Inside ‘Homicide Hunter’ Joe Kenda’s Most Memorable Cases
The veteran lieutenant has investigated everything from a man who choked to death on his own eyeball to a woman whose death he believes was staged to look like suicide.
Lt. Joe Kenda solved his first murder while assigned to the burglary department at the Colorado Springs Police Department, and he went on to a storied career, closing over 387 homicide cases.
The secret to his success? “It's not that I'm smarter than anybody else; I won't give up... It was not a job to me; it was a mission,” he once explained to TV Guide. “And I wouldn't stop until I got a result. That's all.”
He didn’t stop getting results after retiring from his career in law enforcement in 1996, either. Kenda, 75, has since become one of the most prominent figures in the world of true crime thanks to his ID shows.
American Detective, his latest venture, features cases from investigators across the country. Homicide Hunter, which debuted its ninth and final season in 2019, digs into Kenda’s case files and showcases the law enforcement veteran’s most memorable investigations.
“These stories are what people do,” Kenda said of the crimes covered in the 140 episodes of Homicide Hunter. “I think people are fascinated by that — wanting to know why this happened.”
Ahead are five of the most talked about stories covered on Homicide Hunter.
On July 3, 1986, a security guard patrolling a vacant office park on the east side of Colorado Springs found a woman covered in blood sitting next to a dead man who appeared to have been bleeding.
Joe Kenda was called to the scene, where he attempted to speak with the dazed female, Grace Todd. “This girl is falling down drunk, hopeless, drunk,” the lieutenant recalls. “She has many things I want to know, but she’s in no position to tell me.”
While Grace, 25, is sobering up, Kenda tries to figure out how the man died, but he doesn’t observe any visible wounds. “I’m looking at his face. I look at his eye sockets. The orbits around the eyes just look odd to me,” he says.
The reason? Both of the man’s eyeballs were gone.
“I look at his mouth and it doesn’t look right either,” Kenda says. “His lips are kind of protruding, so I pull his lower lip back. There’s an eyeball in his mouth, and it’s looking at me.”
Police identified the victim as 62-year-old Verne Roger Cave, a chef who battled an addiction to alcohol.
Kenda found out Cave had two roommates — Grace, the woman found with the victim’s body, and her husband, Gary Todd. Gary told Kenda that he, Grace, and Cave had been drinking at home the prior evening, but he went to bed and passed out, leaving Grace and Cave alone together.
Kenda then learned about Jeff Kelly, a key witness who described to detectives how a woman matching Grace’s description knocked on his door and asked for a phone, telling him she just killed somebody.
“He has unlocked my case,” Kenda says.
According to Kenda, Grace initially denied she had anything to do with Cave’s death but cracked when he told her she was under arrest for murder.
“She said, ‘Okay, I poked his eyes out, because he tried to get in my pants!’” Kenda says of Grace, who attacked Cave and used her thumbs and index fingers to pull his eyes out of his head.
A coroner determined Cave died from choking to death on one of his eyeballs. “So, the murder weapon is a blue eye,” Kenda says, calling the homicide “another first.”
Grace pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Stream this episode on discovery+.
On the morning of Dec. 2, 1995, William Mark Halstead called his friend in a panic and told him his girlfriend, Mary Ann Moebus, wouldn’t wake up and there was blood everywhere.
Moebus, 37, was rushed to the hospital, where she clung to life, and Joe Kenda was called to the Colorado Springs home Halstead and the injured woman shared.
Kenda immediately noticed bloody drag marks in the house and a blood-soaked bed and concluded the assault on Moebus didn’t occur at the home.
According to Halstead, he and Moebus were out drinking the night before when she disappeared from the bar. He claimed someone attacked Moebus outside the establishment, and the injured woman refused to go to a hospital and asked that he take her home.
Halstead told Kenda his girlfriend was a reformed drug user who was working as a confidential informant. “This could certainly lead to a savage beating,” says the lieutenant, who confirmed the victim had planned to set up a purported drug dealer the night she was attacked.
Kenda questioned the potential suspect, but he quickly determined the man had nothing to do with drugs and had a solid alibi.
The investigator then turned to examining physical evidence to see if he could crack the case. At the bar, Kenda noted there was no sign of blood in the parking lot where the assault on Moebus supposedly took place.
Inside her boyfriend’s truck, however, blood was splattered on the driver’s side window and on temperature controls, making it clear this was where the woman was attacked.
“The only person driving that truck is William Halstead,” Kenda says. “The crime scene I’ve been looking for is staring at me in the face.”
Moebus, who had been in a coma and on life support for three days, died from her injuries, and police arrested Halstead for her murder.
Kenda explains: “We know that there’s an argument in that bar — nobody really remembers about what. She storms out of the place, that’s why she left first. He follows her out. She’s waiting at the car because it’s probably locked.”
Kenda believes the abusive Halstead shoved his girlfriend into the truck, grabbed the back of her head, and slammed her face into the dashboard. He then brought her home and likely went to sleep on the couch.
Halstead took a plea of first-degree assault and manslaughter, and a judge sentenced him to 48 years behind bars.
For more on this case, stream this episode on discovery+.
A police officer working the graveyard shift responded to the report of a shooting at a Colorado Springs residence and found William Henry McCarty at the bottom of a staircase with a couple attempting to help him.
McCarty, 27, had suffered a gunshot wound to the back of his head and he was rushed to a local hospital, where he died from a fatal brain injury.
According to police, McCarty lived with his friend and former colleague — the home’s owner — Sang Jung Vasquez, as well as Vasquez’s girlfriend, Kim, and her 3-year-old son.
Vasquez said the evening of the shooting, a bang woke him and his girlfriend up, and they discovered McCarty at the base of the staircase to the home’s lower level.
Investigators canvassing the neighborhood spoke with a 13-year-old neighbor girl who said she witnessed a man with long blonde hair run from the Vasquez’s home, jump in a black pickup truck with a red stripe, and speed away.
A short time later, a blonde-haired man driving a truck that matched the girl’s description of the vehicle walked into police headquarters with a gun he believed was the murder weapon used in the shooting.
“He is who [the witness] saw leave that house. No question in my mind,” Kenda says. “The question is, what role did he play in our little scenario?”
While Kenda expected a confession, the man instead said he knew who killed McCarty. According to the man, he had gone to Vasquez’s home to work on a vehicle the three men were fixing when he heard an argument inside the home and a popping sound. When he went inside the residence to investigate, he saw McCarty lying on the ground.
According to the man, Vasquez handed him a box containing the gun and told him to leave.
Kim, the girlfriend, said Vasquez was jealous of McCarty, and on the night of the shooting wrongly believed he had caught the two cheating.
“This absolutely sets him off,” Kenda says. “He is emotionally out of control about this.”
Vasquez, who was using methamphetamine at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and drug possession. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Stream this episode now on discovery+.
Shortly after 2 a.m. on April 23, 1998, an officer from the Colorado Springs Police Department was called to a home about an unresponsive woman. When nobody answered the door at the residence, the officer entered and found a couple lying on the floor — the man hysterical and the woman dead.
It appeared Josie Loveida Henderson, 34, hung herself, based on the evidence, which included an extension cord that was around her bruised neck and attached to the ceiling by a hook as well as an apparent suicide note purportedly penned by the dead woman.
Josie’s husband, William (Bill) Eugene Henderson, claimed he discovered his wife and attempted to save her but it was too late.
Joe Kenda noted that Josie likely didn’t hang herself by jumping from a chair because her neck wasn’t broken and other evidence, including the fact that the cord was attached to just a plant hook in the ceiling, raised doubts she died from suicide. A broken window in Josie’s bedroom also called into question what really happened the night she died.
Neighbors told detectives Josie had recently moved into the home and that she and her husband were estranged.
Bill claimed he and Josie had gone out drinking the night she died but got into an argument so she left. According to him, he discovered her hanging when he went to her home later on to see if she was still upset.
“Now what he doesn’t mention is how did he get into this apartment,” Kenda recalls, noting Bill said he used keys but didn’t know where they were. “He’s obviously lying.”
Family claimed Bill was abusive and had strangled Josie in the past, allegations he adamantly denied to police.
The investigation got more muddled after tests showed a scenario in which the hook in the ceiling possibly could have held Josie’s 94.5-pound body and a handwriting analysist couldn’t rule her out as the author of the suicide note.
While Kenda says he believed Bill allegedly staged the scene to look like a suicide, prosecutors unsure they could secure a conviction decided to drop all charges against him.
“The principal is you’re innocent until proven guilty,” Kenda says. “In this case, we can’t prove anything. Josie Henderson lost her life. By her own hand, or someone else’s.”
He added: “It depends upon who you believe.”
See who you believe after streaming “Shattered” on discovery+.
In August 1989, Joe Kenda and Colorado Springs police were called to the scene of a triple homicide inside a mobile home.
Officers found the body of Cynthia Anderson, 34, slumped against a refrigerator in the kitchen. She had died from a gunshot wound to the forehead.
In a bedroom, Cynthia’s 32-year-old husband, Scott Anderson, was dead on the floor next to a pistol. He had been shot in the temple. The couple’s deceased 5-year-old boy, Scottie, was lying in the bed clutching a teddy bear. He had been shot twice in the head.
“Children were always my kryptonite. I mean I just could not get past that, I could not,” Kenda says. “And I would do whatever it would take to punish the person responsible for that event.”
At first glance, it appeared Scott could have killed his family and then turned the gun on himself, but that assessment changed once detectives began investigating the case.
Detectives learned the couple was involved in what was described as a cult-like church and witnesses said Scott was especially devoted and took the group’s teachings to an extreme.
“He used the Bible as an excuse to treat his wife like a slave,” Kenda says.
Eventually, Cynthia left her husband with their son and moved into the trailer. After their deaths, a threat-filled note Scott wrote to his wife was found in a Bible police had taken into evidence.
A coroner determined Scott killed his wife, who was pregnant, and son and then shot himself.
“My opinion is that he showed up at her house unannounced,” Kenda says of the slayings. “He’s got a loaded gun in his pocket. He pulls out that gun.”
After shooting his wife, Kenda surmises Scott “then immediately walks down that bedroom hallway” to where his son was asleep in bed. “He puts that gun against his head and shoots him twice. He steps back and the case was closed. We have a suspect who’s deceased. Scott Anderson.”
Stream Kenda’s last episode of Homicide Hunter now.
Watch Kenda present mind-blowing cases from across the U.S. on the new season of American Detective, premiering July 6 at 10/9c. on ID or stream on discovery+.