Warning – this blog contains references to a brutal crime involving sexual assault, do not continue reading if such things might offend you.
I’ve been watching all of the episodes of “Homicide Hunter,” which features retired Colorado Springs detective Joe Kenda recounting the cases that he helped solve between 1973 and 1996. As a departure from the forensics shows I’ve also become a big fan of watching, this series focuses more on the REAL detective work – interrogating witnesses, uncovering clues – you know – the “gumshoe” stuff. Though Joe Kenda was certainly no “gumshoe” detective!
Just yesterday I watched season 8 episode 20, titled “The Case That Haunts Me,” which originally aired Feb. 13, 2019. From the opening scene, I knew it was going to be a riveting case!
It all starts with the Piazza family in 1977 – parents and two kids – deciding to take a night drive along the Gold Camp Road, where you can supposedly hear the ghosts of dead gold miners. From what one of the reporters working the case said, you had to be brave to travel this road at night. I’m actually kind of jealous of these kids – my parents never took me and my brother on any creepy trips like this – except maybe Gatlinburg, TN in 1980! To this day, I still don’t like driving through this frightening town (but I digress)!
But what this family ended up seeing was far more terrifying than anything paranormal (fake or not) – a young naked woman walking toward their car – covered in blood. As the police investigation would reveal, that woman was Kaitlyn Bennett, a young prostitute, or to use today’s politically correct parlance “sex worker” (don’t judge).
To find out what happened to this woman while she was hospitalized and not yet conscious – Detective Joe Kenda would have to do something nearly as bad ass as Kaitlyn Bennett had done herself – only in reverse – and with proper equipment and supervision – and that was to rappel down a rocky cliff to follow her blood trail. About 100 feet down or so he found where it appeared she had landed after being unceremoniously dumped by her attacker (more about this asshole in a bit).
A short time later, Kenda met the victim in the hospital, and she turned about to be quite the spitfire!
She was alert, talkative and obviously one tough little chick!Joe Kenda, describing attack victim kaitlyn bennett
She was able to provide a physical description of the guy (red headed white male) and the guy’s truck (white pickup with a camper topper). She also described the junk he had in the back of the truck – so well that it proved to be the way they would end finding the guy. She told detectives that he had “large red wrenches” in the back of the truck, which she knew because this is where he forced her to go under the pretenses of having sex (did I mention she was a sex worker)?
While taking note of all of the helpful details she was able to provide, they couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room – this woman was a BAD ASS! Here she was – stabbed, beaten, raped and dumped off a rocky cliff in a super creepy area – and she tells herself “I’d be damned if I’m going to die this way.” With this amazing survival instinct – she claws her way up that cliff and luckily manages to summon help from the Piazza family – who just happened to be macabre enough to want to entertain their kids by taking them on a ghostly drive (again, I’m very jealous)! Hell, even if I had all of the proper climbing equipment and someone to spot me, I’m not sure I’d ever want to get into the sport of rock climbing! Maybe if my life depended upon it?
Meanwhile, Joe Kenda is thinking about the information this brave female victim has given him – and he starts doodling. She described one of the wrenches as being 2-3 feet long and having wheels on it – and after drawing it, he deduces that it’s a plumber’s wrench. Mental note – buy one of these next time I’m in a hardware store to use for personal protection!
So Kenda starts canvassing plumbing businesses, and eventually finds the right red-headed plumber, who has a squeaky clean record. No prior convictions, no arrests, no parking tickets, no line cutting at an amusement park, nothing. Meet 23-year-old Charles Warren, who claims to be a “family man.” Nice try, buddy – Charles Manson also claimed to be a “family man!” Officers tear apart the guy’s house and eventually find a plastic baggie taped to the back of one his dresser drawers with a lock of hair in it. Earlier, investigators learned that Kaitlyn Bennett had some of her hair lopped off during the attack. Personally, I prefer cheesy souvenirs like those oversized novelty pencils that gift shops used to sell, but hey – if a lock of hair from your victim has special meaning for you, who am I to judge?
So yeah, they pretty much have this guy nailed by this point. They just need one more little pesky thing – a confession. And it takes SIX HOURS to get it! Poor Kenda has his supervisor thumping his watch at him while he’s trying to get a confession out of Warren, so he ups the ante – and asks him (and I’m paraphrasing here), “What do you fantasize about?”
You know sometimes when you ask someone a question you don’t want to know the answer? Well, Warren said that his fantasy wasn’t to be able to become invisible, go back in time and win money betting on sporting events that you already knew the outcome of (yeah I’m stealing that from Back to the Future 2), or living a James Bond life of a playboy/spy. Nope – his fantasy was to have sex with women while they’re dying – and bathed in blood.
Kenda said he wanted to do two things after hearing this guy confess this fantasy – take a shower – and shoot the guy in the mouth. But, since this wasn’t his time to play “bad cop,” he didn’t blow him away, and taking a shower at that moment just wouldn’t have been convenient! Can you imagine him telling him, “Excuse me, what you just told me is so disgusting that now I need to take a shower?”
Almost as though he needed to add icing to the derangement cake, Warren then said, “Next time I do this, I’ll make sure she’s dead.” Thankfully, there was no “next time” for this asshole!
Warren pleaded guilty to the rape and assault charges, but was sentenced to serving his time in a mental facility instead of prison.
Well? What are you waiting for? Why don’t you start watching this series right now? It’s on Hulu and probably other services for streaming. I’d highly recommend for anyone who loves true crime shows as much as I do!