Joe Kenda is heading once again for retirement. Kenda enjoyed a 22-year career with the Colorado Springs Police Department, including 19 years with the homicide unit, during which time he solved 356 of the 387 murders he investigated, before retiring in 1996.
Now Kenda is preparing to quit after the ninth season as host of the surprise hit series Homicide Hunter, which looks back at the most fascinating cases of his career. The show features Kenda telling viewers what happened with the aid of additional interviews with those who were involved, as well as dramatic reenactments. To his credit, Kenda is humble enough to share even a case or two that he didn’t solve.
In the latest episode of Homicide Hunter, titled “Lock the Door,” the CSPD responds to a call from a home where a husband has been found dead in his bed with a bullet wound in the back of his head, a .22 in his hand and a shotgun with a string tied around the trigger leaning against the wall. The coroner not unreasonably ruled it a suicide, but, well, this ain’t Suicide Hunter.
In an age when people try to be as over-the-top as possible in an effort to draw attention to themselves, Kenda is a breath of fresh air. If Kenda has a spirit animal (a concept at which he would surely shake his head) it would like be Sgt. Joe Friday of Dragnet fame — he’s a “Just the facts, ma’am” kind of guy. He even looks a little like Friday crossed with just a touch of Philip Baker Hall’s hangdog expression.
Kenda speaks in an affectless smoker’s baritone, speaking in a manner that could reasonably be called monotonous. His chronic poker face no doubt served him well in his two decades of homicide hunting, as he likely never unwittingly communicated anything to witnesses or suspects. As a narrator, the closest he comes to editorializing is to drop his catchphrase, “Well, my my my…” Even that is understated.
Given his unassuming personality, he has said on more than one occasion that he is stunned to find himself a celebrity at this stage of the game. But after being the focal point of a TV series for more than 120 episodes spanning nearly a decade, there’s no denying that the man is a star. He may be a niche figure, but he’s still a figure.
What’s most frustrating about Kenda’s retirement is the reasoning. In a video posted on Facebook, he told fans that the rest of his cases were either “too simple, or simply too disgusting” — raise your hand if you want a season of “too disgusting.” Kenda went on to explain that he “didn’t want to be the athlete who stayed on the field one season too long,” a sentiment that jibes perfectly with the man fans have come to admire.
But, despair not, Kenda fans, for while the end of Homicide Hunter is nigh, Kenda’s TV bosses say they have other plans in store for him.
New episodes of Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda air 9pm ET Wednesdays on Investigation Discovery; previous episodes are available on demand.