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"There's one thing that never changes—murder. A life has been taken. Their stories are now my stories. I never know where a case is going to lead, but I'll never stop until it's solved. Somebody has to look out for the victim. If you kill, I will find you."
Joe Kenda (Opening Narration as of Season 6)
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Homicide Hunter (also known as Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda) is an Investigation Discovery television series showcasing the career of retired Colorado Springs police detective Joseph Kenda. He was a homicide investigator for 19 years and the show is based on his past cases which take place in Colorado Springs at the Colorado Springs Police Department.


This show provides examples of:

  • Bribe Backfire: Only once in Joe's career did someone try to bribe him - a witness who wanted Joe to "forget" he was at the crime scene, because he was there to cheat on his wife. Joe lets him know that the only reason he isn't being charged with a felony is because Joe doesn't want to take the time off from a murder case to deal with the hassle.
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  • Cassandra Truth: Some of the supposedly ridiculous stories told turn out to be true—after a gun used in a robbery/murder is traced to its owner, the man claims it was stolen several weeks prior. Kenda is skeptical until the guy provides him with the police report, since people will often make false claims like this to avoid getting into trouble.
  • Catchphrase: "Well, my, my, my."
    • So much so that it's even woven into an episode title: "My, My, Merry Christmas"
  • Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: Kenda makes a lot of assumptions based on the little things he observes at crime scenes. In one instance, he instantly deduces that robbery was part of the motive for a woman's murder when he notices that her purse is open.
    "No woman, including my wife, ever leaves her purse open."
  • Cool Old Guy: Kenda has a lot of fascinating stories to tell.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kenda's dry wit is a major appeal.
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    • A particularly hilarious example: In one episode, Kenda attempts to prosecute a man who murdered a woman and her children. He fails, but years later, learns that the murderer got into a fight and was pushed out of a window above a street on a multi-story building.
      "And he didn't bounce too good."
  • Death Glare: Kenda honed this over the years and claims that it's this that has gotten a suspect to crack.
    • His wife Kathy has a pretty effective one too, as Kenda mentions when their anniversary dinner (which is actually him making up for missing their actual anniversary because of a case) is interrupted by another case.
    "She starts giving me the "narrow eyes". That's the thing you want to avoid with Kathy, the "narrow eyes". And I'm walking out of the restaurant, expecting to feel a steak knife in my back any second. . ."
  • Domestic Abuse: Kenda often suspects a woman's husband or boyfriend as her assailant and is usually (correctly) convinced of this as the investigation proceeds and he learns that the man in question was abusive. This is subverted in some cases where the significant other turns out to be a red herring.
    • In one episode, a man holds his wife and daughter hostage. Kenda states this is the first time that he thought he might have to use his gun.
  • Driven to Suicide: A handful of suspects.
  • For Want of a Nail: As cited in the "Disaster" post, if a man had been willing to pay a professional to install a new water heater rather than try to do it himself, he wouldn't be facing quintuple manslaughter charges, nor be so guilt-ridden that he decided to kill himself.
  • Good Is Not Nice: "I'm not your friend, I'm the police. And we're going to get to the bottom of this. When I leave here, I'm gonna have somebody's ass in my briefcase. And maybe it's gonna be yours."
  • Great Detective: Inverted. Kenda has repeatedly stated that he isn't smarter than anyone else, just more stubborn.
  • Humans Are Bastards : “People are capable of anything.”
  • Hurting Hero: Kenda is very open about his feelings when cases really bother him, and the fact that he has PTSD. In many episodes you can tell some of the cases still really bother him and a few times he nearly breaks down on camera and has to take a moment to compose himself. He also admits that he doesn't sleep well because of what he does and that he decided to retire because he couldn't take the pressure of the job anymore.
    • On Chris Hardwick's podcast, he tells a story of how he went to a therapist to help with his PTSD. By the time the session was over, the therapist was in tears and Kenda had to comfort him.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: This is the reason Kenda is so proud of the fact that he never fired his weapon—he believes it would have been stooping to the level of the very criminals he wanted to put away.
    "If you pull that trigger, you become like them. And I'm not like them.
  • I Should Have Been Better: Cases that Kenda was unable to resolve eat at him. And it's not because he doesn't know who the killer is, it's because he does and can't prove it in court.
    "[The cases] haunted me then, and they haunt me still."
  • Lead Police Detective: Kenda's typical position, even when he was a uniformed Sergeant.
  • Living Lie Detector: Kenda has honed this ability over the years.
    "I'm not only a police officer who gets lied to every day, I'm also a parent."
  • Malicious Misnaming: A variation with a suspect:
    Kenda: So Donna-
    Donna: My name is China Doll.
    Kenda: Right. So Donna...
  • Nausea Dissonance: Goes with the job.
  • Nerves of Steel: Absolutely necessary if you work homicide.
  • No Dead Body Poops: Not on television, anyway.
  • No Sympathy: In regards to suspects.
    "People have often asked me, 'Don't you have sympathy for these people?' And my answer is always the same: 'If you're looking for sympathy, look it up in the dictionary. It's between shit and syphilis.' No, I don't have any sympathy."
    • His only moments of true sympathy appear to be reserved for the mentally ill who genuinely couldn't control or understand their behavior—in one episode, police are forced to shoot a man who was rampaging through his neighborhood. Kenda offers the man a sincere apology—"We had to take your life. And I'm sorry we had to do that." (The fact that the man may have actually been trying to commit Suicide by Cop makes him feel even worse). A reporter who frequently worked with him notes that she'd never seen him look so sad before.
  • Passion Is Evil: Kenda describes emotion as being what makes people so dangerous.
  • Present-Day Past: The cases cover the period of 1977 to 1996, but the fashions and such in the re-creations are normally contemporary to the time the show is filmed (from 2011 on). They do make the effort on obvious things (such as no personal computers early on and having to manually go through documents instead of having a computer record, and no cell phones except for the latest cases in his career), but the police cars are contemporary with LED lightbars and a cheap hotel in the late 1980s isn't going to have a large flatscreen television in the lobby (as is seen in the background of one episode). Arguably, this is an Acceptable Break From Reality given that the show is mostly set in interview format and is relatively low-budget.

Episodes of this series provide examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Kenda hates working on cases with children as the victims. In more than one episode, he describes the feeling of witnessing dead children, and how it makes his blood boil. Kenda has said that after working on a case involving children, when coming home, he always hugs his kids. This is how his wife knows that Kenda has been working on such a case, so no conversation is necessary.
    • Additionally, in one episode, a young boy's father murders his mother, and ends up being sent to prison for it. The boy is about to be separated from his dog by authorities, which is the only emotional support he had at the time. Kenda puts a stop to this right away.
    "This kid's lost enough today. He's NOT going to lose his dog too."
  • Ate His Gun: A handful of criminals have taken this measure when confronted by the police.
  • Bad Dreams: Kenda has PTSD, recurring nightmares, and doesn't sleep well.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: "Crazy boyfriend? I LIKE crazy boyfriends." - Kenda.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: When Kenda arrives at the hospital to speak with a victim, the doctor tells him that he can't, as she's resting. As Kenda is leaving, a nurse idly greets him as "Doctor". He realizes that as longs as he acts as if he belongs there, no one will question him. With this, he finds his way to the victim's room. At this point, his tactic backfires spectacularly when the young woman wakes up screaming in pain from her injuries and the responding nurses assume he's done something to her.
    "That was my first time playing "Dr." Kenda. It didn't go so well."
    • More amusingly, he was once caught... by his wife, who happened to be working at that hospital.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: A common attitude found among people that Kenda questions. At least initially.
  • Berserk Button: Go ahead. Just try and harm a child. Or better yet, harm a child's loved one with the child watching.
    "I get the most angry—white-hot angry—with crimes involving children."
    • The final straw for him was a 70-year old man who had molested his 5-year old grandson. When he asked him why he'd done it, the man declared: "He came on to me!" Kenda states that the next thing he was aware of was three other cops trying to pull him off the guy, who he nearly strangled to death. Afterwards, he walked into his office, typed up his letter of resignation and handed it in.
    • He is also, as he puts it, "offended by men who treat women badly. Deeply offended."
  • Bittersweet Ending: It's great when a killer is caught, but it doesn't take away the pain and loss felt by loved ones of the victims.
    • Kenda cites this in one of the only cases where he got a truly happy ending—reuniting an abducted infant with her mother.
    "Homicide cannot be undone. The person has died. They're not returning because they cannot. We were able to provide Cora with actual closure. Physical closure. What a rare moment. Closure doesn't exist in my world. One time and one time only. . .it did."
    • In another episode, he finds another missing child safe. . .but now has to separate her from her drug addicted mother, who made the whole thing up to get money to support her habit.
  • Blatant Lies: "If you are going to lie at least have the decency to be good at it." - Kenda.
  • Bloody Horror: At one point Kenda mentions that the reason for the stereotype about police detectives wearing cheap suits is because the nature of the job means they will get body fluids on their clothing, and at some point dry cleaners will simply refuse to accept them. Thus, just buy cheap suits because you're going to be throwing them away fairly regularly.
    • Explicitly shown in one episode when Kenda and his partner happen upon a man who attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head, survives with massive facial trauma, and is struggling to reach the gun to finish the job. The two of them wrestle with the man on the floor to restrain him, in the process getting soaked with his blood. Kenda recounts his wife screamed when he went home to change and he surprised her, unaware she was there.
  • Break Them by Talking: When interrogating suspects.
  • Bribe Backfire: One witness who was at an apartment complex with his mistress offered Kenda a few hundred dollars to keep his name out of the papers. It was the first, last, and only time Kenda was offered a bribe, and he went OFF on the guy.
  • Cop and Scientist: An investigation into the origin of some suburban gunfire led to Sgt. Kenda and his small group of subordinates bringing in employees of a nearby engineering firm.
  • Cop Killer Manhunt: Has happened twice thus far in the series. Kenda has stated that during his time as a police officer, seven fellow officers were killed in the line of duty.
  • Cradling Your Kill: A victim who hasn't died yet is able to tell Kenda that her assailant did this after shooting her. With this, Kenda deduces (correctly) that her attacker knew her.
  • Creepy Monotone: "My name is Lt. Joe Kenda and if you do not do exactly what I say, I will kill you right here and right now. You have the right to remain silent." - Kenda, when dealing with an armed suspect. He says it's scarier when its spoken calmly.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Kenda stated that he has seen people die from everything except a nuclear weapon.
  • Death Notification: Kenda would take it upon himself to personally inform people that their loved ones were dead.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Even a veteran detective gets thrown off guard from time to time.
    • Case in point, he's genuinely shocked to find that the supposedly ridiculous story told to him by an abusive husband is true—he assumed that the man killed a guy who was hitting on his wife and then tried to shoot his wife. In truth, the wife killed the guy, then tried to kill the husband and spin the whole thing as self-defense (it seems that husband and wife liked to smack each other around).
  • Didn't Think This Through: Suspects generally don't.
  • Disappointed by the Motive: Murder for really stupid, petty reasons is common.
  • D.I.Y. Disaster: In one episode, Kenda arrives at a house to find all five family members dead. Initially perplexed, as there are no signs of violence, he soon notices their cherry-red pallor—the classic sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. It turns out that rather than hire an expert, the family's landlord decided to replace their heater himself, but obviously had no idea what he was doing. While somewhat sympathetic to this man who is horrified to realize that he has five deaths on hands, he's also disgusted at the guy for being such a skinflint that he wasn't willing to pay for a professional who would have saved him all this grief. It switches back to sympathy when the guilt-ridden man kills himself.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: As the police close in on a suspect who has barricaded himself in a cabin, they hear, as Kenda puts it, "A sound that every police officer knows", and realize that the guy is loading a gun Spoiler—click to reveal 
  • Foregone Conclusion: An episode began with a young Kenda having been shot. Given that he's been narrating the series for several years, it's a safe bet that he's going to survive. (As it turns out, Spoiler—click to reveal 
  • Friend to All Children: Aside from the above-mentioned Berserk Button, Kenda takes it upon himself to try to emotionally protect children at crime scenes as much as possible.
    • In one episode, a young boy and his dog are brought into the station after his mother's murder. Kenda becomes incensed when everyone wants to call the Humane Society to collect the dog:
      I said, "Absolutely not. I'll take this kid home with me and his dog before that happens. This kid's lost enough today. He's not going to lose his dog too."
    • Similarly, he isn't nearly as hard on juvenile suspects as he is on adult ones. In one case, when he realizes that the two teenage boys who found the victim's body also stole money from his wallet, he chews them out good and proper—but ultimately lets them go.note 
    • Another episode has him catching a thirteen year old boy lurking around the crime scene because he was curious. While he basically gives him a Dope Slap over his foolish actions, he actually laughs a little as he recalls calming the poor kid, "because he's convinced he's going to prison."
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Surprisingly, it's the first role that Kenda usually takes during interrogations. He's found people are far more likely to slip up and say something incriminating—or confess outright—if they think that he's on their side.
  • I Miss Mom: Friends and family of the victim are often interviewed for the show and they talk about their loss.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: At least two stories have featured pregnant women being murdered by their boyfriend/husband. Although their pregnancies weren't necessarily the motive for the men's actions, it clearly didn't deter them either.
  • Implausible Deniability: Kenda is clearly skeptical of a husband's claim of complete ignorance regarding his wife's Fake Pregnancy and her kidnapping a baby, but admits "It's not against the law to be an idiot or to believe what your wife's telling you, even if it makes no sense."
  • Incriminating Indifference: Kenda takes note of people's reactions and consistently gets suspicious of those who aren't reacting the way a person normally would. Case in point, he notices that a man who reported his wife missing was not only very calm, he hadn't followed up with the cops once in the several days since, something highly unlikely for a concerned spouse.
  • Innocent Bystander: "Don't worry about the bullet with your name on it, worry about the one that says to whom it may concern." - Kenda
  • It's Personal: In one segment, Kenda mentions feeling sick to his stomach when given the address of a crime scene. It's a bar that he and his wife frequently visit and with that, he knows that it's highly likely that he knows the victim. Indeed, it's the owner. Kenda promptly kneels at the woman's body and takes her hand—a major violation of police protocol—and whispers an apology, while giving a Death Glare to the officer who chastises him. In the present, Kenda tears up while recalling the case, indicating that it still affects him.
    • He freely admits to being pleased at seeing that her killer Spoiler—click to reveal 
      • He doesn't deny his satisfaction at the death of other particularly repugnant criminals either.
      (regarding a mass murderer who Ate His Gun as the police closed in) "I looked at him and I thought, "Well good for you, Gilbert. You just saved the taxpayers a lot of money."
    • Several episodes have featured police officers being killed—Kenda states this happened seven times in his career. Aside from the incredible anger and grief at the loss of a fellow officer, there is also fear—Kenda points out that anyone willing to shoot a cop is willing to kill anyone.
  • Jerkass: "Being an asshole is not against the law. If it were, we'd have to erect a fence around the state of Colorado and inform everyone they're in custody." - Kenda
  • Lonely Funeral: Kenda and his colleagues are shown in one episode to be the only people attending a victim's funeral. They also chipped in and bought the victim a gravestone.
  • Made of Iron: In "The Case That Haunts Me", a 20-year old prostitute survived being struck with a wrench, sexually assaulted, stabbed, and thrown off a cliff into a ravine. She was able to make her way to a road and flag down a family driving by. At the hospital, she remembered most of the details of her attacker despite the trauma, which greatly helped Kenda catch him.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Usually fails ridiculously.
    • Sadly, it may have succeeded in one episode. While Kenda is clearly certain that a man killed his estranged wife, crime scene techs find that it was in fact possible, however unlikely, for her to have committed suicide in the manner depicted. Plus, the handwriting on her suicide note could not be shown to not be hers, or shown to be the suspect's. With all this, the prosecution decides that there's too much reasonable doubt and drops the charges without ever bringing him to trial.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": After emptying the apartment building of a suspected mass murderer in order to protect innocent bystanders, the police call the man's apartment to announce their presence in the hopes that he'll surrender. When a woman answers, Kenda and the other officers have this reaction upon realizing that the killer now has a potential hostage. They rush in at the sound of a gunshot and her screams, fearing he's killed her as well. He didn't. He blew HIS head off.
    • When Kenda and the other officers investigating an apparent mass murder scene realize that the victims actually died of Carbon Monoxide poisoning...and that the reason they themselves feel sick is because the house is still full of the stuff.
    • In another episode, they realize that a victim's house is rigged with explosives and that they need to haul ass out of there before it blows up.
  • Medication Tampering: An episode found that a man had injected insecticide into his hospitalized wife's IV (she was being treated for blood clots in her leg). However, he was thwarted when the IV system's alarm went off and shut down the pump upon detecting that a foreign substance had been introduced into the solution. Particularly stupid, given the man was a doctor himself and should have known that that would happen.
  • Miranda Rights: You'd be surprised how many people waive them.
  • Pater Familicide: In one episode, Kenda is very upset to realize that a man murdered his wife, daughter, and grandson before turning the gun on himself (already depressed about his and his wife's deteriorating health, he was further upset about his daughter's impending divorce and somehow convinced that it reflected badly on him as a father). Kenda was already suspecting this trope, he just assumed it was the daughter's ex who was responsible.
    • In another episode, he's equally horrified to realize the same thing about a cancer stricken and mentally ill woman who shot her husband and two children.
  • Police Code for Everything: While reviewing the missing persons report on a woman recently found dead, Kenda notices the notation "JDLR". He mentions that police have a lot of codes and that this particular one stands for "just doesn't look right" note 
  • Suicide by Cop: The investigation into two officer-involved shootings that Kenda was linked to (though it wasn't him pulling the trigger) reveal that the deceased was trying to do this.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: In one episode a teacher is poisoned after someone slips pure sodium hydroxide (an incredibly powerful and corrosive substance) into her water bottle. Kendra cites this as a rather unusual method of attempted murder. note 
  • The Convenient Store Next Door: People tend to target places near where they live for robbery. Kenda has used this fact to his advantage in his investigations.
  • Tranquil Fury: Kenda never raises his voice in narrations or reenactments, but it's not hard to tell when he's furious.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Kenda never vomits in reenactments, but other people do off screen.
    • He has mentioned feeling nauseated by some cases, however.

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