Book Reviews

Unsolved No More: An Interview With Cold Case Detective Kenneth Mains

Take a look inside the challenging process of re-investigating and solving cold cases through the eyes of a seasoned and passionate detective. Kenneth Mains is a man in search of the truth and he will not stop until he has uncovered the evidence that can provide homicide victims and their families the justice they deserve.

“He wants to give a voice to all the tragic souls who have been silenced.” – Lt. Joe Kenda

Unsolved No More by Kenneth L. MainsUNSOLVED NO MORE: A Cold Case Detective’s Fight For Justice by Kenneth L. Mains

Wildblue Press, 14 May 2017, Paperback and Kindle, 344 Pages

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Published last month, Unsolved No More is an honest and frank account of cold case detective work.  Reopening cases where all leads have previously been exhausted and as a result they have often been untouched for many years.

Detective Kenneth Mains describes with experience and authority the challenges, the process and the frustrations of trying to crack a case which has long gone cold. He is a respected detective described as determined and compassionate in his fight for justice for the victims of some of the most heinous crimes that one person can carry out against another.

Unsolved No More also tells the story of Kenneth Mains himself and his own personal journey to where he is today. It is an inspiring tale of determination and how staying focused and committed can mean dreams can be accomplished. It is that commitment that has seen the success of this detective throughout his career and especially as the man who tackles some of the most challenging unsolved criminal cases around because of his passion and sense of duty to find the truth.

This passion led him to create the American Investigative Society of Cold Cases (AISOCC) in 2013 bringing together a team of the best detectives, crime scene analysts and criminologists to take on cold cases from law enforcement who have reached a dead end. Top experts working with him include Dr. Henry Lee, ‘Homicide Hunter’ Lt. Joe Kenda, Dr. Katherine Ramsland, former FBI profiler Mark Safarik, Dr. Bob Keppel, Dr. Mary Ellen O’Toole and Jim Clemente, amongst others.

Q & A with Detective Kenneth Mains

Kenneth Mains has kindly taken time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about his new book Unsolved No More and his work as a cold case detective.

Q. Your personal story in Unsolved No More is an inspiring one telling of your path into law enforcement and specialization in cold case detective work. Your passion and dedication is clear, how important do you feel these attributes are when re-investigating cold cases?

KM – Passion and dedication is by far more important than any other aspect of cold case investigations…just like it is at any other profession. If you love what you do and are determined to succeed, you will never fail! I am a firm believer that if you have passion and dedication and a bit of talent…you will be successful.

Q. The Dawn Marie Miller case which you discuss in your book is one which obviously had a big impact on your life. Is convincing the District Attorney that there is enough evidence to push forward with a suspect in a case a common issue you face?

KM – Yes…but I understand that the District Attorney’s have a job to do. I don’t want them telling me how to investigate cases and they don’t want me to tell them how to prosecute one. So it’s a give and take situation. People have to understand that to me solving a case is done during the investigative phase. Having another entity decide if there is probable cause to make an arrest and then convincing 12 jurors beyond a reasonable a doubt is not my job. My job is to solve the case and I can do that. Solving a case isn’t always making an arrest. It is having enough evidence to tell the victim’s family what happened and knowing yourself you do not have a doubt as to who the perpetrator was.

Q. The passage of time can often mean relationships, opinions and knowledge have changed considerably since a witness was interviewed during an original case.  Do you find this means you often get more information that is useful when you re-investigate the case many years later?

KM – Yes very much so. Sometimes I think my job looking at cold cases is easier than the original detectives who investigated the case. I have the luxury of time. Time to be methodical and track down all leads. Time to strategize. Time to formulate. Time to research. Time to spend with the victim’s families in order to do the best possible investigation. The victims deserve that! Sometimes the original investigators do not have this luxury. So yes loyalties and relationships change through the passage of time and I take advantage of that to solve cases.

Q. In 2013 you created the American Investigative Society of Cold Cases (AISOCC) and now have an amazing team working with you to tackle cold cases.  How many cases is the organisation dealing with and how does that review process take place?

KM – We review about 5 cases a year that we get from law enforcement. They send me the files in a digital format and I upload that case file to our secure server. I then let everyone know we have a new case and ask them to look at it and give me their ideas, what they see with a fresh set of eyes. We then encompass all that knowledge in a large report to give back to law enforcement. It will include feedback from our various disciplines to include academia, behavioral assessment, forensics, investigative, legal, medicolegal and others…because remember it is extremely important to get different disciplines to look at a case because they see things through different lenses….that way every angle is covered and nothing is missed.

Q. Are there any particular cases you have worked on that stick out in your mind, whether one that was particularly challenging, still remains unsolved or gave you the most satisfaction in being able to solve?

KMEvery case sticks with me. Every victim is forever etched into my soul! Theresa Corley, Gail Matthews and her daughter, Jennifer Hill were all victims and their murders will always stick with me no matter the outcome of the case. Right now the murder of Cheri Joe Bates is a reoccurring memory in my head because I just left a crime scene revisit of that murder that occurred October 29, 1966 in Riverside California. 

Q. When interviewing witnesses or family members in a case, how much do you rely on non-verbal behaviour and your perceptions when coming to a decision on the reliability of their evidence or simply whether they are telling you the truth?

KM – I take note of every verbal and non verbal that is given…but that is not something you can base guilt off of. Just because someone twirls their hair or looks down and to the left when they give you an answer doesn’t mean they are lying. You have to base your investigation off of the totality of all the evidence. That is the only way to successfully solve cases without doubt.

Q. I enjoyed your chapter on criminal profiling in Unsolved No More and noted that FBI profilers Mark Safarik and Jim Clemente are on your team at the AISOCC. How much would you say profiling comes into a cold case investigation and do you utilize some of the methodology in your own investigations and interviews on a case?

KM – Yes I use it a lot. My Masters Degree studies began with criminal profiling. I think it should be used as a tool along with other areas (forensics, investigative, medicolegal, etc) and you can’t rely on criminal profiling alone. In criminal profiling you must back up your assessment with inductive and/or deductive reasoning. If you can substantiate your claims as to why you believe something, I think the assessment or profile should be used in solving the case. Both Mark and Jim do a phenomenal job doing that.

Q. I understand you have recently been re-examining the Zodiac case.  Can you tell us a little about the process of reviewing such a big case over 40 years old and one that has received so much attention?

KM – Yes I have been asked by Television executives to look at the case as we are coming up on 50 years since the first Zodiac murder. Yet, I treat it the Zodiac case like any other case. You start from the beginning without being biased toward any suspect. I purposely did not read about any of the suspects before looking at the case because I want to approach the case unbiased. I do that with all my cases. If you go into a case with a suspect in mind you will subconsciously have tunnel vision and allow yourself to let the evidence fit your suspect instead of the suspect fitting the evidence.

As I mentioned before I was just in CA yesterday investigating the Cheri Jo Bates homicide. Zodiac took credit for that murder even though it happened two years previous to the first known Zodiac killing. So I want to determine if it was Zodiac and if not who did it. Regardless of that answer, people have to remember Ms Bates was a living breathing person with a family that cared deeply about her. That is why I look at the case…people remember Zodiac….they dont remember the victims and to me that is sad! Is the Bates murder the result of Zodiac? I havent rendered an opinion yet but I promise I will know conclusively when I am done.

Q. With the development of the AISOCC, your book and of course all your ongoing cases, these last few years have been busy for you. What are your plans now going forward?

KM – You know that’s a great question. I am currently supervising our County’s Drug Task Force as a Detective for the District Attorney’s Office as well as doing the cold case work there. I enjoy the people I work with….yet victims families and Hollywood seem to call me constantly wanting my help. I put victims families as a top priority on my list. I want to help them get closure or at least piece of mind knowing what happened to their loved one. I can do that and I do do that for them. I have a Consulting Firm where I help law enforcement and victims families. Sometimes law enforcement asks me to personally look at cases for them. Sometimes victims families ask me to. I will never and have never said no to either one no matter how busy I am.

I have gotten so many requests the past year I had to hire another employee to help me. So, things are going great and I am glad I can help others, especially with the most tragic incident that took place in their lives….it is a great responsibility but it is one I embrace! So it seems like I have been travelling a lot lately but the most precious time for me is the few minutes alone I get when I return home and spend time with my family! To me, that is what life is all about….but even while I am sitting there, in the peace and quiet of my home, my mind is constantly searching for answers to the cold cases I am investigating….I never turn it off! That’s how you solve the unsolved.

Thanks Kenneth for answering my questions and giving such a fascinating insight into your cold case work and your current and upcoming projects!

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