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Interview with Kenneth L. Mains

The first interview here is with the founder and President of our Society. Ken kicks off a series of interviews with our board, review, and consulting members.

Ken MainsKen graduated from Penns Valley High School in 1992. “I only went to school my senior year for half days and worked the other half at a restaurant washing dishes. This disqualified me from playing sports in my senior year (that was my love, football & baseball) but, I had to support my son Erick who was born during my senior year.”

image008Ken enlisted in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) when he was 17. He had his parents support and of course, permission. “I wanted to be Military Police but couldn’t do that until I was 19. I knew that if I waited two more years before going to the US Marine Corps that there was a potential that I could get in trouble as a young “ruffian” who liked to drink beer, listen to rock and roll, and chase women.  So instead, I changed my MOS to administrative intelligence. I was stationed in North Carolina for my entire 4 years. The majority of my tour was with the II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) Special Operations Training Group (SOTG).”

In 1996, Ken returned home after being honorably discharged from the US Marines. For four years, he worked small jobs such as being a bartender, a bouncer, working in the family business, etc while he lived in a hunting cabin in the middle of the woods. “I enjoyed nature and animals and wanted to experience solitude to an extent. However, I always knew I wanted to be a Detective and work unsolved cases and I wouldn’t accomplish that living alone in the woods.” Then, he finally realized that if he wanted to become a detective or, work as an investigator in law enforcement, he had to go to college. “In 2000, I put myself through college at The Lock Haven University studying Criminal Justice.”

image009In 2003, I took my first and only police exam. It was for the Williamsport Bureau of Police in Williamsport, PA. I scored 2nd on the list and was offered the job. Initially, I was hesitant because I had not finished college yet (I had one more year left) and knew it would be hard to pick it up again if I did leave. After talking to my father, who made me promise to finish my degree someday, I decided to take the job as police officer for the Williamsport Police Department.”

image010I started as patrolman for the Williamsport Bureau of Police from 2003-2005. In 2006, I was assigned to the Lycoming County Drug Task Force as an undercover officer. I worked there until 2008.”

image017In 2008, I was approached by the FBI. They asked if I was interested in working for their “Safe Streets Task Force” as an undercover agent. I initially declined the offer because I was happy where I was but then realized that working for the FBI was something that I couldn’t pass up and I quickly reconsidered. The next 3 years were the most professional and appreciated time I had ever spent in law enforcement. The FBI treated me with the utmost respect and I will always cherish my time working with them.

image018In 2011, I was approached by the Lycoming County PA District Attorney’s Office to work as a County Detective. It was understood that my emphasis would be on Cold Cases and in particular, the Gail Matthews Homicide . I agreed to this assignment and have been here since.

The District Attorney, Eric Linhardt, is a fantastic DA and has made me a better investigator. Working with cold cases has always been my dream so now doing this full time … I feel like “I’m doing something I love which means to me that I never work a day in my life!

Ken did finish his college education in 2011 and got his BS in Criminal Justice from Lock Haven University. He fulfilled his promise to his father. After that, he decided to enroll in forensic criminology graduate courses in order to educate myself further on cold cases and investigations. “Never stop learning.”

“I’ve always said that if I could have one wish it wouldn’t be for world peace or money … It would be to know the answer to every unsolved mystery in the universe. I have a natural curiosity for the unknown and it is what drives me.

I was instilled at a very young age that hard work, passion, respect, and being humble will take you far in life. My father and the Marines have taught me that and I continue to believe in this code.”

For Ken, family is everything. “To provide, care, nurture and love your family is an enjoyment that I place at the very top of my priorities.” In his spare time, he likes to spend as much time as possible with his two year old daughter and work on his farm. “I also enjoy reading my collection of cold case books, some written by our own AISOCC members.

Ken has a farmette in PA and continues to research cold cases for law enforcement and for victim families because “I truly believe that is my purpose on earth. I believe it is easy to be good at something if you are passionate about it and have the skill set to accomplish the mission.”

Since Ken loves unsolved mysteries, I had to ask him these questions:

1: provided there are no time/logistical/financial limitations, what historical mystery would you like to investigate? Give me some examples of cases.

“I would love to investigate the DB Cooper hijacking case. That took balls. Hijack and jump from a 747 wearing a suit while smoking cigarettes and drinking bourbon. My type of guy (joking). He was either desperate and had nothing to lose or the other extreme end, he was a skilled parachutist and had jumped before. I tend to believe he chain smoked and drank alcohol because he was nervous about the jump, not because that was his natural habit. I don’t believe he was prepared at all and leads me to believe he was a desperate man making a final act and didn’t really care whether he made the jump or not … he was going to die trying. It is my belief he died, probably drowning in a lake when the parachute pulled him under. But that is what is great about mysteries … we don’t know for sure and we can only offer speculation.

Other cases include the Amelia Earhart disappearance. Easy to say she crashed at sea after running out of gas. But if you read this article and Richard E. Gillespie’s theory about her and Fred Noonan becoming castaways and the evidence they discovered to support this … makes for an interesting case.

The Keddie Cabin Murders, the Death of Billy the Kid, the Jeffrey McDonald Case, and of course JonBenet Ramsey. I liked Steve Thomas’ investigation and I think he did a great job. I have never reviewed this case formally so I won’t comment on specifics but I have my own opinion from the outside looking in as to what happened in that house. I will say DNA helps law enforcement so much … but it also hurts us as well.

Martha Moxley, just a case that has always interested me. I would love to have a crack at this one! I see that a new trial has been granted so we will see what happens.”

2: You are asked to develop a new university department for interdisciplinary studies to prepare students for cold case reviews. What kind of disciplines would you include?

I don’t think any method of study is better than the rest. I think you have to take a combination of book smarts, experience and instinct to investigate cold cases. Say for example you take “Classifying Serial Sexual Murder/Murderers; An Attempt to Validate Keppel and Walter’s (1999) Model” by Bennell, Bloomfield, Emeno, and Musolino” and add your own experiences and knowledge to that model, and you have a good foundation for understanding or implementing a cold case investigative strategy.

It is my own opinion that a good, if not great, investigator will become as knowledgeable about their case/subject as possible and then work into that fold their own knowledge, experience, theory, deduction and reason. Finally, you add perseverance and confidence and you have the makings of a good foundation for cold case investigations.

It is this recipe that has allowed me to succeed in cold case investigations. I subscribe to this theory as it relates to investigations, “It is usually what it seems … except in cold cases”  🙂

3: Which theory do you think supports what happened to the MV Joyita best?

Wow … I really like this one!! I have to do some more research on this or buy a book about this. I love these types of mysteries … I guess not knowing a lot about it my first inclination is that they were “robbed” or “pirated” and relieved of their cargo and everyone killed. But I also like the mutiny theory!

I include these photographs to show my journey through life and where the winding roads have taken me. When I speak to high school students today about success, I show them these pictures and tell them how I have gotten to where I am today. If you truly believe in yourself and want to be something in life, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it! Not a teacher, not a parent, not your friends. Believe in yourself, work hard, never give up and never stop learning … if you do this you will be successful in whatever endeavor you choose.

Thank you, Ken!

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