‘Homicide Hunter’ star Joe Kenda recalls soldier’s ‘grisly’ murder: ‘Who are we looking for here, Dracula?’


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Former police detective Joe Kenda vividly remembers being called to the witness stand in a Colorado Springs courtroom to reexamine a 1987 murder that remained unsolved for more than three decades.

The star of Investigation Discovery’s (ID) “Homicide Hunter” testified in the 2021 trial of suburban Denver’s Michael White, who was arrested for strangling Darlene Krashok, a soldier stationed at Fort Carson outside Colorado Springs.

Kenda, who was part of the initial investigation, packaged and preserved every piece of liquid evidence found at the crime scene, an expensive and complicated endeavor at the time.

But with the advent of new DNA technology, investigators were able to definitively identify the 20-year-old killer.

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For “Homicide Hunter: Never Give Up,” Joe Kenda looks back on the Darlene Krashok case.
(ID)

“When I walked into that courtroom, you could hear a pin drop because everybody was looking at me like, ‘That guy’s on TV,'” Kenda recalled to Fox News Digital. “I’ve walked into that courtroom so many times. Never had such a reaction. But it was funny to look Michael White straight in the eye and not say out loud, ‘We’re not sorry and we’re not sorry.’ Don’t forget.

A 23-year veteran of the Colorado Springs Police Department spent 21 years chasing murders as a homicide detective and commander of the major crimes unit. The 75-year-old and his team have solved 356 of their 387 homicide cases, achieving a 92% solve rate, the highest in the country.

After retiring from law enforcement, Kenda starred in the true-crime docuseries “Homicide Hunter,” which ran for nine seasons from 2011 to 2020.

Kenda is returning to television for the new ID special “Homicide Hunter: Never Give Up,” which examines the crash case and how it was finally solved after it went cold.

“What made this murder different was its extreme violence,” Kenda explained. “Murder is gruesome, but some go to extremes. This was one of them. I thought, ‘Who are we looking for here, Dracula?’ It was just awful, and I saw many things.

Krashok’s body was found behind a Colorado Springs restaurant on March 17, 1987. Investigators said he had gone to a nightclub the previous evening with other soldiers from his unit.

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Darlene Krashok was killed on March 17, 1987.

Darlene Krashok was killed on March 17, 1987.
(ID)

She had last left the club between midnight and 1 a.m. and police found her body during a routine patrol. Investigators said her body was moved to a location behind the restaurant.

At the crime scene, officers found three cigarette butts on the ground near Krashok’s partially naked body. A coat hanger resembling a horse’s bridle is looped around the Krashok’s mouth and neck. She was severely beaten, bitten and sexually assaulted. She may have been thrown from a moving vehicle.

Krashock joined the Army after graduating from an out-of-state high school as a wheel mechanic. Kenda described her as a “pleasant young woman who is trying to make a future for herself by joining the military,” loved ones said.

“She’s a hard worker and does what a lot of girls her age do — go out,” Kenda said. “It was St. Patrick’s Day where everyone was Irish and everyone hung out at the bar. There were 400 people at the club she was at. We recognized most but certainly not everyone.

“We’ve been banging our heads for months and months and years trying to solve this case. And we can never turn anyone connected. The killer seems to be the devil. No one knows who he is. There seems to be no connection between them. – A difficult case. No feelings, no connection. , no knowledge. These are two ships passing in the night, but one of them is monstrous. We had to turn to science for resolution.”

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Darlene Krashok was an Army soldier stationed at Fort Carson, Colo.

Darlene Krashok was an Army soldier stationed at Fort Carson, Colo.
(ID)

Kenda said Krashok’s unsolved murder has haunted him since retirement.

“What did I do wrong? What did I overlook?” Kenda agreed. “But DNA is modern day magic. It solved three of those 31 [unsolved cases]. I’m down to 28 now, but still have 28 unsolved murders. They all influenced me.

“It’s very, very difficult. They keep you up at night. And to me, that’s the number that matters, not the 356 I solved. That’s the price you pay for putting in this kind of work. You want to see that. All your cases are settled.”

Krashok’s case was reopened twice, first in 2004 and again in 2011, when male DNA was found on several pieces of evidence.

The Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory reanalyzed the DNA in 2016 and sent it to a private company that specializes in using DNA to create images of what someone might look like. The company has made two composites, one showing a man about 25 years old and the other 50 to 55 years old.

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Modern DNA technology has been instrumental in solving Darlene Krashook's murder decades later.

Modern DNA technology has been instrumental in solving Darlene Krashook’s murder decades later.
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Police said the process, known as phenotyping, uses DNA to predict traits such as ancestry, hair and eye color and facial shape. Authorities made at least one image public in 2017. Police and Army investigators have retained Parabon Nanolabs of Reston, Virginia, to sort through databases maintained by consumer DNA websites for genetic profiles similar to the killer’s, the Gazette reported.

In 2019, the company’s research led to White, who was a 24-year-old soldier at Fort Carson at the time of Krashok’s murder. His existence was not known to the police.

The outlet revealed that Colorado Springs detectives secretly followed White to the restaurant. The saliva on the rim of the bowl he left in the trash proved that he was responsible. In 1987, White was found to be living just three miles from the scene of the murder.

Kenda said White managed to elude police for decades because “he never did anything” after the killing.

“Michael White has never had a parking ticket in his history,” Kenda explained. “He’s not been arrested for anything. He’s not a registered sex offender. He’s not an ex-prisoner. He’s nothing. He’s just a dude who works at an electronics firm. He’s had a couple of marriages that didn’t work out. Well, but nothing happened in those marriages.

“How was he able to get on with his life? How could he commit a crime like this and never do it again? I don’t have an answer. I think he was afraid of what he was capable of when he committed that crime. And maybe that controlled him over time.

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Two Colorado Springs Police Department officers entertained Darlene Krashok in her final hours before discovering her body in a Korean Club restaurant parking lot.

Two Colorado Springs Police Department officers entertained Darlene Krashok in her final hours before discovering her body in a Korean Club restaurant parking lot.
(ID)

“He got away with just doing it,” Kenda continued. “No one heard of him. No one saw him, though some saw him dance with her a couple of times. We have a composite sketch of him that looks like half the men in North America. He was arrested based on scientific evidence. But to pick him out of a crowd? Good luck.”

When asked why White killed Krashok, Kanda replied “because he wanted to”.

“It’s very simple,” he said. “People don’t understand that humans are capable of anything, because they want it at the moment. That makes humans very dangerous. But there’s no great feeling in the world to know that this ghost has a face. He has a first, middle, and last name. He’s no longer a ghost.”

Three decades later, White was found guilty of Krashok’s murder. In 2021, the 58-year-old was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

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This undated photo provided by the Colorado Springs Police Department shows Michael White, 58, of Thornton, Colo., who was arrested June 13, 2019, on suspicion of first-degree murder.  Police say DNA evidence led them to identify White as a suspect in the 1987 strangulation death of Darlene Krashook, 20, a soldier at Fort Carson, Colo.

This undated photo provided by the Colorado Springs Police Department shows Michael White, 58, of Thornton, Colo., who was arrested June 13, 2019, on suspicion of first-degree murder. Police say DNA evidence led them to identify White as a suspect in the 1987 strangulation death of Darlene Krashook, 20, a soldier at Fort Carson, Colo.
(Colorado Springs Police Department via AP)

Kenda said he is hopeful that his other unsolved cases will also see justice.

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“I hope people learn and understand that we don’t give up,” he said. “There is no release. Every unsolved case we experience is a constant effort. That’s why we get paid. Not enough, but what? You don’t become a policeman for the money. You become a policeman because it’s a calling to stand in the victim’s shoes and speak for them because they can no longer speak. It’s not about anything else. .

If you or someone you know has suffered abuse, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. “Homicide Hunter: Never Give Up” premieres Aug. 17 at 9 p.m. The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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