Two women are found gunned down inside their home, along with a couple of piles of empty bullet casings. Detectives discover that the victims were sisters and someone was not happy they had been living together. Lt. Joe Kenda is on the case.
Special Guest: Retired Lieutenant Joe Kenda
Joe Kenda retired at the rank of Lieutenant from the Colorado Springs Police Department, where he conducted criminal investigations involving violent crimes for over 23 years. Joe served as a Detective, Detective Sergeant, Detective Lieutenant, and finally Commander of the Major Crimes Unit, and achieved a solution rate of 92% of the 387 homicide cases assigned to him and his unit. Joe has a television series called “American Detective” that launched this year on discovery+ – season 1 is available to stream now. His previous show, ”Homicide Hunter”, ran for 9 seasons on ID.Read Transcript
Yeardley: [00:00:02] Hey, Small Town Fam. How are you guys doing? I hope you’re well. I hope you’re doing lots of stuff. Today, we’re bringing you another gem from Joe Kenda. In this episode, he talks about two different murders from his long career as a homicide detective. There’s a lesson in never losing faith, and we get a peek behind the curtain at Joe, the man, the man behind the badge, which I always enjoy. Please settle in for backlash.
Yeardley [00:00:36] When a serious crime is committed in a small town, a handful of detectives are charged with solving the case. I’m Yeardley, and I’m fascinated by these stories. I invited my friends, Detectives Dan and Dave, to help me gather the best true crime cases from around the country and have the men and women who investigated them, tell us how it happened.
Dan [00:01:02] I’m Dan.
Dave [00:01:03] I’m Dave. We’re identical twins from Small Town USA.
Dan [00:01:06] Dave investigated sex crimes and crimes against children. He’s now a patrol sergeant at his police department.
Dave [00:01:12] Dan investigated violent crimes. He’s now retired. Together, we have more than two decades’ experience and have worked hundreds of cases. We’ve altered names, places relationships, and certain details in these cases to maintain the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dan [00:01:28] We ask you to join us in protecting their true identities, as well as the locations of these crimes out of respect for everyone involved. Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:01:43] Today, on Small Town Dicks, I am so pleased to tell you that I have the usual suspects. I have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:01:51] Greetings, Daniel. Greetings, Yardley.
Yeardley: [00:01:53] Greetings, Sir. Thank you for coming. I have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:58] Hello there.
Yeardley: [00:01:59] Hello. So good to see you.
Dan: [00:02:01] Great to be here.
Yeardley: [00:02:02] (giggles) And Small Town Fam, we’re super excited to welcome the one and only Joe Kenda.
Joe: [00:02:11] Hello, how are you?
Yeardley: [00:02:12] I’m so well. Thank you. Joe is on Zoom. We’re all in different places, because everybody’s still locked up in their houses, but I can see him and it’s a little outing. It feels like an outing. It’s like having a new friend in your house. Joe, we’re so thrilled to have you. I’m going to stop talking and just let you take over and tell us what you have for us today.
Joe: [00:02:36] It’s a case involving two family members, two sisters. A sad case, they’re always sad. This particular one begins as a true mystery, but they always do. You have a whodunit and followed by who is it and so on. We get a phone call in the middle of the morning on a weekday from a family who lives in Pueblo, Colorado. Pueblo is a city about 40 miles South of Colorado Springs. The caller reports he wants to return his grandchild to the child’s mother, that he is the father of the husband, the husband and wife are separated, and he has this grandchild for the weekend, the father-in-law, and he wants to bring the child home and he can’t get the child’s mother on the phone. He’s tried for a couple days, he can’t reach her anytime of the day or night. No one answers the phone.
So, he and his wife drove up there that morning to her home in a middle-class neighborhood, very quiet neighborhood in Colorado Springs, and sees her car in the driveway. All shades are pulled, and the doors are locked and it looked like nobody’s around, and he’s very concerned, very concerned. They send an officer for what’s called check the welfare, that there is some concern about maybe the person is ill, maybe they’ve died, who knows what happened to them. Maybe they’re in this house, maybe they’re not. An officer arrives and he finds a window in the back of the place that’s open, so he raises it, and he crawls in the house. He goes to the back door to open the door for his partner and stops dead in his tracks because sitting on the floor in the kitchen is a 30-year-old white female wearing shorts and a halter top sitting with her back up against the cabinetry, her legs spread, no shoes, and she has multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and the head. She has been dead for a couple of days.
[00:04:27] He opens the door and lets the other officer in, they draw weapons. They go check the house. In the living room, they find another female, a little older, also early 30s. She’s face down on the floor in the living room. She has her purse over her arm, her car keys in her hand, and is wearing a jacket and she too has multiple gunshot wounds. They appear to be small caliber, nothing is disturbed, nothing is out of place. They find expended casings in small piles, where obviously someone reloaded a revolver, two revolvers, because there are 12 casings in each pile.
Yeardley: [00:05:09] When you reload a revolver, do you have to take something out of those chambers?
Joe: [00:05:14] Yes, when a bullet is fired, what remains in the cylinder is the cartridge, which contains the powder charge. The slug is gone because it’s passed through the barrel into the target. The expanded casing has to be removed. In a modern revolver, if you open the cylinder, there’s an extractor rod in the center of the cylinder. You push the extractor rod and it lifts the six casings up and they fall. Then, you load six new live rounds in the gun and proceed.
Yeardley: [00:05:42] Got it.
Joe: [00:05:42] There are 12 of these on the floor and they’re .22 long rifle, small caliber.
Yeardley: [00:05:47] Is that a different gun, that would take the casings? I’m sorry, I don’t know about these things.
Dave: [00:05:53] No. 22 long rifle is, say you have a .38 caliber bullet, a .40 caliber bullet, .45 caliber bullet, .22 long rifle is a type of bullet.
Joe: [00:06:02] .22 inches in diameter, hence .22.
Dave: [00:06:06] It’s small.
Joe: [00:06:06] Long rifle, they make a long or short and a long rifle. It’s just a different size of the bullet, but to have those in a revolver is relatively rare. They do make .22 caliber revolvers, but they don’t make a lot of them. At any rate, that’s what he finds. Of course, they call yours truly, we show up. These girls have been dead for probably four days in this house. The one in the kitchen is the sister of the one in the living room. They’re two sisters. The one in the kitchen whose first name is Carla. Carla is recently divorced and had moved there to live with her sister a few months before, and the sister who is in the living room, her name is Mona. Mona resides in this house with her husband, Raymond, and a five-year-old girl, their child. Mona agrees to accept Carla to live there because Carla literally has been kicked out of her house by her husband in a nasty divorce. So, Carla moves in. Mona and her husband Raymond, agree that she can live there.
Raymond is an electrician. He works for a local electrical contractor. Very successful, hardworking, moving up the ladder in this company, very well thought of by the management and so on. Kind of quiet, keeps to himself, but they like him a lot. Raymond is the husband. But they have gotten into arguments in the recent past over the fact that Carla is a little bit of a handful.
Yeardley: [00:07:35] Raymond and Mona are arguing about Carla?
Joe: [00:07:38] Correct. It turns out that Carla, when she moves in, she brings a suitcase of clothes and a suitcase of high heels, another suitcase of makeup. Carla is inspired by the life fantastic. Mona, on the other hand, is a housewife. Carla and her get into discussions, about Carla saying to Mona Mona’s life is boring. Carla can take her out to the local nightclubs and show her a good time. Raymond doesn’t like this idea very much and they have heated discussions about it. Carla decides that this is time to strike, and her and Mona go out a couple times. Raymond is incensed. Carla’s response, this is all reconstructed after the fact is that, “How dare he interfere with Mona’s life. After all, he’s sister’s husband, so he shouldn’t treat her that way.” Raymond decides to move out, and he does. He’s been gone for about a month or so.
[00:08:38] Now, Carla and Mona have the place of themselves. Occasionally, the child goes to the grandparents, thus freeing Mona and Carla up to do whatever it is they’re going to do and have the house to do it in. That’s what’s going on. Then, the next question because, all right, so did they encounter someone in this nightclub routine that winds up angry with them, and winds up doing this to them several days ago? We’re standing there, this is the middle of the morning. There is a large crowd because it’s daytime and people are up and about. A guy stops one of my detectives and says, “Excuse me. Is something wrong with Mona? The detective says, “You know her?” “Well, I met her recently in a bar.” “Come with me.”
Dave: [00:09:36] Hey there. This is Detective Dave, your favorite brother and cohost of Small Town Dicks. When we started this podcast a few years back, it gave us a chance to tell the true stories of small-town detectives and celebrate the good work they do. Now, the show is just getting better. I want to thank all of you for listening and to ask for your support. We’d love you to become a patron. For a small donation just $5 a month, the price my brother pays for a pumpkin spice latte, you can join our Small Town Super Fam, and help us cover the cost of our production staff, our travel and maybe buy a golf ball that Dan will use for about three holes before he loses it. You’ll get access to suspect interviews, behind-the-scenes banter, and other cool stuff. You can find our Patreon at patreon.com/smalltowndickspodcast. Whatever you decide, I want to thank you for listening. We can’t do this without you.
Joe: [00:10:39] We start talking to Mr. Lounge Lizard about how it is he knows Mona. He is evasive, he is frightened. Frightened is normal, evasive not so much. He doesn’t want to talk about how he knows Mona. He only danced with her a couple times. Carla’s quite a good-looking woman, which she was. More interested in Carla than he was in Mona, but you know Mona, you said how is Mona? He didn’t say how is Carla. He said, “How’s Mona?” One thing leads to another, he finally admits that, well, they did have an affair.
Yeardley: [00:11:11] He and Mona had an affair?
Joe: [00:11:13] He and Mona, more than once at his place of residence. “What happened? How’d that stop?” “Well, she didn’t want to see me anymore.” “Hmm. That make you angry by some chance?” “Oh, no, no, no, didn’t make me angry.” “You get rejected a lot, is that why it doesn’t make you angry?” We’re trying to push him around a little bit and see what he does. He doesn’t do much. He just says, “No, no, it’s just one of those things. It just didn’t work out.” “Okay,” whatever. He’s still interesting, but he’s not necessarily anything more than that, but he is certainly someone who presented himself to us, which is always interesting. “Why did you do that? Why would you not remain out there in the weeds?”
Yeardley: [00:11:55] Does that lift some of the suspicion from him?
Joe: [00:11:58] It does. No, it does to some degree, it lifts it some degree because he could have remained silent until somebody pointed him out to us. He didn’t, he came forward. He was nervous and evasive. People are when they get confronted by the policemen are not wearing a uniform. The suit scares people. Uniform, they expect to be talked to, but a guy in his suit seems like trouble to most people. “There’s something more here that could really get me in a jam,” and so they get nervous. They get evasive. All right. I don’t like this guy particularly well, but he’s better than nothing, because other than that, we have nothing.
We go started hitting these bars. We go to those bars that night, where they hang around. Everybody knows Carla. Oh my, Carla is well known. Carla’s a party girl, life of the party, always dressed to the nines. Her sister, Mona, is pretty quiet and not too forward and that sort of thing. But Carla keeps dragging her around the dance floor with her and putting her with people and so on. Everyone talks about Carla, very few people talk about Mona. No one knows of anyone who has gotten into any kind of confrontation with them, or any kind of arguments or anything about Carla or Mona together or apart. We don’t find anybody in this crowd. Although they all know them, nobody says there’s any problems between her, her sister Mona, and the crowd.
[00:13:27] Okay, so we have at least one guy who’s slept with Mona and there are probably a few others, but that’s not against the law. Consenting adults. The next question is who would not consent to that? Raymond probably wouldn’t consent to that. Obviously, you do what every homicide detective does, you march through the non-acquaintances, you march through the marginal acquaintances. You come up with nothing that looks promising and you return to the inner circle, who in this inner circle would have a motive for killing. Who’d want to kill Carla? Well, if I was Raymond, I might consider that since his life was going along just swimmingly until Carla shows up. All of a sudden, things start to go south and his life changes in a way that he’s not appreciative.
We talked to coworkers of his the next day, this is two days after the discovery. “Tell me about Raymond.” “Well, Raymond is a devoted father, loves that child, and he loves his wife, and he has purchased seven acres of ground in the Black Forest,” which is a suburb of Colorado Springs, very nice area called the Black Forest because it’s densely covered in trees, evergreen trees, beautiful place. His plan, at some point in his life, is to build his dream home on these seven acres. He’s going to start small, buy the ground first, and move up and save his money and so on. He’s got a plan.
[00:14:52] Everything’s fine. Then Carla arrives with her kit, and Raymond’s personality starts to change at work. He starts to tell people, “My sister-in-law is here, and she is a piece of work.” One thing leads to another, then he’s openly hostile toward her, and finally tells his coworkers, that he can’t deal with this. He just cannot deal with his sister-in-law. It’s changed his wife and how she behaves. He is incensed by that, and he decides that he’s going to move out. So, he moves out. He’s from Pueblo, which is where his parents live, and he doesn’t want to live with his parents, but he knows a guy in Pueblo who’s going to take an extended vacation. The guy says, “How about if you watch my house for me while I’m gone, and you could just stay here? Rent free, drive back and forth to work. It’s only a 40-mile run up the Interstate, you can do that easily. It saves you a ton of money and protects my house.” He agrees.
[00:15:54] We locate this individual, he’s still gone, staying in a campground in Texas. “How do you know Raymond?” Well, he went to high school with them. They’ve been friends a long time. “Okay, where’s this house you’re in?” He tells us. “Anything we should know about the house?” “What do you mean?” “Was there an alarm system? What’s going on?” He said, “Well, I do have an alarm system because I have an extensive collection of guns.” “Oh-
Yeardley: [00:16:14] Oh!
Joe: [00:16:15] -really? You got any .22 revolvers?” He says, “Yeah, I got two of them.” In the 1960s, Smith and Wesson made a gun called a Model 17. It’s a medium frame, K-frame they call it revolver, six shot and .22 long rifle. They were rare. A lot of .22 revolvers, and normally they’re nine shot, very few are six shot, but this was designed to look like a .38 caliber revolver, but it fired .22 caliber ammunition.
Yeardley: [00:16:48] That’s a bigger bullet than .38?
Joe: [00:16:50] No, it’s a smaller bullet.
Yeardley: [00:16:51] Smaller. Okay.
Joe: [00:16:52] But the gun is pretty substantial looking. You look at this gun, this thing is pretty big. It’s got to have big bullets in, and it doesn’t have small bullets. Okay, they were designed initially as a target pistol, that you would learn how to shoot a handgun by firing a gun that had little or no recoil and get accustomed to handling it and sight picture and so on and so on. They have some level of value. They’re not enormously valuable, but they have more level of value than they did when they were purchased. The guy liked them, he said, “I got two of those.” “Hmm, interesting.” We have .22 caliber expended casings, two distinct piles of 12. The shooter empties those guns into victim one, and then empties those guns into victim two, causing him to reload and then he reloads a third time in the event he may need these during his escape, apparently.
Dave: [00:17:45] What’s interesting is in season one we did 10 Below where the son shot his parents and was surprised that nobody called police hearing gunshots in the middle of the day. It could be because people are at work, and nobody’s in the neighborhood when this happens, but he recalls shooting his parents and then expecting the police to be showing up within minutes and set up fortified positions around the house. In this case, this guy’s shot many times in this house, shot two women, spread out by minutes or hours, depending on when Mona showed back up at the house. I’m sure he’s thinking, “I wonder if anybody heard these shots.” A .22 sounds like little firecrackers going off, pop, pop. It’s not a loud bang that you would expect from a revolver or any sort of gun going off. It’s pretty muted.
Yeardley: [00:18:45] Interesting.
Joe: [00:18:46] It is. Let’s say for sake of argument that Raymond has access to firearms of the right size and caliber and type, and he has motive. He certainly has opportunity. He has keys to this house. Where is Raymond now? Well, it turns out that Raymond hasn’t come to work for two days. “Has Raymond ever missed work in the past?” “No.” “Okay, then.” We started looking for Raymond. I suspect knowing human nature as I do, that if Raymond is our man, we don’t know it is, but it certainly looks like he is. If it’s him, and he’s ever done a criminal thing in his life, which he never has, the enormity of what he’s done has come home to him. I think he’s going to drive to that seven acres he owns in the Black Forest and eat that gun.
Yeardley: [00:19:38] Oh.
Yeardley: [00:19:51] Hey, Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:19:52] Chef Yeardley.
Yeardley: [00:19:53] I want to tell the Small Town Fam about your special guest appearance on my fun, silly cooking show that’s on Instagram and the two with you called Oil and Water.
Dan: [00:20:03] It was special.
Yeardley: [00:20:05] It was awesome. Oil and Water is less of a cooking show, and more of a game that involves cooking. Small Town Fam, you can find Oil and Water at @oilandwaterfood on Instagram and Oil and Water Food on YouTube. There you will see Detective Dan helping me combine random ingredients into a thing. A thing being like a pie, a casserole, a soup, a bunt.
Dan: [00:20:33] A dumpster fire in some cases.
Yeardley: [00:20:35] [laughs] Some cases, but this one was extra special.
Dan: [00:20:41] It was an adventure for my tastebuds.
Yeardley: [00:20:43] For mine. Small Town Fam, we know you can’t get enough of Detectives Dan and Dave. This time I only had room for Dan in the kitchen with me, but it is not to be missed. You can catch Oil and Water every Wednesday.
Dan: [00:20:59] So you can make it for the weekend for your dinner party. I really liked the gingerbread house with ham shingles.
Yeardley: [00:21:05] That’s true. I did make a gingerbread house with ham shingles. That was pretty epic. That was the Christmas episode. That’s the sort of joy you’re in for if you’ll join us @oilandwaterfood on Instagram and YouTube.
Dan: [00:21:20] You’ll enjoy it. It’s good for a laugh.
Yeardley: [00:21:22] We’ll see you there.
Joe: [00:21:37] So, they send a sheriff’s car out there because that’s out of our jurisdictions in the El Paso County. Sheriff’s unit arrives, checks the entire property, roads leading to and from it. Nope, no Raymond. He is driving a pickup truck that belongs to the homeowner.
Yeardley: [00:21:51] Raymond does?
Joe: [00:21:52] Yeah, it’s a pickup truck that the homeowner that asked him to sit on his house owns, told him he could use his truck if he needed a truck. Apparently, Raymond’s riding around in this truck because people have seen him in it, but he hasn’t been at work. He hasn’t been at that house. His parents haven’t seen or heard from him, nor did he try to get in touch with his daughter staying with his parents. He had dropped that kid off, picked her up, and took her to his parents’ home for them to watch for the weekend, which was a scheduled thing, it wasn’t something unusual. But then, he never came back, so they tried to get the kid back to mom. They couldn’t get ahold of mom, one thing led to another.
Yeardley: [00:22:31] Mom is Mona.
Joe: [00:22:33] That’s right. The question remains, where is Raymond? Is Raymond armed? And if he is our guy, he’s dangerous. We put out this information. A Colorado State Patrolman was working on the highway, the interstate highway, and lo and behold, there’s that truck and Raymond is driving it. They make a felony stop on a vehicle. They bring him out of the truck at gunpoint. On the floorboard of the truck are .22 caliber revolvers. They’re both loaded. In his pockets are 41 rounds of ammunition, .22 long rifle. Raymond is arrested at that point for two counts of first-degree murder. They recover him and the guns and bring him to me. I sit down and talk to Raymond for quite some time. Raymond says that he went over there to the house to discuss this problem with Carla. “You brought two guns with you?” “Well, yes. I brought two guns with me. I wanted to scare them.” “I see. Okay, so you have your guns and you drive to the house, and they’re there.” “Well, Carla’s there. Mona is not there.” “Mona is not home?” “No.” “Okay. What happens?”
[00:23:41] “Well, I go in the kitchen. Carla is there and I sat down and I told her my thoughts, and she laughed at me.” “She laughed at you?” “Yes, she said I was a fool,” and then he goes on and about how he insulted him and so on. “What happened then Raymond?” “Well, I pulled out one of the guns.” “I bet you did, and what happened then?” “Well, we struggled over it, and somehow it went off.” “Somehow went off? How do you think it went off, Raymond?” “Well, I don’t know. We were struggling over it, and it went off.” “I see. She was hit?” “Oh, yeah. Yeah, she was hit. She fell down.” “Well, people do when you shoot them. What happened then, Raymond?” “Well, she said that she didn’t want to suffer, so I should shoot her some more.”
Yeardley: [00:24:31] Oh, no.
Joe: [00:24:33] I said, “You know, Raymond, I’ve always found that to be true. When people are hurt. They just can’t deal with the pain and the first thing they demand is to be killed.” He’s looked at me, I said, “Go on, Raymond. Tell me the rest.” “I did, I shot her.” I said, “With both guns?” “No, I just used one.” “What about the expanded casings on the floor. Where’d they come from, Raymond? Hmm?” He just keeps looking at me. “That’s all right, let’s go on. What happened then?” “Well, Mona wasn’t there.” “You said that. What did you do, did you wait for her?” “Yeah, I waited.” “You sat there with dead Carla and waited for Mona, didn’t you?” “Yeah.” “Then, when she came in the door, what’d you do?” “Well, I was going to confront her, but that gun went off again.” “Really? Same gun, huh?” “Maybe it’s faulty, huh, Raymond?”
[00:25:27] “Then the other gun, it went off, too, huh?” Then he said, “I don’t want to talk to you anymore.” “Fine. You want a lawyer, Raymond?” “Yes, I’ve decided I want a lawyer.” I said, “Okay. If I were you, Raymond, I would get two lawyers. I don’t think one is going to be enough in your case.” We go to court, we go to grand jury first, we indict him to cause first degree murder, then we go to court. We convict him, two counts first degree murder, he’s sentenced to life in prison to be served consecutively. He serves one life term, then he serves a second term after the first term. The grandparents, his parents, have that little girl in the court. She’s wearing a beautiful little pink dress, patent leather her Mary Janes and her little silk socks, and she is a beautiful child.
Yeardley: [00:26:19] She’s like five years old or something?
Joe: [00:26:21] She’s five years old. She walks up to me and says, “Are you the man that put my daddy in jail?” I said, “I am.” She kicked me as hard as I’ve been kicked in a while-
Joe: [00:26:32] -in the shin. Her grandmother came over and she was sorry. Her grandmother sent her over there to do that, but whatever, I said, okay. Now, during the course of that investigation, we also discovered that Raymond had test fired the weapon. He practiced in the backyard. We recovered the slugs out of his targets, target plank, he had a six-inch plank, he put up, six inches wide, in the backyard. .22, it didn’t penetrate, they were stuck in this thing. It’s a piece of oak. We took it and recovered the slugs and matched those to the slugs in the bodies. He practiced with the guns before he went up there to do that.
Now, part of the issue in Colorado and murder in the first degree is to engage in behavior that is not inspired by your emotions, that you engage in scheme and design. You have a plan, you carry out this plan, you obtain weapons, you practice with the weapons, you load the weapons, you bring extra ammunition, then you drive 40 miles in a truck to your former home and carry out your offense. Now, there is certainly sufficient time for the voice of reason to be heard during your 40-mile drive, but there’s no question about voice of reason. We are committed. “I’m going to kill these women.” When he made those arrangement, that’s what he did. We were able to establish that scheme of design by the physical evidence, by his statements, by the circumstances, by, by, by very clearly what happened. It’s never very clear when it begins. It becomes crystal clear when it ends.
Yeardley: [00:28:16] Joe, so the daughter comes over and kicks you in the shin and you mentioned that her grandmother sent her over there. The parents, they didn’t believe that Raymond had committed these premeditated murders or–?
Joe: [00:28:30] I don’t think they ever did believe it. I think they were convinced there was some sort of plot to clear this case, that obviously it was one of Carla’s boyfriends or ex-husband or whatever. It couldn’t have been their Raymond. Well, okay, but you have to say that in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, but emotion doesn’t permit that.
Yeardley: [00:28:49] Right. So interesting. Obviously, the little girl then was raised by her grandparents, I’m assuming?
Joe: [00:28:56] I assume, I don’t know.
Yeardley: [00:28:58] Ugh. She lost both in the commission of that act, now the child has neither parent.
Joe: [00:29:07] It’s a very destructive thing. It’s an enormously destructive process, and it affects everyone, sometimes for generations, because they all discuss it forever. “Do you remember when granddad killed grandma?” “Uh, yes, I remember.” It just never stopped. It’s a stone in the pond. It’s a ripple effect that just never ever gets to the other shore.
Yeardley: [00:29:44] About when did this murder take place in your career, about how long had you been a homicide detective?
Joe: [00:29:48] Hmm, eight, nine years.
Yeardley: [00:29:51] Was there a period in the course of your 20-year career as a detective that seemed busier than another time?
Joe: [00:30:00] Oh, of course. Murder is cyclical in some ways. It’s weird. There’s a national biorhythm, it’s bizarre. If a murder rate is up in Chicago, it’s up in Los Angeles. If it’s down in New York, it’s down in Chicago. It’s weird. It’s up and down.
Yeardley: [00:30:16] Really?
Joe: [00:30:17] There was an occasion, I had six homicides in a week. We didn’t sleep for a week. My wife said, “You’ve got to get some sleep.” I said, “Great. I’d love to.”
Joe: [00:30:26] It was incredible. It’s just incredible. It just happens. It was quiet for three weeks, or you get reports of homicides, and it’s not. I went to a hospital once, watch commander calls me from a precinct and he says, “I have a gunshot victim. He’s shot in the head, he’s going to die.” “Okay, well, nobody does dead like we do, so we’ll be on our way.” I drove over there and I talk to the doctors, “Where’s the dead guy?” He said, “That’s him in the waiting room, reading a magazine.”
Yeardley: [00:30:52] What?
Joe: [00:30:53] I said, “He was shot in the head?” “He got shot in the earlobe, took off his earlobe. I bandaged it, and he’s fine.”
Yeardley: [00:30:59] What was the call about?
Joe: [00:31:01“] Well, who shot you?” “I ain’t telling you nothing.”
Yeardley: [00:31:03] I see.
Joe: [00:31:04] I call the watch commander back, I said, “Hey, the dead guy told me he doesn’t want to talk to me.” Silence on the phone. Yeah. Sometimes, you get those [laughs] “We’ll just palm these off on the detectives, and they’ll come here and find out what happened.
Yeardley: [00:31:17] Right. Joe, did you always want to be a police officer?
Joe: [00:31:20] I did. I had an uncle that was a Colorado state patrolman. I was so impressed by him, I named my son after him. My son’s first name is Dan and so is my uncle.
Yeardley: [00:31:31] It’s a good name.
Joe: [00:31:32] When I was a little kid, I was nine years old, not that little, I guess, we lived in a coal mining town East of Pittsburgh, and my family were coal miners. My mother and father decided to take my brother and I to the Pittsburgh Zoo. This was a huge deal in the kid world, had never been to a zoo, we’re going to go see wild animals. Man, I was wired, I didn’t sleep all night. Off we go to the zoo. Outside the primate house, there’s a sign, and it says, “Around this corner is the most dangerous animal on earth.” Everybody rushed around the corner and it was a mirror from ceiling to floor. Everybody was disappointed. Everybody is, “Ugh, hmm.” I was transfixed. It was an epiphany for me of that, “Well, that’s all of us.” I never forgot that and I found that to be the case.
[00:32:27] So, I said to myself, if I ever get old enough and smart enough, I’d want to be the person who could find people that did that to someone and see that they get punished. Because that ain’t right, to kill people, it’s just not right. I’ve always been a black and white guy, there’s no gray with me, there’s no 243 shades of grey, it’s black and white. It’s right or wrong, period, the end. That’s just the way it is with me. It always was. I was person drawn to it. I wanted to do something that would make a difference, and I further wanted to do something that I rose or fell on my own ability, that I would be the one to either do this right or do it wrong and suffer the consequences. But I wouldn’t have to do it because somebody told me to do it that way, I wanted to do it, and come out successfully, with any luck.
Yeardley: [00:33:21] To be a detective, to solve crimes really of any kind, it takes an extraordinary attention to detail, and somehow an ability to connect dots that I would say most of us aren’t able to connect. What would you say your superpower was in that regard?
Joe: [00:33:39] There’s only two skills you need to be a good detective, only two. First, you need to have a knowledge of the law. You must know what you can do. More importantly, you have to know what you may not do. You don’t stretch the rules. The bad guys do that, not the police. You do it correctly. The only other skill you need, is an undying sense of curiosity. Somebody made this happen. Who might they be? There is no greater sensation I have found, for me at least, than to take the shadow in the night that committed this crime and give them a first, middle, last name, a date of birth, and a mugshot. You’re not a shadow. You’re him. That was the thing I loved. That’s what I absolutely loved, was that moment, when it’s you.
I had a guy once who killed– Well, he didn’t kill them. He had two sons. They’re in the drug business. One’s 20, one’s 22. They live at home. The parents know what they do, but they just choose to ignore it. They enticed a guy over to steal his drugs from him and they murder him in the basement. Their parents wake up with all the commotion, come downstairs, “What the hell have you done?” “Well, we kill this kid.” They conceal it. They use bleach, they clean up all the blood, they roll the dead guy in a blanket. They dump him in the mountains. We don’t find him for a week, figure they’re clean. We find him. We trace it back to these people. We have no evidence. He was very good at crime scene, he destroyed everything.
Yeardley: [00:35:14] The dad did?
Joe: [00:35:15] Correct. He is confrontive. He is an asshole. He is, “You got on my house, I have five lawyers, I’ll sue you and I’ll do all this stuff.” I said, “Okay, I’ll tell you what, my friend. Someday, someday the truth will be out, and you and I will meet again. Goodbye.” We left. Five years later almost to the day, his brother-in-law, gets out of prison, comes to live with them, gets into it with him and stabs the shit out of him. Damn near kills him dead, the one that was the architect of this (unintelligible) to this murder. So, dad’s in ICU and I’ve got his brother-in-law in an interrogation room. I said, “You know, you’ve got a problem here, my man. We’re talking third felony for you. It’s mandatory life.”
Yeardley: [00:36:08] Is that the convict that’s gotten out who’s got his third felony on the hook?
Joe: [00:36:12] Yeah, now he is because he just tried to kill this guy. Guy’s going to survive, but he’s tried to kill him. I said, “Maybe you got something to trade for the rest of your life? What do you think?” He’s just looking at me. Now, he’s been around the block, he knows how this works. I said, “You know the drill. Tell me about the kid in the basement.” “Yeah, man. I helped them.” “You helped them do what?” He drove the truck. He took the body up in the mountains, told us where he dumped it, so on and so on. He rolls on everybody, including mama because she’s part of it too, the mother. We go get one of the two sons, and he confesses against the other one. Pick up the second one, he confesses against everybody.
Yeardley: [00:36:54] Gee whiz! (laughs)
Joe: [00:36:56] Yeah, of course. I go to the hospital. There’s dear old dad sitting in the hospital bed. I walked up to his bed and I said, “Hey, you remember me? Huh? The guy you’re going to sue? Remember when I told you that someday we’d talk again? Well, today’s the fucking day.” And I handcuffed him into the bed.
Yeardley: [00:37:16] (laughs) To the bed.
Joe: [00:37:19] I said, “When you get out of here, and you will get out. The state’s going to pay your rent. You’re not going to have to spend another dime. They’ll teach you how to make license plates. You’re going to enjoy it.” He just turned white as a sheet. Everybody went to prison including mama.
Yeardley: [00:37:31] Really?
Joe: [00:37:32] Yeah, for killing a kid. Over nothing, over a bag of dope.
Yeardley: [00:37:36] It’s just unbelievable. Well, Joe, we could talk to you all day. Thank you for making the time to sit down with us. We love your stories, but I’ve got to say, we especially enjoy getting to know you, Joe, the man, the man behind the badge. Thank you for that.
Joe: [00:37:58] You’re entirely welcome, my dear.
Yeardley: [00:38:00] [laughs]
Dan: [00:38:01] Absolutely. Thank you, LT. Really appreciate it.
Yeardley: [00:38:04] Yes, thank you.
Dave: [00:38:05] Yeah, that was enjoyable.
Yeardley: [00:38:07] So cool.
Yeardley: [00:38:11] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and co-produced by detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Sorin Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
Dan: [00:38:39] If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the show, visit us on our website at smalltowndicks.com.
Yeardley: [00:38:46] Small Town Dicks would like to thank SpeechDocs for providing transcripts of this podcast. You can find these transcripts on our episode page at smalltowndicks.com. For more information about SpeechDocs and their service, please go to speechdocs.com.
Dan: [00:39:03] And join the Small Town Fam by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @smalltowndicks. We love hearing from you. And if you support us on Patreon, your subscription will give you access to exclusive content and merchandise that isn’t available anywhere else. Go to patreon.com/smalltowndickspodcast.
Yeardley: [00:39:24] That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country-
Dave: [00:39:30] -in search of the finest, rare true crime cases told-
Dan: [00:39:36] -as always by the detectives who investigated them.
Dave: [00:39:37] Thanks for listening, Small Town Fam.
Yeardley: [00:39:29] Nobody’s better than you.