Chris Hansen returns to TV with ‘Killer Instinct’

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Television journalist and professional creep-catcher Chris Hansen returns to the air Monday with a new series for Investigation Discovery.

“Killer Instinct with Chris Hanson” details the true stories of chilling homicides that have happened recently in this country. The 10-episode season premieres Monday on ID.

“It’s about the story. It’s about the perpetrators. It’s about the victims,” Hansen says.

The seasoned journalist says this isn’t a project where he merely records an intro and narrates the story. He and his team get into the case.

“I’m out there in the field tracking down the people, finding out things about the cases. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re going to come back with. The interesting thing about this series is we’re actually out there and we’re finding things out as we go along.”

The new series is a departure from the show that Hansen, a Metro Detroit native, is known for, which is “To Catch a Predator,” a spin-off of “Dateline NBC.” The series, which had a three-year run, made Hansen a household name known for surprising possible sexual assailants by introducing himself during sting operations. Hansen also published a book, “To Catch a Predator: Protecting Your Kids from Online Enemies Already in Your Home” (Penguin Group, 2007).

Hansen says the success of “Predator” has created a lot of access for his new show, because people are familiar with him.

“People are speaking out who have never spoken about the cases before,” he says, citing the premiere episode as an example. Titled “Nightmare on Imperial Avenue,” the series debut tells the story of Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell. Hansen was able to sit down with Vanessa Gay, who escaped from the man who killed 11 women and buried them at his home.

“Vanessa Gay was probably the most compelling victim interview in 30-something years in this business,” says Hansen, who grew up in West Bloomfield and Birmingham. “She made a really tough decision ... if she wants to be out there telling her story.”

Hansen says he and his team traveled the country collecting heartbreaking accounts of headline-making murders. The Aug. 24 episode covers the story of an elderly couple who were stabbed to death in their home in Atlanta. Future episodes also feature a missing wife in Mississippi and the story of a child killed by two other children in the Plymouth-Canton area of Michigan.

“They found the body along the river. It was one of those things that shouldn’t have happened, a bad seed that went out of control’ ” says Hansen, who says he interviewed the victims parents. “It’s been this amazing story of forgiveness and moving on. This is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen in Plymouth.”

Hansen, a graduate of Brother Rice High School and Michigan State University, also is working on a new version of “To Catch a Predator” titled “Hansen vs. Predator.” He’s not sure what network it will land on (likely ID), but he says the show will be an updated version of classic “Predator,” which ended in 2007

“If you think about it, when we first did that series, we just used decoys in chat rooms on AOL and Yahoo,” he says. “Imagine the technology change that has occurred. Now we have not just Instagram and Twitter, but there’s Craigslist and Back Page.”

“I just to tell people when I would give speeches, look at the time your kids spend on the household computer. It’s impossible to do now because the household computer is in their back pocket.”

‘Killer Instinct with Chris Hansen’

Premieres 10 p.m. Monday

Investigation Discovery channel