Homicide Hunter

Profile: Lieutenant Joe Kenda 

A 23-year veteran of the Colorado Springs Police Department detective, Lieutenant Joseph Kenda worked in homicide for over 19 years. He has solved almost all of the 400 cases he has come across in his career, with an astonishing 92% solve rate. In Homicide Hunter, he looks back over his career and the cases he has worked on.

Joseph Kenda was born in Pennsylvania on 28 August, 1946. He was fascinated with true crime from a young age and talks about a trip he made to Pittsburgh Zoo, when he saw a sign pointing the way to “the most dangerous animal on earth.” When Kenda followed the sign, he found himself looking into a mirror. He realised that “Animals kill for need. Humans kill for pleasure.”

Originally looking to pursue a career in the Foreign Service, Kenda studied political science at university and did a Master’s in international relations at Ohio State University in 1970. However, he changed his mind after he attended a classified briefing.

In 1973, Kenda moved with his wife—his high school girlfriend Mary Mohler— and two children to Colorado Springs, where he joined the police department. Kenda spent over 19 years working in homicide. Over time, he was promoted to detective and eventually put in charge of the homicide unit. During the course of his tenure, he worked on some of the department’s most high-profile homicide cases.

One of the most prominent cases Kenda worked on was the murder of Dianne Hood in 1990, a case known as the ‘Fatal Attraction’ killing that Kenda said, “met the standard for a Hollywood plot”. Hood was shot twice on her way out of a Lupis support meeting in what was dressed up to look like a mugging gone wrong. Police later found out that Hood had actually been at the centre of a love triangle and had been killed by her husband’s mistress, Jennifer Reali. Reali and Brian Hood were sentenced to life and 37 years in prison respectively.

The brutal 1995 murder of pregnant woman Yvonne Sisneros and her two children is what Kenda cites as his most memorable case. Sisneros and her children were stabbed multiple times with different objects and their heads crushed with free weights. James Joseph Perry was arrested and went to trial for the crime, but was acquitted by the jury. He was later found dead after being thrown from a ten storey window.

Kenda also has ties to one of Colorado’s most notorious unsolved cases: the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Although he was retired at the time of the murder, he was brought in to consult. Kenda blames deficiencies that occurred at the beginning of the investigation for the fact that the murderer has never been found.

Kenda’s wife always worried that he’d be killed on the job and in 1996, he retired from the force. Retirement didn’t suit him though, and when he was approached about revisiting his past cases for a television programme, he accepted.

Catch a brand new series of Homicide Hunter Thursdays at 10pm from 29th September

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