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A quick Q&A with the Homicide Hunter

2015-04-23 17:00

Cape Town – The Crime and Investigation channel (DStv 170) will exclusively premiere the third season of Homicide Hunter.

In the new series Lieutenant Joe Kenda reopens his 'Murder Books' to revisit the most disturbing cases still haunting him today.

Lieutenant Kenda spent 23 years in the Colorado Springs Police Department, where he amassed a lifetime of memories catching killers and helping solve 387 homicide investigations with a 92% conviction rate.

In the series he will take viewers through some of the most challenging murder cases he and his Colorado Springs crime-fighting team have worked on.

The Homicide Hunter sat down for a quick Q&A regarding the series.

When were you initially approached to do the show?

I have been, in the United States, on news broadcasts on many occasions. A producer saw me, remembered me, and approached me by letter. I threw the letter away. I threw a couple of them away, and finally my wife insisted that I call him back. We can blame her for all of this. She said, “You have to call him.” “Oh, I do not.” “Yes, you do.” Smack, smack. Okay, so I called him back and here we are. Apparently, she was right.

I see the show has been given the green light for a fifth season. What is it about the format that has appealed to such a wide audience over the years?

I think part of it, and I think a good part of it, is the fact that I have no script. I say whatever comes to mind about a case. There is no writing involved. It is all extemporaneous speaking, and I think it comes across that it is very, very real and people appreciate that.

What I say is then used to form a script for the professional actors who do the re-enactments. What I say is just whatever comes to mind.

With the cases that are looked at, is there any legal work there to go through before it could be approved for TV?

No. In Colorado, they have a law called the ‘Open Records Act,’ meaning if there is a major offence, like a homicide, and the case has been resolved, the person responsible has been taken to court and found guilty, they have been adjudicated, and all appeals are exhausted, and there are therefore no jury issues, then a case report is a matter of public record.

You or anyone can walk into a Police Department and purchase a copy of the report, and read it to your heart’s delight.

What the network does is buy those reports from the Police Department, that have been classified as available, as open, and they review those. They decide ones that they like. They ask me, “What do you think of this one?” “Sounds fine to me.” Turn the camera on. That is how it works.

Are you involved in any of the selection processes, in terms of which stories?

No,  I am only involved after they have selected one. We will discuss what I consider to be the highlights of the case. Murder cases, as you might imagine, are incredibly complicated. You cannot present the entire case, the programme would go on for weeks.

You have to select the highlights of the case that still tells the story, but you ignore some parts of it, because in the interest of time, you have to.

Were there any cases in Season 3 that you would say really stand out, or lingered in your mind after concluding the season?

Oh, I think they all do. If you do this kind of work, it becomes part of you, whether you like that or not. You cannot forget, even if you want to. You live with these cases for periods of time. You live with the families of the victim. You never get over that. It is a price you have to pay to do this kind of work. Is it worth it? Yes, it was worth it, but there is a price, and that is the price. It never goes away, it just does not.

In your career, how many cases, more or less, would you say you have overseen?

In Homicide, 387. There were 1000s of death cases that were not classified as criminal, people who commit suicide, people who die outside the presence of a doctor, people who have been assaulted but survive. There were 1000s of violent crimes or violent deaths that I investigated, but 387 that resulted in the filing of criminal charges.

How have viewers in the US responded to it? What is the kind of feedback you get these days?

There is an enormous interest in it, which absolutely shocks me to death. I cannot believe it, but it is true. I get recognised every place I go. I cannot go anywhere without somebody knowing who I am. My wife is just as shocked about that as I am, but that is the reality of it, that people find it interesting.

In your time on the force, how has the whole investigative crime process evolved from when you started out to when you retired?

Well, an enormous change in the question of forensic science. There have been advances made in various identification techniques, the most obvious of which is DNA, which did not exist before in the United States. It did not exist before 1991. It started in England in 1987, but it was not used in the US for the first four or five years.

Those processes do change, but ultimately, what does not change, what never changes, forensic science aside, murders are solved with conversation. Talk to people. People kill people, objects do not. My approach was never changed, although it was enhanced by some of the forensic techniques.

Ultimately, it is about conversation. You are punching in the dark in a murder case, and you are trying to make somebody say, “Ouch.” When somebody says, “Ouch,” you stop and say, “Well, who might you be, and why are you so distressed about me asking you about this dead person?”

It is about human nature. It is not about scientific exhibits. They can be useful sometimes, but for the most part, it is about humans.

Watch the promo here:

Homicide Hunter premieres on Friday 24 April at 21:00 on CI (DStv Channel 170)

Read more on:    series  |  tv

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