This twitter interview features Detective Kevin Trees from THE FIRST 48 answering viewer questions.
Alex Elliott: What made you decide to become a homicide detective?
Det. Trees: I’ve have always led an active lifestyle and been an athlete for many years. I was also a Marine with 1/6 in Camp Lejuene. There was no way I wanted to spend every day of my career in an office setting. I wanted to be a police officer since 1991. Up until the time of my accident I had a successful career and enjoyed the work. When I was sworn back in, I flew with the Air Unit some time before going to Homicide. Homicide for me is the investigation of one of the most evil crimes there is. Rape is second in my eyes. I enjoy the critical thinking and thinking outside the box required of a homicide detective and I take great pride in my work. I have always been analytical; therefore, homicide was a natural fit.
Cheryl Miller: Did you think your career as a police officer was over when you had the motorcycle accident and lost your leg? How did losing your leg affect your ability to do your job?
Det. Trees: After I wrecked, I laid on the ground looking into a huge hole in my right arm. I immediately thought, “Ok, six weeks in a cast and I’ll be back.” Little did I know I was bleeding out and dying. I never once thought I was not going to get back on the department. I didn’t know how bad my knee was. That day I actually blew out my hip, shattered my right knee, broke my right forearm in three places, my right hand in eight places, broke my elbow and broke my left tibia. Intensive care for two months, and nursing homes and rehab for the next three months. After losing my leg in my 34th surgery, I started doing martial arts and ground fighting to improve my balance. After four weeks, I outpaced my therapist and was cut loose to train and rehab on my own. Today, missing a leg does not affect my job other than I run a whole lot slower than I used to!
Colleen Butler: If you didn’t become a detective what would you have done?
Det. Trees: What are your hobbies? I’ve have always had an interest in aviation and football. I think I would have flown or been a football coach. My hobbies include lifting weights for the last 27 years, playing with my 68 Camaro SS, and writing and composing music in a home studio. I coach little league football during football season and religiously watch the Florida Gators, Louisville Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts.
Shelby Kohn: How does your wife and family deal with you being gone as much as you can be gone on a case?
Det. Trees: I know you can get called at ANYTIME...so how do you "plan" family stuff? My family understands the importance of my job and knows it takes a special type of person to do and see what we see every day. They are proud of what I do and support my career. That’s not to say some days they wish I didn’t have to go in. I carry my work phone with me and it often rings no matter where I am with them. I carry it out of town in order to answer questions of other detectives that carry my load in my absence. Being tied to the phone can get tedious at times. Family time on a day to day basis can and often is interrupted but they understand. When on vacation to Florida where I am originally from, I plan ahead. My bosses understand we all need a break from what we do and are extremely accommodating.
Melanie Green: How would you say that your career has affected your family life and relationships, if at all?
Det. Trees: There are times the frustration of the job is evident at home. When I work a case, the case is constantly on my mind. The time my family and spend together becomes more important because of my time away. I wish I could separate the job as soon as I walk out of the office, but as a homicide detective, I understand that is what I signed up for and it’s not possible. Like tonight, I was called in to work a case in the middle of the Colts/ Ravens game where I was visiting with friends.
Brittany Bergsson: I'm sure everyone has their own way- how do keep an upbeat and positive attitude in your personal life with such a stressful job?
Det. Trees: Some days I’m not so positive when I’m lacking sleep and tired. But for me, after I was almost killed in my accident, I am TRULY grateful to be six feet above ground everyday and with my family. I know there are families that put everything on me to find some sort of closure, I take that responsibility seriously and feel that is my contribution to the citizens of Louisville at this juncture in my life.
Tara Elizabeth: What's the longest time you've interrogated a suspect? Is there a limit to the time? Can suspects be held overnight?
Det. Trees: I once spoke with a suspect for eight hours. Adults do not have a time limit for being questioned; however juveniles require permission from a court designated worker every two hours up to a max of twelve hours. We talk to people as long as needed to understand and investigate.
Leon Camacho Li: What is the most hilariously stupid alibi you've heard from a suspect?
Det. Trees: When it comes to homicides, people either talk or they don’t. In this case I have never had an outlandish alibi. When I worked the streets, I always loved it when I found narcotics or weapons on an individual and their excuse is, it’s not their pants!
Adam Kennedy: Is it odd seeing yourself on TV? What are your favorite TV shows?
Det. Trees: For me, I’ve been on TV and the media off and on for a number of years. I used to do interviews for the local media on crime issues I addressed. My kids don’t even find it interesting anymore when they see news footage of me on a scene. They were impressed with the First48 because they never get to see what I do at work up close. My favorite shows are football games and NHRA drag racing. I don’t really follow any shows regularly other than the local news. My wife will often torture me with hospital (ZZZZZZZ!) drama!
Moriah Loftis: What is your favorite case (hardest case) so far?
Det. Trees: I can truly say none are my favorite. I am currently working my way through a difficult one now.
Ericka Rodriguez: Det. Trees, what was the case that you had to solve that impacted your life the most and why?
Det. Trees: It might actually be the one you saw on First48. I have a good relationship with victim’s families so they all impact my life. They are ALL senseless and without good reason. Short of self-defense, there is no good reason why another human has to die at the hands of another.
Stephanie Michelle Curtis: Love this show.... What is the most exciting part of the job? Capture or confessions?
Det. Trees: The most exciting part is when you develop enough probable cause to issue a warrant or indict a suspect. I’m usually not around for the capture as the beat officer or agencies such as the U.S. Marshalls do the leg work. Without the dedication of both of these groups, capture would be much more difficult. Police work is a group effort. That being said, as a beat officer, the most exciting part was the capture!
LaTasha Young: Has a case ever made you cry?
Det. Trees: No, but I have driven home on a few occasions shaking my head in disbelief. Deceased children can get to you more than adults. Try not to look into the child’s face if you don’t need to during the course of the investigation.
Lateefah Abdullah: How do you control your emotions when the victims’ families break down from the news you just gave them?
Det. Trees: Stare at an object past them and think about something else for the brief moment. Then it’s back to the business of talking to the family with as much respect and tact as possible.
Shonsheka Hightower: How do you feel when your victim is a child?
Det. Trees: Saddened that someone is so evil as to harm a child that will never have an opportunity to live a fulfilled life.
Barbara Gunn Rhodes: Who or how is it decided which detective will take the lead on a case?
Det. Trees: In our unit we have a rotation. When you’re up, you’re up regardless if you’re on an off day or not. When the next person in a rotation is on vacation, it goes to the next detective on the list and I get the next one when available.
Steven Senisi: Det. Trees, I like your investigation skills, now I want to hear some of your music! Where can we hear it?
Det. Trees: I am in the process, when time permits with my busy schedule, to have my tracks mixed and then mastered. I compose, write, and record my music with ProTools 8, however I am not proficient when it comes to mixing, panning, EQing, and mastering. I would like to publish it on the internet for everyone to hear eventually. Any takers out there?
Danielle Clifton: Do you have to be a street cop before you can be a homicide detective?
Det. Trees: On my department, we require an officer to have three years on the streets before applying for a detective’s position. Even if that was not the case, a street officer is where you learn to speak with people and develop the skills necessary to become a good detective. A good, fair and safe beat officer makes for a good detective.
Kay Palchak: Det. Trees, do any of the suspects that are guilty of murder ever express any remorse for what they've done?
Det. Trees: I can only speak for my cases, but on premeditated or cold-blooded murders, I have not seen remorse other than the remorse they feel for themselves when they get caught. Criminals by nature are self-centered and ego-centric. They think of themselves and how their capture will affect them. On justifiable homicides such as self-defense cases, I have seen remorse.
Shawnta Hackett: Luv the show! My questions for Det. Trees are: "Approximately how often are cold cases reviewed? Is there a cold case team in your jurisdiction?"
Det. Trees: We have an outstanding cold case squad that works their tail off reexamining files and utilizing the latest in scientific testing. For our unit, a case becomes “cold” after a period of two years; however they are always being reviewed for new leads and witnesses and information.
Nick LaPensee: Det. Trees: How do you get called in at 3am and snap into observant detective mode?
Det. Trees: From the moment my phone rings in the middle of the night, my brain kicks into “what happened” mode. Just driving to the scene I am making phone calls collecting information. To be a good detective, you have to have a heightened sense of curiosity. My curiosity gets the better of me. It is also knowing you are about to embark on an unknown challenge with unknown factors. Behind every homicide, there is a family that desperate will seek closure. I feel like it is my job to give them closure.
Natosha Black: Det. Trees, when there are two more people involved in a homicide and one shooter, why is it ok for the other two to walk if they snitch? Aren't they just as guilty as the shooter?
Det. Trees: Most don’t simply walk because they provide information. Cooperation is key in any homicide case and I guess it’s looked upon more favorable by the judicial system and jury if people cooperate instead of lie. I have had numerous cases where multiple defendants are charged with complicity. My job is to investigate homicides without prejudice or bias. I simply collect the facts and present it to the legal system for remedy based upon the facts I discover. Juries are very different and often unpredictable. The thing about a homicide is, if I don’t catch you today or tomorrow or in a year, another detective will pick up the case and end up knocking on your door even after one has given up their criminal ways. As far as snitching, snitching is when two people rob a liquor store and one turns on the other in order to be looked upon more favorably in the courts. Snitching is not providing information as a witness. The same criminals who promote no snitching are the same one that victimizes the people that don’t snitch, because they know people won’t snitch.
Kevin Hurley: Do CI s have to testify in court if the information they gave help caught a suspect?
Det. Trees: The whole issue of a CI is often a frequent topic of discussion. Generally if a person is a signed up and proven CI with a proven track record, they might not be compelled to testify in court. There are many issues with CI’s. I know the answer is somewhat vague.
Renee Sharp: Do you ever try and put yourself in the murderer's shoes to figure out a case?
Det. Trees: All the time. Regardless whether a person is a murderer or not, people are creatures of habit, logic, laziness, and share the same ways of thinking to a point. A friend of mine always tells me jokingly, if I’m going to commit a murder, I’m going to super glue the victim to a ceiling! What he means by that is, the act of doing so is so bizarre it requires a detective to think unlike a common person would think.
Liala Smith: What is the best way to get into the Homicide Division?
Det. Trees: Join the police department and develop a reputation as a fair, safe and effective beat officer. On a police department, your reputation is everything. If you are considered unsafe or lacking knowledge on statutes and ordinances, or if you are unorganized and not a team player, it will be looked upon negatively. Be a great beat officer and know your stuff.
Ranique Green: Det. Trees I am currently in school studying to work as a homicide investigator...I want to know how long do you have to be a police officer before moving up to the homicide unit?
Det. Trees: The time frame varies from department to department, but as I said before, concentrate first on being a good officer on the street. The homicide job will come available when you’re ready. Organization is everything!
Nekesha Brumfield Brooks: What kind of classes must you take in order to become a homicide detective?
Det. Trees: Once on the police department, take in-service classes such as street investigation, interview and interrogation and crime scene management. Blood pattern classes are cool as well as knowing how the anatomy is affected by time after death. You also need to be well versed in research skills.
Shalonda Blackmon: Why hasn't witness protection been offered in any of the cases? Are there particular crimes or scenarios when it is offered?
Det. Trees: You have to remember, the First48 operates on time constraints. There are MANY things that are never mentioned in cases. My case was a good example of that. We filmed over 85 hours of investigative footage that was condensed to less than a one hour time block. That’s just when the camera man was with me. That didn’t include the many hours he wasn’t. Witness protection is used in some cases but the info is not divulged. Not to mention it might put people at risk if mentioned!
Christy Fuqua Goode: Do you think that the person who pointed the finger at Raymond Shirley (after his death) for the death of the Smiths was telling the truth? How are the children?
Det. Trees: The person was telling the truth. With any witness, we investigate the information we collect. There were other things the witness said that filled in the pieces of the puzzle and made sense. The children are doing well and making it day to day. They are great kids and very lovable.
Bridget Simmons: How did it make you feel when you heard that Murda was murdered after reviewing the comments he made during the interview?
Det. Trees: I was not surprised he made that comment. Folks that are guilty often make comments making themselves appear weaker than what they really are. It’s a common defense we see. How would it look if he went in there and told me he isn’t worried about anyone harming him because he carried guns and often intimidated people? I wasn’t surprised he was killed. The saying about criminals either ending up in jail or dead is REALLY a true statement if they choose to continue to live that lifestyle.
Christopher Babb: Detective Trees: what is the status of the "Murda" murder case?
Det. Trees: You will have to watch and see on January 28 at 9 PM. You really don’t want me to ruin it for you do you?
Angela R. Lawson: Once the case is referred to the DA, how many cases are thrown out due to lack of evidence or witnesses changing stories?
Det. Trees: None are thrown out due to lack of evidence. The fact that a suspect was indicted by a Grand Jury is proof we had enough probable cause to arrest someone for a homicide. I’m not arresting you until I have enough probable cause to show a Grand Jury that a suspect was connected to the crime.
Jeffrey B Morris: While most US cities have declining murder rate L'ville's has increased 25% since 2004. I've heard it's because residents of public housing units are being moved into different gang areas and creating conflicts in the drug trade - is this true?
Det. Trees: During my interview with people over the years, while in homicide or on the street, I have been told of different parts of town disliking other parts of town simply because they are not from the same place. To continue, Interviewees speak of dislike for the other for this reason thus causing discord. Louisville Metro homicide rates have held very steady since 2004 and we had an 11% decrease from last year. Our closure rate has also held steady and is still above the national average.
John Barrow: I am wondering if anyone in the communities featured on The First 48 report positive effects from the series, i.e. vulnerable youth seeing up close within their own cities and neighborhoods how easily a "simple robbery" can go terribly wrong and ruin lives?
Det. Trees: It is my opinion that the majority of society operates under the assumption that bad things will never happen to them. Kids by nature see themselves as invincible and don’t understand the value of a human life. They don’t have life experiences to appreciate it. It’s not until they grow older that they start appreciating what they have, the family they have and the possible feeling they would experience if dealt with such a loss as the death of a loved one. They are also more self-centered and do not attempt to understand how a “simple robbery” can impact so many other lives, especially when it goes bad. For all of you with teenagers, even good teenagers, you might know what I mean. If anyone has that one idea that could possibly make such an impact on a child, let me know because I would love to hear it.
Susie Redfearn: I live in a smaller city where everyone knows everyone, and I was just wondering if you were ever involved in a case where you knew the victim or victims family personally and if so was it hard to put personal feelings aside and work on the case objectively?
Det. Trees: I have never been involved in a case such as the one you described. It might actually be a conflict of interest to be the lead detective on a case where I have personal stakes because I know it would be harder to operate unbiased and with common logic. I would request the case be deferred to another detective in this situation. Ultimately, it COULD affect the outcome and prosecution of the case.