I Will Find You

Solving Killer Cases from My Life Fighting Crime


By Detective Lieutenant Joe Kenda

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Detective Lt. Joe Kenda, star of Homicide Hunter, shares his deepest, darkest, and never before revealed case files from his 19 years as a homicide detective.

Are you horrified yet fascinated by abhorrent murders? Do you crave to know the gory details of these crimes, and do you seek comfort in the solving of the most gruesome?

In I Will Find You, the star of Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda shares his deepest, darkest, and never-before-revealed case files from his two decades as a homicide detective and reminds us that crimes like these are very real and can happen even in our own backyards.

Gruesome, macabre, and complex cases.

Joe Kenda investigated 387 murder cases during his 23 years with the Colorado Springs Police Department and solved almost all of them. And he is ready to detail the cases that are too gruesome to air on television, cases that still haunt him, and the few cases where the killer got away. These cases are horrifyingly real, and the detail is so mesmerizing you won’t be able to look away.

The tales in I Will Find You will shock you like the best horror stories-divulging insights into the actions, motivations, and proclivities of nature’s most dangerous species.

Don’t mind the blood.



Picture a murder case as a spinning top on a table. It is made to spin. It spins perfectly. You as a detective should admire it for as long as necessary to determine the parameters of the case. If you touch it too quickly or too firmly in the wrong place, it scoots off the table and disappears—and you never get it back. You only have one chance to get it right. You can make it unsolvable if you don’t know what you are doing on that first touch.


Hugging wasn’t big in my family, growing up. We were more like the Addams Family than the Waltons. Vacation trips were rare, so it was a major deal when my parents decided to take my brother and me to the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Our first stop at the zoo was the Primate House. As we approached I spotted this sign. It said: “Around this corner, you will see the most dangerous animal on earth.”

Intrigued, I ran around the corner and there stood a mirror, a big floor-to-ceiling mirror reflecting the image of all the people walking around the zoo, including me. I stood and looked at that mirror for a long, long time as I thought about the sign’s message.

The concept of humans as dangerous beasts really struck me. It was a moment of epiphany. I wondered if it were true. Could we be the most dangerous creatures on the planet?

I pondered that question so long, my mother yelled at me to keep moving along with the rest of them. The thought of humans as murderous predators lingered in my mind.

Throughout my twenty-three and a half years in law enforcement, I confirmed that it was indeed true, time and again. I saw firsthand that while most other animals kill only for need, humans can and will kill for pleasure and other sordid reasons.

I became a homicide detective because I wanted to investigate why humans kill each other—and because I wanted to solve the worst of the worst crimes. They throw you in jail for life or execute you for murder, so, I reasoned, murder must be the worst offense, and I wanted to put away the worst of our species. I did put a lot of them away; not enough, but a lot.

If you want to know what it is like to investigate homicide, come with me and I’ll show you. Be warned, however. You may not want to see the realities of murders committed by the most dangerous killers in our world. If you have an interest in the truth, you are reading the right book. If you don’t think you can handle the darkest aspects of human nature, then you might want to put this book down, because it will get real in a hurry.

As you may or may not know, I was a police officer for the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado. For nineteen years of my career there, I was a homicide detective. I was involved in 387 homicide investigations. I solved 92 percent of them. So, you can say I did a good job 92 percent of the time, or you could say I was the idiot who couldn’t figure out 8 percent of his cases.

Those unsolved cases still haunt me, but I loved my job, and I want to make it clear that I was never the Lone Ranger out there solving cases on my own. Please understand this book offers my personal reflections and recollections, I was always working with teams of law enforcement professionals, including my supervisors, fellow detectives, and patrol officers who contributed their guidance and skills in all of these cases. I never would have solved any of them without their support and assistance.

As with every law enforcement agency, ours had many individuals with unique talents. We had one guy who could open any lock, another who could plant (court-approved) cameras, phone taps, and monitors, and others who were like ghosts when tailing and surveilling suspects. If I needed information stored on a computer we’d seized, I called our in-house tech genius who was like Sherlock Holmes with a keyboard. Whenever we had a tough undercover job that required both brains and brawn, we had a man for that too. They were all major contributors to our investigations.

Over the years, I also benefitted from the experience of my co-workers. My bosses yelled at me and called me an idiot quite often, early in my career, and they were right. You learn from people who know what they are doing and your skills increase thanks to their guidance. That is how you grow as a professional.

I served under five different police chiefs during my career. Each had his own leadership style, but they were all wonderful professionals whom I learned from. All of those I worked with deserve credit for the successful investigations mentioned in this book, not just yours truly.

I loved working with them in solving crimes and taking criminals off the street. I would have done it for free, though my wife might have objected. I saw it as a mission. If a monster does horrible things to another person, you can stand up or you can remain seated. I stood up for the victims of murder. I was proud of that.

As much as I enjoyed catching nature’s worst killers, the darkest aspects took a toll on me and my family. I turned in my resignation on the day that I lost control of my emotions and came dangerously close to becoming like those I’d hunted.

After recovering my sanity, I knew it was time to retire before someone had to come after me. I thought I could close the door on my memories and wall them off. I thought that, in time, I could put the horrors I’d seen behind me.

I was wrong, so wrong.

Fortunately, I found another way to reclaim my life and my sanity. Or, I should say, a way found me.

We recently began filming our seventh season of Homicide Hunter for the Investigation Discovery network. Initially we did six shows per season. Now we are filming twenty. We’ve hit almost 30 million viewers in the United States, and the show is seen in 178 territories around the world. They tell me that’s all very good in the broadcasting business.

What matters most is that telling my stories is cathartic. It’s a way of releasing the grief and the horror accumulated over my career as a homicide detective and police officer. I have written this book for the same reason; sharing these stories eases the burden of carrying them. It also puts my experiences in law enforcement into perspective. I’ve come to see them as simply a part of my past, and, thankfully, not nearly as important and influential in my life as the love of my wife, my son, and my daughter.

Going public with these stories has had another unexpected effect. People seem to connect in a more positive way with me now. When I worked as a policeman, I didn’t feel a lot of love or respect. I used the animosity on the streets to drive myself, to do a better job. The killers, their families, and those who feared me made no bones about it. They despised me.

My life was threatened innumerable times. They also threatened to kill my wife, my kids, and my dog. I felt hatred.

The striking part is now that I’m on television, the reverse has happened. I actually feel appreciated. Strangers want to talk to me in airports and malls and on the golf course during my backswing.

I am not the most adept person at social media, but there are at least six Homicide Hunter fan pages on Facebook, including one called: “Kendamaniacs.”

That page recently featured a “Where’s Waldo” poster and the message: “Lt. Joe Kenda is the reason Waldo is hiding.”

What, me? A folk hero?

Could it be a sign of the impending apocalypse that there is a Detective Joe Kenda line of souvenir coffee cups, T-shirts, tote bags, and smartphone cases? Or my own lineup of wines, including a My, My, My Merlot?

After twenty-three years dwelling on the dark side of humanity, I am enjoying the light, and I enjoy sharing my stories. I don’t know why this is true, or where the storytelling gene came from. There certainly were no other storytellers among my surly and contentious family as I was growing up.

Most of them were too busy trying to kill each other, or threatening to kill each other. So, being a homicide detective felt like home to me.





The Colorado Springs Police Department was still an old-school force when I joined it in 1973. Most of the officers were military veterans with at least ten years on the job. College degrees were rare. Brawn, quick fists, and street smarts were the primary traits needed for advancement.

Rookies didn’t get weeks of classroom training before hitting the streets like they do now. Instead they paired you with a veteran partner who showed you the ropes. They had the new guys ride with partners for just two or three weeks until we got to know procedures and the city. Most patrol officers cruised solo, but we didn’t get our own patrol cars until we earned them by proving we could survive on the street. There wasn’t a written test for that. Usually it meant getting bloody.

I earned my patrol car about two weeks into the job. We were dispatched to the White Spot, a twenty-four-hour drive-in and eat-in restaurant on the city’s West Side where trouble was always likely. The typical crowd was drunk and disorderly. After midnight, it was all downhill from there.

My training partner and I were dispatched around 1 a.m. on a call from a cook who said, “A cop is getting killed in here.” That got our attention. Upon arrival, yours truly ran inside the joint only to find this mountain of a guy slowly strangling one of our officers on the lunch counter. The cop’s face was turning blue.

I waded in with my adrenaline pumping from a volatile mix of fear and anger. I grabbed a fistful of the bad guy’s greasy hair and slammed his face onto the lunch counter with my full weight behind it. In my fury, I had not observed a stainless-steel cream dispenser on the countertop. I did not intentionally flatten the dispenser with his face, but that was the result.

Facial bones and cartilage were crushed. Blood spurted everywhere. I thought I had killed him. Everyone else thought the same.

I backed off. The restaurant went dead silent. My partner called for an ambulance. I checked the cop who’d been taking a beating. He was battered and gasping for air, but he’d be okay.

His assailant would need facial reconstruction. When he looked in the mirror and saw the scars, he would not remember me fondly.

Had I gone too far? I wondered if I’d just ended my career before it officially began. I shouldn’t have worried. The captain of patrol thought it was really cool that a rookie had so boldly rushed in to assist another officer. The fact that I had smashed in the bad guy’s face was worth extra bonus points.

The next day, without fanfare, I was awarded my own patrol car. My reputation as a head-banging street cop was made. The White Spot incident grew into an urban legend of sorts. That was helpful, but it also tagged me with a reputation for attracting trouble. That pattern continued for my entire twenty-three years and six months on the job.

Even as a rookie, I was always getting shot at or attacked by drunks. None of the other cops wanted to be around me. “You’re a shit magnet,” they’d say, and they were right. Take for instance my first fight call at Fred’s Bar, another West Side dive.

Fred’s, which is now blessedly out of business, served the cheapest beer to the lowest of lowlifes. The dump dated back to World War II. They hadn’t wiped down the bar since V-J Day. The charming clientele was known for sucking down beer and pissing it out without ever leaving the bar. I’m serious. The regulars didn’t mind the filthy decor or the reeking odor because they contributed to it.

I was dispatched to Fred’s one night on a fight call. Standard operating procedure would have been to wait for backup, a cover officer, but chairs and tables were flying and the situation was already out of hand. So, I went in as the Lone Ranger. And who did I find inside the bar kicking everyone’s ass? A linebacker-sized Native American wearing red patent leather shoes and tossing people around like rag dolls.

He was a beast.

“You are under arrest!” I announced.

The beast responded not as I’d hoped.

One giant hand grabbed my crotch. The other wrapped around my neck. He then hurled me like a sack of potatoes through the front picture window of the bar with such force that I flew over the sidewalk and bounced off the side of my own patrol car parked on the street.

I was still lying in the gutter, checking for broken parts, when my backup arrived. He surveyed the scene, chuckled, and inquired, “Do you think you need some help here?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I mumbled.

We didn’t have Tasers back then, unfortunately. Instead, we entered Fred’s with nightsticks drawn. By my estimate, we swung and connected with our mighty nemesis at least fifty times.

We didn’t hurt him. He just got tired and gave up.

A few months later, I met his more-evil twin. The radio dispatcher said there was a fight in the men’s room of the bus station. I’d grown smarter. This time I waited for reinforcements.

Again we encountered a Native American of impressive stature, probably six feet five inches and 280 pounds. When we entered, he was calmly coiffing his dark locks in the mirror. At his feet were three guys bleeding and unconscious.

He didn’t acknowledge our presence until we drew our nightsticks.

Then he looked up and said, “Does your mother know you boys are out?”

That comment was my first hint that we were in for the fight of our lives. By the time we locked the cuffs on him, my uniform shirt was in shreds and I’d lost about three handfuls of hair. We brought him down, but we paid for it.

After a while, my shit magnet reputation spread beyond the police department and into the community at large. One night a neighbor, who also belonged to our Catholic parish, came knocking. I opened the door and he handed me a package.

“Everybody in the church got together and bought you this,” he said.

It was a bulletproof vest, one of the first developed for police work. My neighbors and fellow parishioners were very kind. They didn’t want me to die on the job. I wore that vest even though it was heavy and uncomfortable. I didn’t want to disappoint my benefactors.


My assigned patrol area, the West Side, was a hot zone. You won’t find it on the travel brochures showing Pike’s Peak, the Garden of the Gods, or Red Rock Canyon. It was not the new and shiny part of Colorado Springs. While there is a great deal of natural beauty within its boundaries, the city had its fair share of crime and violence.

In those days, especially, Colorado Springs retained some of its Wild West heritage, thanks to a diverse and particularly well-armed population that included residents of an army base, two air force bases, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker, the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and more conservative evangelical churches than you could ever count.

My first patrol area, the West Side, had more bars than churches. Sleek Olympians and shiny military brass were not among the patrons. Most West Siders were born there and they would die there, often prematurely. There were good, hardworking people in the neighborhood, but I never got to meet them unless they’d become victims of a crime. Otherwise, I only met the dirtbags, the crazies, and the drunk and disorderly.

I’d been a cop for all of ten days when I was dispatched on a domestic disturbance call at 2 a.m. These are always volatile situations. You never know what you are rolling up on when drinking, drugs, and weapons are in play. This seemed like a low-grade squabble at first, though the presence of a Great Dane wandering around the front yard did catch my attention.

The complainant wife announced from the front porch that she wanted her husband arrested. I asked if she had a particular reason, preferably one punishable by law.

“We are getting a divorce. That’s my dog. He wants it, but it’s my dog. He won’t let me take it.”

When she saw that I wasn’t impressed by that scenario, she tossed out another mitigating factor: “He has a gun.”

I called for backup.

Hubby then joined us on the porch. He did not have a gun, but he and the ex-to-be resumed their vitriolic debate over the not so Great Dane, who appeared to be embarrassed by its warring owners.

I was already feeling sorry for the dog when my backup came around the corner with lights flashing. My sympathies intensified when the Great Dane dashed out into the path of the oncoming patrol car.

The big dog was dead on impact.

“I’m so sorry ’bout your dog, ma’am,” my fellow officer said as he stepped out of his squad car.

The dead Dane made their marital dispute a moot point. The couple fell silent.

Such was life on the West Side. Most residents abandoned hope before it abandoned them. This was fitting because that section of Colorado Springs, the original center of an old Gold Rush boomtown, had a history of abandonment.

The original section of town was called Colorado City. It was a shithole, but so were most Old West towns. Still, its glory days lasted less than a week.

Historians will tell you that Colorado City was named the territorial capital on November 5, 1861, at a meeting of the legislature in Denver. When the legislators actually ventured into the crappy little town for their first official session, they looked around and decided they’d made a mistake.

They were so appalled, they packed up and left. Five days later, the legislators named Denver the state capital.


By the time I arrived, Colorado Springs had swallowed up the original site of Colorado City, which became the woeful West Side neighborhood. You may think I’m exaggerating the neighborhood’s lowly quality of life, but how many knock-down, drag-out brawls have you been to in a funeral home?

It was a Saturday morning. I was on patrol around 10 a.m. and I thought my morning would be peaceful at least until the local lizards crawled out of their hangovers. I thought wrong.

I was dispatched to join the other West Side patrol officer who had responded to a “disturbance” call at the local mortuary. I pulled up behind his squad car. He was standing outside the funeral home. There was nothing going there.

We walked up to the main doors, opened them, and gazed upon a mourning crowd like no other. About twenty men and women in their funeral finery were engaged in a riotous, rolling fistfight, going at it like packs of rabid dogs. Sport coat sleeves were ripped off. Ties were flying sideways. Purse strings were being deployed as garrotes for choking.

After exchanging WTF glances, my fellow officer directed my gaze to the center ring, where there stood an open casket with not one, but two occupants. The undead one was kneeling on the corpse of the not-so-dearly departed, hammering punches into his pasty face. Bam! Bam! Bam!

Maybe the assailant thought, no blood, no foul? Whatever the case, there would be no resting in peace for this deceased dude. I couldn’t help but bust a gut laughing for a second, then we rushed in to save the dead from further abuse. By the time we cuffed his aggrieved attacker, the dead guy’s jaw was shattered and one eye was drooping from its socket. The carefully applied funeral home makeup was smeared all over the fists of the postmortem mugger.

We made the executive decision to go with a closed-coffin ceremony from that point. Our backup arrived and cops streamed into the funeral home doors. We subdued all of the other grieving friends and family members trying to kill each other. One of them had a skull fracture thanks to being hit with a metal folding chair.

During our follow-up interrogations, we learned that early in the service, several mourners had shouted out epithets cursing the deceased as a no-good son of a bitch. Hell was suggested as his final destination and, as a result, hell was unleashed. Even the most decorated veterans among my coworker cops said they’d never seen anything like that. Privately, the brawling mourners reminded me of my own family of battling Bohunks back in Pennsylvania.


My boyhood home was in Herminie, Pennsylvania, a little coal town outside of Pittsburgh where many of my family members worked and sometimes died in the deep shafts underground. The Ocean Coal Company owned the two local coal mines, creatively naming them Herminie No. 1 and Herminie No. 2.

The entrance to each shaft was surrounded by company housing, cheaply built brick duplexes. If you took a job with Ocean Coal, you were awarded one side of a duplex. Your rent came directly out of your paycheck, as did the grocery bills from the company-owned store. They owned your soul.

Herminie’s Main Street was lined with bars, thirteen of them in a town of two thousand coal-stained souls. When workers surfaced blinking and coated in coal dust each day, they headed first to the bars. Eventually they stumbled home to wash up and sleep it off. Most miners were immigrants who had few other options for employment.

My grandparents came from their native Slovenia to the United States in 1913 to escape the turmoil that led to World War I. They were among the few Kendas to make it out. The Nazis killed most of them in World War II. In my grandfather’s native village, Čezsoča, on the Soča River, there is a war memorial, an obelisk built to commemorate members of the local resistance who were assassinated by the Germans. The Germans lined them up and machine-gunned them. There are seven men named Kenda on that obelisk.

My paternal grandfather was among the many Slovenian immigrants drawn to the Pittsburgh area by coal jobs. I never knew my grandfather Josef. He was killed in a mine cave-in in 1933. He was an experienced miner and, the story goes, he was working one day when he sensed that a collapse was coming. He could have saved himself, but he ran to his sons—my father and my uncle—and shoved them out of the shaft. Then the walls collapsed on my grandfather. He was killed saving his boys.

Whenever the story of his death was told to me as a child, it was always emphasized that my grandfather was so acutely aware of conditions in the mine that he alone felt the collapse coming. As a young fan of Sherlock Holmes, I was already aware of the importance of being observant of your surroundings. This frequently told family story sealed that in my mind. It probably helped me become a better detective because I trained myself early on to make note of everything around me, just like the grandfather I was named after.

I suppose you could say that was something positive to take away from such a tragic family event. My father, on the other hand, took his usual dark and negative approach. He actually blamed his brother, also named Joe, for my grandfather’s death. He said his brother was lazy and their dad always felt he had to stay on him. My father decided that my grandfather was in that dangerous section of the mine on the day he died because he had to motivate my “lazy” uncle.

As a result, my dad and his brother never spoke to each other after my grandfather was killed. Uncle Joe was not even permitted in our house. When I grew old enough to realize I had an uncle in town whom I’d never met, I began visiting him. He welcomed me, but said my father wouldn’t let him come around us.

My father was tough, stubborn, persistently sullen, and unforgiving. My mother was Irish, born Virginia Morrissey, which you’d think would give her at least a sense of humor, but she took on the Bohunk mentality after marrying my father. It leaked into her within minutes. She became just as unforgiving and vindictive as him.

My mother was especially mean to the two women who dared to marry her sons and steal them away from her. For my wife, Kathy, the shunning began as soon as we started dating. You see, Kathy was not my mother’s choice. I chose her, and that pissed off Mom for the rest of her life.

It didn’t help that I met my future wife while on a blind date arranged by my mother and her best friend. I was a sophomore at Greensburg Central Catholic High School when my mom pressured me to take her friend’s daughter to a basketball game, even though I didn’t like her, or basketball.

The friend’s daughter was a nice enough redheaded girl, another Bohunk offspring like me. I had no reason to truly dislike her, other than the fact my mother had matched us up. My mind and my eyes wandered during our date. I was sitting in the stands at the game with her when I looked up and spotted the prettiest young lady I’d ever seen in my life.

I remember the moment like it was yesterday. She had blond hair and blue eyes and she was wearing a camel-hair skirt and camel-colored vest and a white blouse. I thought, Wow, who is that? And before I knew it, I’d left my date on the bench and walked up the stands.

Then I started talking to the love of my life, Mary Kathleen Mohler. We’re still talking, most days. We dated all through high school and then married after Kathy graduated from Duquesne University with a nursing degree on December 26, 1967. My mother never got over it.

She held a grudge until the day she croaked—forty years after our wedding. As we were leaving Mom’s funeral, I looked at my wife and said, “You are in luck: Your mother-in-law no longer hates you, because she is dead.”


I had to negotiate my way around so many volatile and warring personalities growing up that my first career choice was international diplomacy. It seemed like a logical move at the time. I majored in political science as an undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh. Then I attended Ohio State University, thinking I’d get a master’s degree in international studies. I had romantic notions of being the suave chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Paris, but the State Department had other ideas when I applied. They told me it was more likely that I’d end up pushing paper somewhere in the wilds of Africa. Worse, they said I couldn’t take Kathy because it was too dangerous.

I was already souring on the thought of working for the foreign service when I attended a State Department briefing for potential employees. The briefing was led by a noxious CIA guy whose worldview was considerably darker than mine at the time. I had served in the Air Force Reserve while in college and I had a patriot’s view of my country. I thought the United States was the benevolent guardian of liberty around the world.

The CIA man made my country sound more like a manipulative and exploitive bully. All he could talk about was overthrowing governments, protecting our sources of oil, and assassinating anyone who stood in the way of our need to dominate the globe. His vision of America was not the same as mine. I’m a right-or-wrong, black-and-white kind of guy. I wanted no part of his predatory worldview.


On Sale
Sep 26, 2017
Page Count
288 pages
Center Street

Detective Lieutenant Joe Kenda

About the Author

Joe Kenda is retired at the rank of lieutenant from the Colorado Springs Police Department. He conducted criminal investigations involving violent crime for more than twenty of his twenty-five years of service.

He served as a detective, detective sergeant, detective lieutenant, and finally commander of the Major Crimes Unit. Joe achieved a solution rate of ninety-two percent of the 387 homicide cases assigned to him and his unit. He is a certified instructor in the state of Colorado for Criminal Investigations, Advanced Criminal Investigations, Multi-Jurisdictional Investigations, Patrol Operations, and Specialized Patrol Operations. Kenda is a member of the executive board of the American Investigative Society of Cold Cases and actively participates in offering advice to agencies with cold cases involving murder.

Since 2011, he has starred in Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda on Investigation Discovery network. The first three seasons are currently being broadcast in more than 183 countries and in more than one hundred languages. Joe is married with two adult children. He and his wife, Kathy, reside in the Tidewater area of Virginia.

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