rights Reserved. Photo Heather Curtis