By Lynda Jones, Editor-in-Chief
Retired Homicide Detective Lt. Johnny Bonds first made a name for himself as "The Cop Who Wouldn't Quit" after solving the gruesome 1979 murder of an affluent Houston family.
Now, although he has been retired for six years, he still isn't quitting.
Passionate about solving murder cases, finding answers for the victims' families and putting killers behind bars, Bonds now appears in the TNT reality crime series "Cold Justice".
On the television show, Bonds, along with former Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler and a former Las Vegas CSI, Yolanda McClary, investigate "cold" murder cases - those that have been unsolved for a number of years in small towns.
Bonds was in Crockett Tuesday, July 8, to speak to the Crockett Lions Club. He was invited by a long-time friend and former colleague, Houston County Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 Clyde Black.
Bonds discussed the brutal 1979 murders of John and Diana Wanstrath and their 14-month-old son, Kevin, in Houston.
The deaths originally were ruled a murder-suicide although no gun was found at the scene. Bonds worked relentlessly on the case until he eventually solved it, proving it was murder.
The tragedy and Bonds' persistence in solving the case are the subject of the book titled "The Cop Who Wouldn't Quit".
Bonds also talked to the Lions Club members and several members of Houston County's law enforcement community about the show, "Cold Justice".
He said the show was Siegler's idea. Before retiring, he worked as an investigator for the Harris County DA's office when Siegler was an ADA.
Saying he "kinda likes being retired", Bonds explained he only signed on to work half of the cases for the show.
Bonds explained their focus is on cold cases in small rural communities where law enforcement resources and manpower are limited.
When the team takes on a case, the network provides funding for them to investigate for 10 days. Of course, he said, there are many hours of preparatory research before they accept a case and before they go to a case location.
He emphasized that the team does not take a case unless the responsible law enforcement agency invites them to help. It is not sufficient for family members to request the team's assistance; he reiterated that it has to be a request from the responsible law enforcement agency.
Additionally, there needs to be a suspect and a reasonable expectation to be able to find witnesses who can testify, he explained.
He said that for those 10 days, he, Siegler and McClary wear a wire from 7 a.m. until the end of that work day. Camera crews stay out of sight and in separate vehicles.
When the team finishes, then personnel from the cable network approach and ask individuals to sign releases.
Bonds said he has been amazed at how easily the releases are signed by suspects.
In terms of successfully solving cases, Bonds said they have far exceeded their expectations for the show.
There haven't been many confessions, he said, and only one case has been cleared by DNA testing.
Bonds said DNA testing is very expensive. Between $15,000 - $30,000 per show is spent on DNA testing. That is the price of getting results in two or three days.
For law enforcement agencies without these financial resources, Bonds said, it can take a year or more to get results.
Bonds said 95% of the cold cases cleared are with circumstantial evidence. A favorite witness for investigators, he said, is an ex-spouse who is eager to tell what he or she knows about a suspect's involvement in a case.
He explained that, to the team, a case is successfully solved if they find enough evidence for a district attorney to take to a grand jury and request an indictment of the suspect.
Members of Houston County's law enforcement community that attended the Lions Club meeting to hear Bonds speak included Houston County Sheriff Darrel Bobbitt, Retired Crockett Police Dept. Sgt. Doug King, HCSO Deputy Lt. Justin Killough, Constable Pct. 1 Morris Luker and others. Houston County Judge Erin Ford and State District 3 Judge Mark Calhoon also attended.