Joe Kenda Biography

Joe Kenda, a former American police detective lieutenant, is renowned for his extensive career investigating 387 murder cases. Growing up in Pennsylvania, Joe’s fascination with crime stories led him to pursue a degree in political science and international affairs. After a stint in his father’s trucking business, he joined the Colorado Springs Police Department in 1973. With a keen understanding of human nature and the criminal mind, Joe quickly rose through the ranks to become a detective. Throughout his career, he successfully solved 356 out of the 387 homicides he investigated, boasting an impressive 92% success rate. However, a moment of anger towards a suspect and concerns for his safety led Joe to retire from the police force. He then transitioned into a school bus operator role. Since 2011, Joe has captivated audiences with his investigative series, “Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda,” where he shares real-life crime stories from his time in law enforcement.

Quick Facts

  • Name: Joseph Patrick Kenda
  • Age: 77 Years
  • Gender: Male
  • Spouse: Mary Kathleen Mohler Kenda (m. 1967)
  • Nationality: American
  • Education: Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh
  • Ancestry: Slovenian American
  • State: Pennsylvania

Childhood & Early Life

Joe Kenda was born Joseph Patrick Kenda, on August 28, 1946, in Herminie, Pennsylvania. Almost all the male family members in his family, such as his grandfather, his uncle, and his father, worked as coal miners. His grandfather lost his life while working in a mine in 1933.

While his father worked in a coal mine, Joe did not wish to follow in his footsteps. He was academically good and had a keen interest in crime stories.

During his first visit to the zoo, he saw a sign that read “Around this corner is the most dangerous animal on Earth.” He looked into that direction and saw himself in a mirror from head to toe. The sign signified that human beings are more dangerous than any other species on the planet.

Joe graduated from ‘Greensburg Central Catholic High School’ in 1964 and later attended the ‘University of Pittsburgh.’ He graduated with a BA degree in political science from the university and later enrolled at the ‘Ohio State University’ to study international affairs.

He attended a classified briefing of the ‘Central Intelligence Agency’ (CIA). However, that did not leave any impression on him and he decided to drop his plans to work in the foreign services. His father had started his own trucking business by then, and Joe joined it.

Finally, he decided to join the police force and moved to Colorado Springs with his wife and children. In 1973, he joined the ‘CSPD.’

Investigative Career

After working as a police officer for 4 years, he was promoted in 1977. He was initially associated with the burglary department, and he solved his first case within days. This led to his promotion to the homicide unit.

He worked with the homicide unit for the next 19 years and solved a record number of cases. Of all the 387 cases that were assigned to him, he ended up solving 356 of them, which was a highly impressive figure. With a closure rate of 92%, he was hailed as one of the fastest young men on the homicide investigation team.

Joe credited his success to his deep understanding of human nature that enabled him to spot the liars quickly. As his work was dangerous and there was always a risk to his life, his wife asked him to leave the homicide unit. However, Joe continued to work with the unit.

One of the cases that brought him national fame was a murder case he solved in 1990. A woman named Dianne Hood was murdered at a lupus support meeting, and the case was extremely complicated. According to Joe, it was a case worthy of a Hollywood plot. When Joe solved the case, several media houses published the story and Joe came in the national limelight.

He has also escaped death narrowly on several occasions. He once got involved in a homicide of a girl murdered by her boyfriend by strangulation. A spring-loaded door had Joe stuck with the murderer face to face. His presence of mind saved him from the murderer’s knife, but the attack almost took his life.

He always maintained his composure on the job. He never got upset or angry when the press hounded him. This earned him the nickname “The Ice Man.”

His wife was never quite happy with her husband’s career. She wanted him to retire soon. By the early 1990s, Joe, too, had started to feel a little wary of his job conditions, after coming across some really disturbing cases. Thus, the family moved to Falcon, Colorado in 1993.

In 1996, Joe came across a case in which a grandfather had sexually abused his 5-year-old grandson. Upon interrogation, the old man said that the boy “came onto him.” Joe became furious and knew that his job was getting too much for him to handle. He typed his resignation and officially retired in September 1996.

Later Career

Following his retirement from the police force, Joe missed his job quite a lot and went through a withdrawal stage. In 1998, he started working as a school bus operator. He worked at that job for the next 10 years and quit after he started his stint with TV.

TV editor Patrick Bryant spent a lot of his childhood in Colorado Springs, where he worked with a news channel. There, he became aware of the heroics of Joe Kenda as the head of the ‘Major Crimes Unit.’ When Patrick started making his own crime investigation series, he decided to bring Joe’s heroics out in the open.

He approached Joe in 2008 and presented him with the idea for the series ‘Homicide Hunter.’ Joe refused initially but later agreed to appear in the series. A 5-minute reel was created by them and sent to different TV networks. ‘Investigation Discovery’ acquired it in 2010, and the production started immediately.

The series debuted on American TV in 2011. Since then, it has become one of the highest-rated series on the network. For the first season of the show, Patrick and Joe selected 10 of Joe’s best cases. The show featured Joe being interviewed about the cases, while an enactment of the same ran simultaneously. Actor and former deputy sheriff Carl Marino was hired to portray the younger Joe.

The show was an unexpected international success and brought Joe immense fame as a former heroic homicide investigator. It is in its eighth season now.

Personal Life

Joe Kenda dated his high-school girlfriend Mary Kathleen Mohler for many years before getting married to her in 1967. They have two children. The family currently lives in the Tidewater region in Colorado.

Joe loves traveling. Whenever he is not working on his show, he is seen traveling with his wife.

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