Arlington homicide Detective Tommy Le Noir hosts the new Spike TV show Murder, but the star billing hasn’t gone to his head.
“This is my life,” he says, gesturing to his windowless office at the Arlington Police Department. It’s spartan indeed compared to the Southern California condo in Toluca, overlooking the lake and the Hollywood Hills, where he spent five weeks this summer filming the series.
Murder, a weekly reality show that began airing July 31, features amateur sleuths trying to solve actual cases from police files. Le Noir guides them through the process, offering tips on evidence collection, crime scene analysis and motive. At the end of each episode, he chooses a winning team and explains what really happened.
Reality heavyweight Bunim/Murray Productions (of MTV’s Real World fame) contacted him during a nationwide search almost two years ago. He was no stranger to television, having appeared on Cold Case Files and American Justice. Still, he had reservations.
“I don’t watch TV much, and reality television is a very different venue. I was apprehensive,” the UT Arlington alumnus said. “Hollywood can be a big piranha bowl. I had to be certain that in no way, shape or form would this opportunity do anything to jeopardize my real career.”
After producers convinced him that they had no hidden agendas and were “incredibly pro-law enforcement,” Le Noir sought and received APD approval.
“Society is intrigued with murder. It always has been,” he said, comparing the fascination with CBS’ three CSI shows to earlier series like Perry Mason, Dragnet and Murder, She Wrote. Experience has taught him that crime solving is more than forensics.
“DNA is a wonderful tool to help solve murders, but it is just a tool,” he said. “Sometimes juries get infected with the CSI syndrome and expect indisputable physical evidence when it’s not there.”
Le Noir says that time can be a homicide detective’s best friend.
“There is no such thing as a perfect murder. The killer always makes a mistake, like letting information slip that no one except the murderer could know. Or he confides in someone who later reveals the information.”
Relentless in solving cases, Le Noir recently filed charges with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office in a 20-year-old murder. He has known who the killer is for a long time, he said, but couldn’t prove it until now.
When he revisits a case he investigated 15 or 20 years ago as a less experienced detective, Le Noir finds things he missed. “It’s like an abstract painting. One day you look at it and see something that was not there before.”
Le Noir has been with the APD since 1980. He started attending UT Arlington in 1981 but dropped out while he was working undercover in narcotics. In 1985 he joined the homicide division and returned to college, graduating in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“Tommy Le Noir is a textbook example of the ideal homicide detective. He is tenacious, detail-minded and intuitive,” said Arlington Police Chief Theron Bowman, who holds bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees from UT Arlington. “Despite working dozens of cases involving hundreds of victims, Detective Le Noir has maintained his passion for serving victims and sensitivity to the families he deals with in these tragic situations.”
The antithesis of Dragnet’s Sgt. Joe Friday, Le Noir is gregarious and unjaded by years of dealing with murder.
“I had to investigate a child’s heinous death when my daughters were younger,” he said. “It strengthened my appreciation of how precious life really is.”
He is convinced that the majority of people who take a human life are not monsters. Some murderers are evil people and some are sick, but not the majority.
“Like the woman who has been beaten so many times and suddenly she knows she has been beaten her last time. It is not going to happen again. It’s wrong, there is a price to pay, but she is not an evil person.”
He rejects the word “confession,” preferring “explanation,” because most people want to explain, he says, to justify taking that drastic step.
Le Noir filmed 10 episodes of Murder. He took vacation time, but it was no vacation. He got up at 4:30 in the morning to work out, and he got back from the studio at 10 or 10:30 each night.
“It took a little time to unwind, so I was getting about four hours sleep a night. We worked six days a week. Sundays I mainly slept.”
The production company flew his family to California during filming. His wife, Pauline Alicia, was born in Chile but grew up in the Los Angeles area. They have three daughters. Isabella, 12, wants to be a detective like her dad, and Fiorella, 19, attends Hill Community College and plans to come to UT Arlington next year. Nichole, 21, is a medical assistant.
“It’s all about ratings now,” Le Noir said. “But whatever happens from here on out, I am proud of the show.”
— Sue Stevens
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