Thursday, December 31, 2009

An Attaboy For Buddy

Buddy is a border Collie, or Border Collie Mix, that somehow survived Hurricane Katrina.
Buddy was torn from his owners by raging flood waters. No doubt traumatized, yet physically whole... Buddy found his way across the country to be rescued and adopted by my close friend, a Private Investigator here in the Seattle area.

Buddy is mid-sized dog, black and white with a long wagging tail, happy smile. Buddy one of those dogs that never strays and always listens, Buddy is very protective of my friend and her daughter and very kind to strangers. Wherever my friend goes in her vehicle, Buddy goes with her... just as my little rescued pup, Bubba, goes with me.

I rescued Bubba from a crack head pit bull fighter. Bubba was intended to be used as bait.
He's a little Dorkie -- half Dachshund, half Yorkie -- and was a puppy when he was going to be fed to the Pit Bulls, who were also fed gunpowder, to make them more vicious.

When I grasped Bubba's impending fate, I convinced the people who owned Bubba to give him to me and let me save him. They agreed, the only stipulation was, I always keep his name Bubba.

So Bubba drives with me almost every day, every where I go.
Yesterday we went 297 miles.
My Trailblazer with its tinted windows is a huge playhouse for Bubba, though he usually hangs in the passenger seat sleeping or sticking his nose out the window.

When I leave the car, he sleeps on the drivers seat or beneath it, by the brake and accelerator pedals on the floor, until I return.
When I/we need to walk after long hours of driving he's a great little watch dog and company keeper.
When its too hot for him to join me and I must leave him home with our big dog, Zen, something is always missing in my day.

Buddy, my friend's dog is the same way. He stays with my friend in her SUV, on her days of endless drivings, meetings, kid wrangling, investigations... comings and goings.

My friend said the only thing Buddy does not like is water and baths -- which makes sense, Buddy being a hurricane Katrina Survivor.

So when I meet up with my friend during our daily rounds every now and then... our dogs hop out of the car and accompany us while we walk or meet.

I cut now to the chase of this little story.

My aforementioned Investigator friend called this morning to tell me Buddy was attacked by a Pit Bull yesterday with "one of those huge giant heads."

I...a lifelong dog owner... and Investigator of dog attacks... did not feel good about this situation the moment the words came out of her mouth.
In fact, my response was visceral. I felt my stomach turn as I visualized a torn and tattered little rag-doll Buddy, if he still existed at all.

The good thing about talking with other Investigators is you don't have to ask then,
"and then what happened?"
No prompting required.
Such was the case as my friend continued the tale on her own.
And the ending totally blew me away.

It appears, my friend who was elsewhere yesterday and could not take Buddy in the car, had an adult female friend take care of Buddy. The friend took Buddy on his daily walk him through what many would perceive as a safe, affluent, friendly neighborhood when... from out of nowhere... said huge-headed, wild-eyed, unrestrained Pit Bull became a satanic canine Scud Missile aimed at Buddy and Buddy's surrogate commander.

A dogfight of massive proportions ensued.
The battle became a war.
Little Buddy held his ground against the single terrorist cell and bit back.
Buddy drew the attacker's blood.
The Pitbull retreated!

There was a long silence while I absorbsed what I had, until that point, believed was impossible.

"Buddy won?" I asked incredulously.
"Buddy won!" my friend said jubilantly. "The Pit Bull was bloodied and gave up!"

"You buy that Buddy a fillet mignon!" was what I should have said.
Instead, I said nothing because I was stunned.
I have investigated more dog attack cases than I could count.
The attacking dogs always win.... until the authorities get involved.
Yet in this case, there was not a speck of blood on little Buddy.
The Pit Bull on the other hand was bloodied and hurting.

My friend said a kid came running from the area where the Pit Bull emerged. The kid said they were just watching the Pit Bull for the day when it ran out of the house or yard. There was discussion, deliberation and ultimately, the decision was made to to let separated dogs lie.
So no one called the police or animal control. Everyone, canines and humans, parted ways, leaving this story in the wake.

My friend said Buddy is tired and appears well, though she may take him to the vet today for a look-see before the vets go into lock-down for holiday weekend.

Meantime, I have been pondering this little miracle all morning and my hunch is this:

For Buddy, the raging waters of Hurricane Katrina and the Raging Pit Bulls were the same kindred evil spirits which required an instantaneous and primal response to survive.
In my experience, the Pit Bull on attack considers humans prey. In the Pit Bull's head, Buddy was just the pesky little rug rat in the way.

So here's a simple little "Attaboy" post.
Just one for the good guys, the best friends, the true heroes.
Here's to Buddy... and all like him... who make our lives better just by being in them.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Head Wound - A Childhood Memory

To this very day, I will never understand how it was Michael --who was 11 and living next door to me -- came home with a knife sticking out of his forehead. It was beyond surreal because it was real.

We were all outside. At about 2:00 pm, Michael walked up to his brother (my best friend) and I who were bursting tar bubbles in the street in New Bedford Massachusetts. We were both 8.

We heard him before we saw him.
"Rain's coming" he said as he turned. Then we turned and looked up at the cloudless, burning August afternoon sky.
My best friend and I looked at his brother Michael and our eyes must have widened simultaneously. Undoubtedly, our mouths did the same.

Michael had a kitchen knife stuck out of his forehead.
It was placed vertically, from just above the tip of his nose about 3/4 of the way to his scalp line. It was in deep and blood trickled down the side of the knife and his face.

"Cool huh" Michael said as he stopped a minute so we could get the full effect of knife inserted right into skull just about to the handle.

Then Michael walked past us; down the small driveway and took a right; climbed three porch steps and opened a silver door trimmed with yellow curtains that led to the kitchen where his mother and father were cooling off inside with the fan.

I heard the mom's shriek the same time I hear the kitchen door slam.
I heard the father's angry voice, though not his words -- because the voice was lowered, measured. Dad's was the angry (and overdone) Christian Bale Batman voice.

I looked in my best friend's eyes and his met mine and no words were either available and/or necessary. We were frozen in our spots on the curb surrounded by a black oozing sea of popped tar bubbles and only turned our heads when the back door opened and the people exited -- mom, dad and son with knife in head.

"Mind the house, we're headed to the hospital darling" mom shouted to us from the front seat as they backed the car out behind us. She looked just like June Cleaver.

As they backed up, we looked directly at Michael as he stared right at us, seated in the back seat in the window behind his mother up front. The knife was still in place in his head and wrapped with a towel that was turning from white to red before our eyes.

The oddest site of all though was Michael's smile. He just smiled at us broadly, in pure pleasure, not pain... and gave us a wink as his folks drove my best friend's little brother to the hospital.

The hospital kept Michael.... not just because he put the knife in his own head while his best friend's mother was cutting salami for lunch...
then insisted on walking home with said knife in said head.

The hospital kept Michael because the week before the knife episode, Michael put the family's tiny little dachsund in the oven to "make a hot dog for lunch," he said. I walked in while the dog was being cooked. Suffice to say it was not pretty or forgettable.

I knew then that my next door neighbor who happened to be my best friend's brother was a psycho.

But I was 8 years old and not sure what do with that information short of tell my parents. Which is what I did.
The animal truck and a police car were at the house the next day.
They took the dead dog with them and left Michael.
I remember thinking, "It should be the other way around."

Michael was committed to what we called the state nut house the day after the knife in head episode. I never saw Michael again. The family moved to another state a month later. I never saw my best friend again either.

So..I looked up my best friend, a few months ago, on the net.
He was dead.
Michael the psycho brother was not.
Again I thought, "It should have been the other way around."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Burned On Christmas

It was what someone looking from the outside, might think of as the ideal little Christmas house to celebrate in. Looking back, I'm guessing it to between maybe 1500 square feet.Two levels.

Lights ran all along the little yellow house and trailed the white picket fence. It was just one of many middle class homes that comprised the housing development I will give the pseudonym "Heavenly Vistas." Though the name was fancier and the vistas were hardly that...
it was brown, parched, desert flat lands with a low hanging cloud of smog from a nearby factory.
When it wasn't raining water, it was raining ashes.

No one suspected, Bernie ( a pseudonym and raging alcoholic) had taken up residence in Heavenly Vistas. He was just another working class schmuck driving another American-made lifted pick-up with big tires, hot rims, a loaded gun rack and a carton of brewsky in the cooler. Back at home, there was enough Jack Daniels in the basement to outlast any apocalypse.

Both he and the missus, paid their taxes, though not without his annual rants and raves. They kept their yards mowed, their wood decks sealed every two years, their sidewalks swept, their delivered newspaper picked up at precisely 8:00 am every morning by the missus in her fuzzy baby blue robe, her hair in pink curlers, her feet in bunny slippers.
Their garbage cans hid in their own little sheds. They had two children, one 11, a girl and one 15, a boy ---who took the garbage cans and school buses to and from the curb.

In this true but sad tale, I take you back a few Christmas years ago, when said wife tried to make everything perfect for her husband, said Bernie -- who unfortunately had one too many shots of Jaggermeister on his way home from the construction site at the local bar.
And who could blame him? It was Christmas Eve.
I could blame him, however, for his next moves...
like driving home loaded instead of calling his wife.
Or stopping at his mistresses' house. She knew how to work his mistletoe. And she gave him a few more shots for the road.

About midnight, the Bernie decided to call his wife and said he was almost home.
He claimed he had car trouble and then lost his cell under the car so there was no way he could call earlier.

"Liar liar, pants on fire!" her son heard his mother tease her Bernie as the son secretly listened to her phone conversation from his doorway.

The wife said later, on her death bed, she could tell Bernie was buzzed when they spoke.
When the investigator asked why she knew he was "buzzed,"she said he kept referring to the Christmas tree as the Christmas Bee. And he was totally lit.
While the police investigator -- and I -- found our usual brand of sick humor/irony in her statement, we were certain the wife did not.

Regardless. Back to the car. Christmas Eve.
The husband, A.K.A. Bernie, hung up the phone with his wife and decided to light up a cigarette at a red light just one last time for St Nick's sake.
He told his wife he quit at Thanksgiving, though he lied.
He could say he picked up the odor at the company party.
He could say he couldn't help himself and bought those one-tubers.
He told all his fellow renegade smokers all the excuses he told his wife.
Worse case scenario, he'd fess up, tell the truth. He had a million freedoms and not a worry in the world.

"What's she gonna' go do.... kill me?" he may have thought, as he lit that last cigarette and dragged deep.

The red light turned green just as the lit cigarette dropped in his crotch.
That crotch of his pants rapidly ignited.
Under the pants was a pair "christmas grinch" boxer shorts, (made in china, go figure).
The boxer shorts blew up like a firecracker just about the same time the front end of the car entered the Bernie's family's from living room tree with the tree in it.
The car hit it all..branches, ornaments, lights and the very old fashioned candles with real flames attached to the fragile arms of the trees.
Fuel linked from the tank of the car.
Bernie flew out of the car, stopped, dropped and rolled....
but it was too late.
Bernie went up in flames them smoke.

Between the Christmas light trails outside and inside... the lights that ran along gutters, doors, up the staircases and mantles...pools of gas on the floor...the house was a total loss.
Even if the firetrucks could get there sooner they probably couldn't have helped the property.
The good news is... the kids lived.

In this investigator's opinion, nothing could saved the Bernie or his wife once Bernie drank and drove.
Bernie's wife was also helpless despite the airlifted after being impacted by the car while she placed a cashmere sweater for Bernie beneath the tree.
She died three days later.
I will spare you the details of her slow death because I have to sleep tonight. And so do you.

Bernie died immediately. However, he might have survived longer. Or never ignited at all, had his blood alcohol not been over three times the legal limit.
The M.E. told me, "he self-immolated"

The two remaining children, who were mercilessly upstairs when the hit happened, received survivors benefits thanks to the attorneys who fought the insurance companies. More important they found refuge in the loving arms of the dead mother's sister and her husband. Neither of whom drink or smoke.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Help Mom Find Her Two Daughters

I have thought long and hard about posting this here.

Then I talked long and hard with the missing girls' mother. She wanted me to write this. She also wanted me to link this to her My Space Page, which I still haven't decided I will do until I actually finish writing this.

This mom, we will call her Mama, has not seen her daughters since they were little kids.

The girls were taken from their home by DSHS at age 7 and age 3 after a female neighbor accused Mama of sexually assaulting them. The neighbor was the only witness.

The neighbor was an alcoholic and recreational pain pill user. She was definitely a liar, a psycho... and likely remains a liar and psycho if she is still alive

I have the entire case file here. The chain-smoking, beer-drinking neighbor's testimony and statements...her whole lie...was based on jealously and resentment towards my client and her husband.

This was because the neighbor, who was single and promiscuous, had the hots for the girl's Mama's husband.
I believe, in her own deluded/demented way, it's possible psycho neighbor thought if she could get mom out of the picture, she could get the kids and dad.

The Prosecutor believed her bull. Despite the fact she was the only alleged witness... the judge ruled in the liar's favor.... and DSHS took the kids out of the home. Mama meantime, was convicted of child rape and sentenced.

There is nothing I have ever read in the case file, not word one from the kids about any negative feelings or fear towards their folks. Their feelings of love appeared to me spontaneous and unprepared statements of fact they shared with a number of social workers, psychologists, teachers. Yet somehow, life deals random and cruel blows to good people and these kids got the brunt of it -- swallowed by the same system that incarcerated an innocent woman for raping her two daughters.

I met Mama when I was investigating an injury case.
She asked if I might consider helping her find her daughters.
The girls are now 26 years old and 21 years old.
Mom was still trying to find them.

They have had their social security numbers changed and have been adopted out. We believe they are in Oregon because one of the girls called her mom a while back briefly (from a blocked number), said she and her sister lived close to each other in Oregon. The daughter mentioned having two children. Then someone at the daughter's end slammed down the phone.

So here's the deal.

When mom called me about this case. I looked up mom's records. She was indeed charged and convicted as a sex offender/rapist. I therefore believed she was both and refused the case. She said the conviction was overturned and begged me to probe further.

She explained there were other lawyers, appeals, trials and the Supreme Court involved. She said the State Supreme Court overturned the child rape charges and said the kids should not have been adopted out. She said she had everything, all the records.

We met at a work site where she and her fiance were laying a wood floor. She handed me a file, thick with info -- -- including the Supreme Court reversal's of Mama's conviction. Follow-up motions by other attorneys point to the state's grave error in separating Mama and daughters.

Mama has no money to pay for an investigation.... but then again, who really does?
However, since she was without work, power at home and gas for her car, I told her I'd take on the case pro bono. I've been working it ever since. This is year 2.

We have invoked the Freedom of Information act to no avail. I made countless calls to occials. Actually knocked at doors where records are held and tried to talk my way in. We have followed every legal legitimate channel open to us.

I would get her on one those Unsolved Mysteries, Dateline, One of those Reunited shows in a heartbeat...however... I do not want her false criminal record to surface without explanation.
I told her I could see the headlines now "Convicted Rapist Seeks Children"

It is for this reason, we are now hitting message boards, adoption boards, geneologist. We are reaching out to our own grass roots cyber community to see if we can reunite this mother with her children.

But first...
more information you need to know before jumping into this fray.

The reason for the sexual assault charge is because the little girl said Mama looked at her privates and put "poison" in there. As I read psychiatrists and social workers reports and interviews of the girls, it was apparent the word "poison" came from the psycho neighbor who turned the good Mama in.

Turned out one little girl developed severe Scarlet Fever which turned into a major internal and external rash requiring a swabbing of salve inside and out several times a day. Mama was told by her doctor to look at it closely every day to make sure it didn't get worse.

It was after the outbreak of Scarlett Fever and the application of the ointment...when the psycho lady, who knew about the Scarlett Fever treatment, told DSHS the little girl said Mama put "poison on her private parts"

The kids denied their Mama ever hurt them and said Mama explained the medicine was "for making me better."

The girls were young when forcibly taken from their home by the state of Washington.
The girls may believe the sexual abuse story they have been fed by whomever -- which is why the situation is one that must be handled delicately.

If anyone out there in Oregon knows a girl aged 26 named Kristal, or a girl 21, named Ronda who was adopted, it would be great if they email me at or Facebook me. I can get you or your leads to Mama.

Their first and middle names at birth were Kristal Lea and Ronda Kay. I'm hoping they kept their first names.
I think Kristal may go by Krissy. She was born in Wyoming, on 3/12/83.
Rhonda was born in Washington on 3/7/88.
I can link them to their mothers Facebook page where she has their baby pictures.
I do not want to violate their privacy by posting that link here.

That... by the way... is how ethical P.I.'s work.

When someone hires us to find someone... and if we find them...
we never hand over the address, phone or personal info of the person we locate.... unless the person wants to meet the person finding them.

Too many P.I.'s have led stalkers and killers to victims. Not this one.

While I have known the Mama of these two girls and would trust her, truly, with my own kids, I still treat all locates within the letter of the law. That's the best way to keep a detective license and keep all parties safe.

My hope tonight is someone in Oregon or Washington may read, then send this little article around.... and we may be able to unite these girls and their mom by the New Year.

If not, it was certainly worth a try.
Nothing venture, nothing gained.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The SODDI Defense

When you're accused of a crime -- in this case, a woman's death -- there are any number of defenses to choose from.

Among the most is effective is the SODDI Defense.
Otherwise known as "Some Other Dude Did it."
Most of the time, in my experience at least, the SODDI defense is a lie use to create a reasonable doubt and an acquittal.

In this case, however, some other dude really did it. Only the dude that did it was a Moose.

Just click on the title of this post to get to the link.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Razer Blade Girl

Despite my inquisitive and analytical nature, there are some things in life I still don't get.

I could see if I was maybe a quarter of a century younger, I would not get these things because I would have an excuse... being young, naive and not having lived or seen enough.

However, I am no kid.
Hy husband and I have raised our blended family of four kids into constructive, loving, contributing members of society who....I am proud to say... have not one criminal, sex, drug assault, baby daddy or baby mama claim against them. In this day and age, that's no small accomplishment.

Yet, being a Private Investigator, I know too many families have an underbelly, an undercurrent that sweeps countless kids away in a sea of poverty, neglect, abuse.

And beyond the deprived -- or depraved -- physical circumstances of many lives, there are the psycho-dynamics that play out in all kinds of families: siblings; parents; children; aunt uncles; cousins; in-laws; grand kids; step kids; boyfriends; girlfriends; baby mamas and papas.

Put any clan under a microscope and you usually find a more than a few family units with more than a few screws loose. Add alcohol or drugs to the mix, plus infidelity, divorce, money troubles, custody battles and you have ignition... combustion... and eventually destruction..

In my humble opinion, sometimes insanity... or inanity... is inbred.
Sometimes it is triggered by how a kid is raised.
Other times, it's a combination of factors, many originating in the frontal lobe of the brain. Something as simple as a hit to that lobe can turn a calm life into a violent or insane one.

However, I will spare the technical speculation and cut to the chase... as Private Investigators tend to do... by telling you this:.

Be ever vigilant as this economy continues to tank.
Because those people among us with screws loose.... are becoming unhinged altogether.

I worked for The Public Defender for a years when I first became an Investigator.
This was before I built my own Detective Agency.
I was a novice then, learning how the system worked by working for any of the 90 Public Defenders in that Seattle office.

My job was to represent the "alleged" criminal. There are innocent people accused of crimes and guilty people accused of crimes.
Guilty or innocent, the word "alleged" is key to separating separate the innocent from the guilty.

At The Public Defender I represented whoever they handed me.
In the beginning I was filled with the inner strength and resolve that comes from representing the accused --- the underdog, the indigent, the poor who could not afford to hire a Criminal Defense Attorney or a Defense Investigator for themselves.

And when I was promoted from investigating misdemeanors to felonies, including murders -- serial, familial and otherwise -- I felt I'd hit both a new high and new low in my career.
Because I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that the majority of baby shakers, or wife killers, or thieves, child molesters, pimp, abusers, scumbags and cheats I was investigating on behalf of.... were precisely that and they couldn't be locked away long enough for my tastes.

One case in particular bubbles up to my consciousness every time I see a straight razor.
Which is often.
That's because of an incident a while back.

I was investigating a case for a Public Defender representing a girl, a minor, 17 years old, who grew up in a rough area of Tacoma, WA called the Hilltop District.
She had no father, just a sperm donor she never met once. Her mom was on welfare and heroin.
She dropped out of school at 13, joined a gang and was quite the tough kid.
I recall sitting across from her at juvie.
She was stripped of her bandana, bling and street clothes. She was just one more angry institutionalized kid resigned to her fate.
And she was probably eating more steadily than she ever had at home.

She didn't bother smiling at me when she first met me. In fact her disdain for me was obvious. She was black I was white.
And my being blond-haired, blue-eyed works well with Aryans, but not necessarily so with angry black girls who've felt oppressed all their lives.
Rapport took a while to establish. In time, it was. Unfortunately, no amount of rapport could erase the facts, the witnesses, the act -- or build an adequate defense for this girl. She knew it, her attorney knew it and I knew it.

What she did was carry a razor blade in her mouth... as she often did. She said she never left home without it.
Sometimes she tucked it in her cheek, sometime under her lip, she could even carry it under her tongue. And the same way gamblers can roll pennies all over their hands and between closed fingers, she could move that razor blade through her mouth in a metallic ballet that defied imagination. This was not a one-sided blade either, both sides were sharp.

"You ever cut yourself?" I ask.
"Not a once," she replied proudly.
If there was a two-sided razor blade mouth-rolling Olympics, she'd garner a Gold.

One day, our client was at a popular Mickey D's not far from the jail.
She told me, "Okay maybe I did over react a little," before she explained her story.
"But she was after my man."
She repeated the last two words in case I missed them. "My man." she said.

"She was a black girl like me" she said. "She started coming on to my boyfriend and I told her to back the f off. I gave her a warning."

That very same night, at a park where the kids partied after dark, our client's nemesis chose not to heed that warning. The victim approached the alleged boyfriend and gave him a hug. The victim was not aware our client the DEF was present and watching . And within five seconds after that embrace, our client flew over to the soon-to-be-victim, pulled that razor blade out of her mouth and sliced the stunned girl 7 times across her face before the crowd, also stunned, pulled her off.

Witnesses, were abundant. Including the alleged boyfriend who later claimed the girl was psycho and he never liked or dated her.

Right after the attack, The DEF, our client, dropped the blade, ran from the scene and was found later that night high as a kite with her home girls.
She was arrested, charged and awaiting trial when we met.
She showed no remorse. The only regret I witnessed was that she was still behind bars.
My interview complete, my next stop was the victim.

In criminal cases, an Investigator who works for a Public Defender, is allowed to interview the injured victim. The victims are allowed to have anyone they want present during the Criminal Defense Investigator's interview. In this case, it was the Prosecutor, the Deputy prosecutor, and a Victim's Advocate, plus a tape recorder all surrounded the victim while I interviewed her.

There was not a smile to be attempted or had in the room.

I looked at the 16 year old victim's once beautiful face.
It was now marred forever by deep, jagged, ugly razor blade scars across her nose, cheeks, lips, eye brows. As her eyes met mine they locked in on me with a hatred beyond my ability to describe it here.
Suffice to say, I was sufficiently humbled and admittedly humiliated by the position I was in.
I wanted to represent the victim not the girl who sliced and diced her.

I asked my questions carefully and respectfully. I got my answers, none of which would give our client any reason to assault this young woman.

It was this case... and one more... that ultimately led to my hasty exit from the Public Defender's Office.
Now, I do represent victims... with an occasional Criminal Defense Investigation here and there, when I truly think someone is innocent or their case needs mitigation.
And still, despite all the years that have passed since that case and others, I still see acts of ludicrous, unwarranted, unmitigated violence every day.

And still, I don't get it.
All I do get is that some people are screwed too tight, some too loose and some have sick fantasies and no impulse control.
And those in between.... those can go either way depending on the circumstances.
Senseless acts of violence are just that. Senseless.... meaning, no sense involve -- just a primal, visceral response that turns some people into weapons of self or mass destruction.

Razer Blade girl got off with a little less than three years. I never saw or heard from her again. My guess is if she isn't dead, she's in the system.
I saw no way out for that kid... though she was a way out for me.

Odd... how that works.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I, Psychopath, by Burt Barer

I have about 15 minutes before heading out on my rounds. Which gives me just enough time to warm up my vehicle and post a link to a blog post I thought I'd share with you while I'm out.
Whether you write true crime, read it, or just want to understand more, this is an fascinating read by Burt Barer. It appears is from one of my favorite Blogs, in Cold Blog.
I'll be back with an original thought as soon as I have one... and have time to write it.
Meantime, click on the title of this post to get to the blog link.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Caffeine Psychosis Defense

Now even for this seasoned coffee-drinking investigator, this defense is a first. Just click on the title of this blog to see what this guy claims drove him to mow down two separate pedestrians, in crosswalks, in two separate accidents.
What next?
Name Starbucks and Red Bull as co-conspirators?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

17 Year Old Dexter?

Click on the title of this post to link to one of my favorite Blogs and Blog Writers..."In Cold Blog." If you haven't heard about this case, it's quite alarming. A fine example how life imitates art...poorly. This kid got the whole Dexter concept wrong.

Black Widow In Waiting

Today I am thinking about a male friend, who is about 20 years older than me. Give or take a few years, because I am not exactly sure.
If you were to meet him, I think you might agree he is an incredibly handsome and dapper man with thick gray hair and a wide open smile. He has a certain style of dress I will not describe, lest someone here I know recognize his distinct trademark fashion touch.

Some men have that one "fashion touch... the one thing they wear everyday, it could be a bow tie, vest, hats, designer suit, a Rolex.
His special fashion accessory was a distinctive, aristocratic and elegant finishing touch.

When he took me on a tour of his house, I was impressed by his collection of rare art from around the world and intrigued by the stories he told me be about each incredible piece.
I was even more impressed by the professional tablecloth and napkin steamer he had.
I'd never seen one of those or known they existed.

Truth be told, I dated him for a while.
He had two kids, not all that much younger than me... a grand kid... and a beautiful house on an island in the woods. He owned a successful company. He knew famous people. He was great on the asset list.
There were only two liabilities that exceeded all the assets for me.
Being: his life ruled
And my life, at that time, was in chaos.
Plus there was that 20 year age gap...
so we remained friends all these years and nothing more.

Then he met a girl we will call "Ivy."
Ivy just popped up one day and rooted herself in his life.
Ivy was not her birth name, she changed her first name to that of a flower.
For the purposes of this blog post, "Ivy" will do, because that is what she is... more of a vine of the kudzu variety... that climbs all over its hosts, eventually pressing and pulling the life out of them.
Not only did Ivy change her name, she changed her background and many other things to snare this wealthy man, my dapper friend, who we will call, "Grant."

Like me, Ivy was 20 years younger than Grant when she met, seduced and married him. Grant had been married before and had two children close to Ivy's age. Grant did not know or believe Ivy was not a good person.

I got married about the same time Grant and Ivy did, to a guy we all call Moose because he's a big tough guy, the kind who leads a herd.
He also talks about as much as moose does, which is not much.
A former Marine, Moose spent 14 years in the military. Semper Fi, ever faithful.

When I compare rich dapper Grant to my Moose, I am grateful for the choice I made.
Mine was a choice based on love not money
Ivy... on the other hand... saw Grant's money and despite... or because of... the age gap, she targeted him.
I know I am not alone in thinking this.
I have one other Facebook friend who knows whom I speak of.
She shares the fears I have for Grant with me and after I post this, I'll email her and tell her to read this blog.

You see, my close friend and I... let's call my friend Elizabeth... she introduced me to Grant because Elizabeth is one of his closest friends.
And we --Elizabeth and I --- believe... hypothetically speaking of course... that Ivy could kill Grant and likely will.

Sounds extreme, I know. is obvious to me and to Elizabeth...that Ivy is of the ilk of those women who do kill their men for money.
Let me clarify.

As I said , Ivy married Grant (this would be Grant's second marriage) about the time I got married (also for the second time) 10 years ago.
Then quite mysteriously, Grant and Ivy divorced just a year or so into their first marriage.
I must add that somewhere in marriage one, or shortly after (I'm not sure which),
Grant had a triple bypass.

Then I guess single life wasn't good enough for Ivy.
When she was running out of money and saw Grant's business was thriving and moving from its rainy island home to farm country in the sunny side of Washington... she seduced her ex-husband Grant and convinced him to marry her a second time.

Understand, not a single one of Grant's friend's liked/likes Ivy.
Grant's kids can't stand her.
No one trusts her. Not me, not our mutual friend Elizabeth. No one, but Grant.
Ivy has forbidden Grant to see the many female friends in his life. He has complied.

It's not that Ivy is mean looking, or outwardly offensive -- it's just that she is visibly and viscerally insidious, like a snake. She is evidently self-serving, narcissistic and so hungry for money she oozes it. Sad truth is... Grant not only has eyes only for Ivy, she has him turned into her Stepford Husband.

They moved to "Sunnyville" where he relocated his business and she wanted to open a business.
Grant handed over the capital and one of his outbuildings for that business.
Which, btw (by the way) isn't bustling.

Then she wanted to open a restaurant, POOF!
He gave her the money and now she has a restaurant.
Which, btw, is in a depressed economic area.

And my close friend, Elizabeth, the one who introduced me to Grant and is one of his closest friends, recently went to visit Ivy and Grant on their way across the state.
Ivy would not make a single appearance during her visit.
She did not let let them in their house.
All their meals were eaten out without Ivy though Ivy spent a lot of time on the cell phone, calling Grant while he dined with Elizabeth and her husband alone.
Something was definitely not right and it made Elizabeth quite confused and concerned for her friend Grant.

When Elizabeth told me this story, that was the first time I told Elizabeth I wouldn't put it past Ivy to kill Grant for the insurance money if he didn't have another heart attack first. She concurred. It was clear Ivy was already draining his finances dry. We pondered our options and realized there were none.

Grant already knew the nature of the beast when he married and divorced her the first time.
He chose to embrace that same beast when he married her again.
He made his bed and unless she violated the law...
or stated an intent to harm him to someone who reports it...
there is nothing anyone can do to pull him out of it.

Last week I got a distressing email from Grant. Distressing for two reasons: first, because I couldn't help him. And second, because I couldn't be sure it was from him.

The email was a brief hello, said there was a "disturbing" phone number he wanted traced. I knew the blocked number couldn't be traced without violating Federal Law, which I didn't plan to do.
I wrote and asked him to tell me more about the nature of the nature of the call...without discussing privacy laws with him at that time.

Suddenly another email came back. It was of the "never mind" variety.
Then it was a soliloquy of his love for Ivy.

I wondered if Ivy sent me that email.

It is a helpless situation for all of us who see someone we love hanging with someone who is bad for them... or worse, evil. Some of us can see the whackos coming when others can't. Men are particularly vulnerable to psychos, in my opinion, because all too often, men think with the wrong head.

That said, I write this only to purge myself of my worry for my friend. That is all I can do.
I hope at a party I will see him again ...
or when I pass through the town his company is now in, I may visit...
though I suspect Ivy will not welcome me.

There are far worse things in this life than living alone.
And in these tough economic times, if you have money and you are single, you might as well have a target sign painted on your back.
Black windows like targets.
Add a few threads here and there... and they've a got themselves a web.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Officer Tina Griswold: How We Met

Private Investigators come into contact with police often.
When we are Criminal Defense Investigators... sometimes... ok, most times... we are, by nature, in an adversarial position with police.
Criminal Defense Investigators are often placed in the position of assisting to "impeach" a Police Officer's testimony. I was in that position for a couple years at the Public Defender before I switched to the "other side" -- civil investigation.
(My previous blog post "car attack" here explains what Civil Investigators do.)

Now, in the course of representing victims in a civil action .... where there are concurrent criminal investigations, I often am an ally of police. .
Sometimes they are my witnesses when my clients are injured.
Sometimes, police are my injured clients.

In all cases, where a crime or accident has occurred and a victim I am investigating is involved, a police report is also involved.
And somewhere along the line, on all cases, police testimony can play a pivotal part in the ultimate verdict in a courtroom or settlement conference.

I have many police officers I know I could tell you about. A couple in my family.
The one I want to tell you about now, briefly, is one who was massacred last week. Her name is Tina Griswold. Click on the title of this point to link to a story about Officer Tina Griswold.

I met her one day when I was leaving an interview in a RV connected to a house in a bad neighborhood that gave me major creeps. The subject I was interviewing, as a Private Investigator, was the victim of a drunk driving accident. Broken arm and two lower back disc injuries. This is all I or the attorney who sent me, knew.

When I was sitting with the white male, 25 years old, I observed fresh track marks on his arm and the rot of meth mouth. Despite the fact, I asked if he was using, he said, no... he just stopped.
He said he was off meth for two weeks.
I didn't believe him, pretended I did... as I went through the list of questions I always do when investigate a potential case for an attorney.
Ultimately, I got to a key question I always conclude such interviews with...
"Any secrets or confidences you care to share with me?"
The interviewees usually ask what I mean.
This guy with the track marks did just that.

"Like what?" he asked.
"Like criminal charges, convictions, dwi's...any dead bodies buried in your backyard?"
I always deadpan the last question.
And the truly innocent usually crack an involuntary smile, a vigorous denial, or joke... when I ask about the bodies in their backyard.
However ... some people do have bodies in their backyard.
If not literally, figuratively.
This guy did.

He said, "Well I did kill my sister and paralyze my brother in law but they're not in my backyard."

He went onto to explain, he was drunk one night ten years ago, driving his sister and bro-in-law to the store for cigarettes at midnight when he hit black ice and smashed headlong into a tree on the passenger side. He killed his sister instantly, paralyzed the brother-in-law and he just got our of Walla Walla penitentiary after a ten year stint.... exactly one month before I met him.
Not one tear was shed in his telling of the story. Not a flicker of remorse.

Within one two weeks of his release, he said, he was hit by a drunk driver and wanted a lawyer to represent him. He told me he "wanted a ton of money."
Add that to the fact... that he did what he did to his sister and bro in law... did his ten years... without evidence of regret or shame... and I knew his case was a no-go.
I appreciated the fact that the universe handed him back justice upon release by being hit by another drunk driver.
I felt there was no moral or ethical place for a lawyer in this case. Major bad karma.
His dead sister, and paralyzed brother aside... he was still an active drug user, regardless how much he denied it.

And so I told this guy the lawyers "would be in touch" with him.
I backed out of his driveway, turned my jeep to the left.
Went to a stop sign.
Stopped, turned left, and within 6 seconds was surrounded by police.
One of them, Tina Griswold.

No guns were drawn at that point.... still, the greeting was a bit harrowing.
I saw hands on guns.
"Identity yourself" was all I heard.
My window was open.
I said "Private Investigator, I'm getting for my ID" I said, which I held out the car window.

I showed my ID, my state license, the attorney's card to the Officer Griswold.
"What were you doing in that house?" she said.
"A guy in that house was victim of a DWI I am investigating," I replied.
"Did you know he killed his sister in a DWI? Paralyzed his brother?" she asked incredulously.
"Not until he told me," I said.
There was a pause then broken by my question.
"Is that why you stopped me?"

"No." Officer Griswold replied. "We watched you go in. There's alleged criminal activity in that house. It's a well known crack houses."
"Then why'd you let me go in?" I asked.
"Because we thought you were a part of the whole deal."

Officer Griswold explained there was a blond who was associated with the stolen car ring.
As everyone relaxed, myself particularly, Officer Griswold and I exchanged business cards.
She too was a blond.
She too was about my size.
She apologized for alarming me.
I thanked her for protecting me.
She asked me how I liked investigating. I asked her about law enforcement.
She told me if I never needed anything to call.
I said the same.

There was one cup of coffee in there... when I saw met her at a coffee shot.
Not the coffee shop she was killed in.
But one in Tacoma.

She is one of the four massacred Lakewood Officers in today's memorial...include Officer Brenton... and that's five officers assassinated in 30 days.
This is the darkest time in law enforcement in WA State... and the largest police memorial this area has ever seen.

Certainly it is not 911.
Hundreds more officers, firemen, civilian heroes died there. Thousands of innocent Americans.
Yet for us here, in our little corner of the Pacific Northwest, two police massacres... taking five officers in one month...while they were resting, not working... its bit much to absorb.
Or expect.
We have well over 20,000 officers here from across the country now and counting.

May Tina Griswold and her four slain brothers rest in peace.
I know their families will not.
For them, the holidays will never be a fully joyful time.

Again please link on the title of this post to find out more.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Car Attack

Writing a blog is challenging on many levels, especially when you are a full time Private Investigator.
I am assigned cases daily by attorneys who are obligated by ethical and moral and legal imperatives to protect their clients' privacy.
Those imperatives also extend to me... the investigator.
And now there's me...the blogger.

As an investigator, I have to be careful what I write here.
There are legal repercussions on so many levels when you say things in an open forum like Facebook, or on a blog.
When I am investigating a subject, one of the first places I go is Facebook or My Space. (Same thing with employers these days.) If someone has an internet presence, they can come under legal scrutiny at any time.

As a blogger, I have things to say I believe will help others.
The challenge, is to balance the two...
blogging and investigating...
protecting privacy and protecting free speech.
It always comes down to yin and yang. A balancing act.

The dilemma is how to say enough without crossing the line that reveals a client's identity, violates a client's privacy or threatens a client's case.
That's why my blogs have been a bit infrequent as of late.
I have been searching for a way to achieve that balance and have felt, for a while," stymied."

So today, I have a story to tell that combines many stories of a similar genre I have investigated through the years. Vehicular Assault.

It starts before I was a Private Investigator, when I was a more "public" investigator at the one of the Public Defender Offices in the Seattle area. That's where I worked on criminal cases for any number of the 90 Public Defenders/Attorneys in that office at that time. We represented the poor and indigent accused of crimes.

It was then I first represented people who allegedly and deliberately ran over others with their cars.
Between you and me, in all the two cases I worked there, they did it. On purpose.
The car attacks were deliberate acts of anger or revenge.
However, my job was to defend the wielder of the weapon.
To help the attorney explain why they did it.
Or prove why they didn't do it... even though we all knew they did do it.
All we needed was just enough of the "beyond reasonable doubt" factor.
My job as a criminal defense investigator, was to seek out evidence.
Or to to confirm the lack of it.
Then the years passed and I started working civil cases.

Simplified... civil cases are those in which you go after a financial judgment vs. prison time.
Civil cases are often concurrent to criminal ones. So when a drunk driver hits and hurts someone, the civil investigator is working for the attorney who is handling the injured person's insurance claim.

With a personal injury attorney... clear liability ... the right auto insurance policy and provisions in place... it's possible for an injured person to get some lost wages and medical bills paid before a case settles.
That's why more and more criminal actions are followed by civil actions, just as the O.J. Simpson murder case was.

So in the civil arena, I have also worked cases of people run over by cars.
I have been thinking a lot about those cases and the people caught under those cars lately.
Especially the ones where the driver intended to hit the victim, the ones where it was no accident.
One strikes a sharp memory chord.
It was 7 years ago in the next big city south of Seattle.

On a too-hot-to-sleep hot summer night, Deena (a pseudonym) was standing outside in her apartment complex parking area with her baby in her arms, chatting with neighbors. Suddenly, a fight ensued. A very drunk angry woman was fighting with a man. It was a poor area, it was a long while ago, before everyone had cell phones.
No one called 911 as the fight escalated.
The angry woman struck the man with her larghe bag, ran into her car. Backed it up. And aimed it directly at Denna, who was holding her baby.

To Deena's horrified eyes, the angry lady in the car was a bullet aimed at her and her baby.
Deena's primal instincts kicked in.
She threw the baby to another horrified woman who was standing by.
The baby left Deena's arms and landed safely just as the car landed hard against Deena's body. She fell and flew under the car and the car tire ran over Deena's body as it backed up.
Deena said it all played out in her head like it was a movie, like it wasn't happening to her.
She was conscious the whole time.
Everyone was screaming at the driver of ther car to stop.
The angry woman gave the crowd the finger and instead of stopping the car, she drove forward and ran over Deena's body again.

By that time, several people were at the car and the car door, pulling at it and yelling for her stop.

Instead, the driver backed over Deena's body a third time, which Deena has pulled into as close to a fetal position as she could. The driver fled the scene, driving backwards first... until she whipped into in a neighbor's driveway, and hightailed it down the road.

While Deena tried to move and breathe with one deflated lung and several broken ribs and limbs, the angry lady who assaulted her took a curve too fast and went off the road and headfirst into a tree. She wasn't wearing her seat belt, the car didn't have airbags and she died on the scene. Suffice to say the scene and autopsy photos were not pretty. She died from the initial impact to her head.

And because the car that hit Deena had no insurance on it...
and because Deena had no auto insurance or health insurance of her own...
there was nothing any civil attorney could do.
Perhaps the attorneys could go after the apartment owners because it happened on their property, but the attorneys who hired me on the case, chose not to do so.
There was no guarantee they could win.
And even if they did, it was doubtful they could collect a judgment.
The apartments were lower than low income.
The owners of the apartment could always declare bankruptcy and everyone in the apartments would be homeless. That is a burden the attorney who hired me chose not to bear.

Instead, Deena became one more charity case at a charitable and compassionate hospital. I handed Deena's case file to the attorney who handed her the bad news.
No can do.
This was done to you and there's nothing that can be done to the person beyond the vehicular assault charges the prosecutor filed.

Anyway you look at them, cars are weapons.
Even used legitimately and even without ill intent, they mow down pedestrians in crosswalks daily.
When used as a weapons against a mere mortal, the car always wins.
And in Deena's case, the only justice was poetic...
the car that nearly killed her, was also the Defendant's judge, jury and executioner.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lakewood Officers Shooting - Follow-Up

This is my busy season. Or or else, things are just getting a whole lot worse out there than they've been before. I don't know what it is. I am conflicted, because I am happy to have so many cases and be out there helping people. However, the fact that I am so busy, that the justice system is so busy,... it reflects on the sad state our society.

That said, I am determined to post daily here, regardless of my schedule. And the only way to do that, is to leave the longer posts, the stories, for when I have a few extra hours to spare.'s a follow-up of the police shooting Seattle and the world and have been entrenched in. Five police officers killed within one month.
Today's post links you to "In Cold Blog" and a post about the Lakewood shooter... and the zombies who protected him... while the whole state mourned and one brave, brilliant police officer took him down. Just click on the title of this post to get to that link.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Link to Group Supporting Fallen Officers

This comes from a group on Facebook I invite you to join. Lakewood is just south of Seattle. As an Private Investigator I have worked with two of these officers.
I stop at coffee shots along my routes, as the police do. I see groups of police at tables sipping their coffee before they start their day. Or taking breaks with friends.
Nine children are now without parents.

"At 8:15 in the morning today, a man walked into cafe forza armed with a handgun. Inside the coffee shop were four police officers (Lakewood Police) on their laptops getting ready for a shift. The armed subject proceeded in and shot all four officers at point blank range, killing them. The suspect then fled on foot, and the manhunt is on."

From what I understand, the shooter was granted clemency by Governor Mike Huckabee and relocated to Washington State. That would be the second lunatic we know of Huckabee granted clemency to.

Just click on the title of this blog post to get to the group and join.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Cold Case

Joe(a pseudonym) and his buddies Tim and Dan (also pseudonyms) were good old boys from Eastern Washington, a part of the state that gets very cold and thick with snow in winter.

The Puget Sound and the waters before and beyond it lie in Western Washington where I live. The folks in Eastern Washington refer to Western Washington as "the coast."
The East is divided from the West by a range of mountains called the Cascades.
Once you cross the Cascades, you enter another geographic arena altogether... from the wooded descent through the mountains, across the forested highways alongside rivers, the landscapes are like moonscapes as the terrain shifts to desert expanses reminiscent of the the Southwest U.S.. Then onward, ever onward... to the last big city in the east. Spokane.

Joe lived in a small town in Eastern Washington state with his wife. His kids in their twenties, had moved away from home to Spokane. It was just Joe and the missus... and his good buddies Tim and Dan and their wives. They all grew up together, they were all farmers, they all got together during the long winter nights, had dinner, drinks, told stories.

It was on one of those cold weekend winter afternoons, when the guys decided to go snowmobiling after a few rounds Jack Daniel's at Joe's house.
They set off about 2:30. A storm set in and Joe got separated from his two friends.

Darkness set in. Joe's friends searched for him, but lost Joe's tracks due to the heavy snowfall. With snowmobile fuel tanks near empty and the winds whipping to blizzard levels, Joe's friends had no choice but to return home and call for rescue. Everyone sat vigil in Joe's wife's home until dawn broke and the search could begin in earnest.

Joe's nude dead body was found within 4 hours He was frozen to death. He took off all his clothes and decided to go sit in the water of a river like he was taking a bath. He was found seated upright, his back against the rocks, frozen. His clothes were neatly stacked nearby. A pint of Jack Daniels, still a quarter full was on the rock beside Joe.

The corner ruled it an accidental death.
I'm sure if there were a checkmark for stupid, the cornor would have checked that too.

"The coroner told me Joe was so drunk that night, he probably thought he was getting into our hot tub" Joe's wife told me.
"How old was he?" I asked her.
"46" she said. "He still partied like a college boy."
I wondered silently if even had his GED.

Joe didn't tell his wife he let his life insurance lapse. She found out the hard way.
There was a second mortgage on their house...
and since Joe was the only who worked, the wife lost it all.
I spoke to Joe's wife at her sister's house, where she had taken up residence while figuring out what to do next. Her bankruptcy just settled, she'd lost everything... her husband, her home, her independence because of another needless alcohol-related (on induced) death.

She tried to file suit against the other snow mobilers. No attorney would take the case.
She tried to find someone to sue the snow mobile manufacturer. That too was a no go among the attorneys she consulted.
Ultimately, she had to accept the fact that her husband not only contributed to his own death... he caused it.
But a part of her still resisted.
She want to blame someone, anyone, for the bad choice her husband made. She asked me if I, as a P.I., could help.

I reviewed her notes, the police reports, letters from attorneys.
I came to the same conclusion they did and told her.
"The party at fault here is your husband," I said.
"I should've stopped him" she replied.
"Would he have listened?" I asked.
"No" she responded
"That's my point," I said, as I put on my coat, grabbed my car keys, handed her the case file and told her I was so sorry for her loss and the fact I couldn't help her further.
As I walked out her sister's front door into that snowy evening and headed west towards the mountains that led to Seattle, I thought... what a waste of a life.
Joe partied himself to death... and destroyed his whole family in the process.

Drinking destroys countless lives, yet countless people find it integral to their happiness, their concept of having a good time.
Fortunately... the only person who died that night was Joe.
It could have been much worse had Joe climbed into his F350 instead of his snowmobile.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Injury Settlements

Many moons ago, the Valdez, a ship carrying Exxon oil slammed into a reef in Alaska that caused it to leak oil... which created an oil slick... the biggest Alaska had ever seen before.

Wikipedia describes the disaster like this:
"The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in the Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989. It is considered one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters ever to occur at sea. As significant as the Valdez spill was, it ranks well down on the list of the world's largest oil spills in terms of volume released."

As the oil washed ashore, it destroyed lives and sunk livelihoods. Much of the sea life was killed... the land and waters devastated.... the economy of waterfront towns that relied on fishing for survival collapsed

I know people who worked on that case.
And I know of one young woman who was among the thousands of victims in the class action suit. She was a fishing worker, who left Seattle for a job in in Prince William Bay. She had been working just a few days when the oil leaked and sea turned black and back to Seattle she went.

And from that time on, she became one of who knows how many people involved in a class action against Exxon who began to live their lives expecting a pot of gold at the end of their rainbow.

The days, weeks, months, years passed since she returned to Seattle. She married, got a decent job, her first house, had babies, spent a lot of money because she said, "I'm getting a huge settlement," divorced, then took a trip around the world with her kids and mom on a loan obtained via a refinance of her house. She was certain the Vadez case would settle and she would recoup her money.

She was only halfway right.
The Valdez case settled BUT she received only $10,000. Almost 20 years later.
That would be a whole lot of money to someone who has little, for sure. However it was nowhere what she had been expecting.
She owed $70k on credit cards alone.
She maxed out the line of credit on her house,was upside down on her home loan, she borrowed all she could from her parents, owed on school loans and then, amidst it all, the stock market....then the economy collapsed. Down went her house of cards. She declared bankruptcy and moved in with her parents.

People who are injured due to the fault of another person or entity.... who retain an attorney... expect a settlement. Some people have realistic expectations of what that settlement may be. Many, in my opinion, do not.

The ones with excessive, unrealistic expectations live in anticipation of an unknown.
And they move their thoughts, their energy, their hopes... from the present into the future.

For many people having a personal injury action or suit in place is like having a lottery ticket in your pocket. And just because you have a ticket, or an attorney, doesn't mean you will win. There are no guarantees in the business of justice. And like all businesses, an investment is required in your case.

In personal injury cases, often attorneys pay the up-front, hard costs of your case in the hopes of return on their investment..and the recovery of their initial costs.
In the criminal justice business... the Defendant, or family of the Defendant must absorb the costs of the defense.... unless that Defendant is "indigent" (AKA "broke") and the law allows Public Defenders and Investigators to handle the case.
However it goes down... in civil, criminal or administrative law... justice costs someone, somewhere. And the price paid is high when you lose.

I have a friend who had a case against a huge drug company. She claimed she was given the drug despite the fact that the drug company and her doctors knew it could trigger a nuerological disease that runs in her family... though so far, she was healthy, well, had no indicators of the disease.

She took the drug and poof! she developed the debilitating neurological disease.
A law firm in the middle of the country which has handled other cases against that drug firm took her case on. It cost them $250,000 in out of pocket expenses -- that meant if they didn't win, they'd have to eat the $250k in costs.

They didn't win.
My friend was devastated.
So was the law firm she hired
They spent $250k out of pocket, so they were a quarter million poorer and not happy about it. Plus they were required to pay the cost of the Drug Company's defense.

I get defensive when people call personal injury attorneys "ambulance chasers." In WA State, it is unethical and illegal for personal injury attorneys to solicit business in certain ways, and ambulance chasing is one of those not allowed ways.

The attorneys I work for simply advertise, or are referred by others. Injured people call the attorneys, the attorneys review the case to make sure the potential client is not at fault. The attorneys invest their own money in the cases.... it is a very risky business for a personal injury attorney. What the client brings to the relationship is the accident and injury they were not liable for.

I was in an third wheel used as home this week, investigating a case. One of the young women in the family, a by-stander, was coughing, alot. I turned to her and asked if she was okay, did she maybe have the flu? She said no, she developed the cough three days ago.

"Damndest thing" she explained, "I took a sip of a co-workers can of soda and the next day, I got a sore throat, a cough and all these sores in my mouth. "
"Sores in your mouth ?" I asked "From a co-worker's soda?"
"Yep, " she said, "Wanna see? "
"Sure" I said, being an admitted rubbernecker.
"Wow," was all I could say as she showed me gross white blisters growing on both sides of her tongue.
"My boyfriend says he won't kiss me even though I'm on antibiotics" she said.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Noone knows" she said as she lowered her voice." I was wondering, you think I can sue the soda company?" she asked me.

I looked at her for a few seconds so it appeared I was seriously considering her question.
"I don't know" I finally said slowly, "Might be a jury would think the first person who was drinking from the can had some contagious thing going on and you caught it."

"Can I sue them?" she asked.

"Sue your co-worker?" I asked. She nodded.
"When you sue people" I explained, "they usually end up declaring bankruptcy and there's no way for the attonrey to recoup their costs. Besides, I think that would be a rough sue a co-worker. You voluntarily took of sip of their soda. Did you ask first?"
"Well no, " she said.
"Well then," I replied, wishing someone would buy this girl a clue, "I'm thinking you're out of luck."

It is indeed a litigious world out there. Some people are on solid ground. Some on thin ice. the Investigators job is the find the truth in a sea of information and misinformation. At one time or another, almost everybody thinks they're right... even when they're wrong.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Link to Find Lindsey Baum

Click on the title of this blog to go to the link to help find Lindsey. Also you can look for Lindsey on Facebook and friend the people/groups searching for her.

Stormy Days

I have been bouncing from case to case like a ping pong ball. Winter is a busy season for Private Investigators. Much of my income comes from personal injury and locates, with an occasional round of crisis management inbetween.

I have often thought Private Investigators are crisis managers in disguise. Because we come in -- between the doctors and the attorneys -- when the injury /assault/incident is new and the victim is still trying to process it. Our job is to gather the evidence, get the details, lend ear and pen to pain and suffering. Private Investigators are the eyes and ears of the attorney in the field.

The Pacific Northwest has been hit by three big storms in row.
I head out next into the third one to investigate some accidents that may or may not have happened because of the rain.

Rain is always a factor to consider... the water turns freeway concrete into a slippery slope of oil and grease. Cars and trucks have faulty equipment... from wiper blades to brakes. Driving on the wet freeway is like dancing in a minefield.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that many truck drivers are forced to drive fleet trucks not maintained properly because they are afraid of losing their jobs when their complaints fall on deaf...or angry...ears.

Owners of trucking companies are stuck between a rock and a hard place -- faced with increases in gas and all costs are barely able to break even, let alone replace the brakes on a fleet of trucks.

There aren't enough inspectors in the state to do all the work that must be done to inspect vehicles on the road.
So what happens is accidents.
Semis slam into the cars in front of them, metal breaks, wheels fly off, trucks jack-knife or suddenly drop on one side.
And whether you get caught up in an accident is a crapshoot.
The minute you hit the road, the odds of your safety go down.

The cell phone has also been responsible for an increase in accidents.
And the movies our kids watch, like "The Fast and The Furious," don't help.
Nor do the video games like "Grand Theft Auto."
Teenagers are especially oblivious to the possibility of their own self destruction and the threat they pose to others when they get behind the wheel.
What doesn't help is the parents who believe their kids are such good drivers. You don't become a good driver without years of experience.
Add alcohol, medications, stress to the mix and you have combustion.

So again I hit the road to see today's victims of others actions.
Every day it's a different image. I note the facts and photograph the wounds, the broken limbs, the stiched heads, the life support machine... or the the babies who need to be held by moms with blown discs and head injuries. And the families that need to be fed by a dad desperate to work who can't because of an injury on that job.

The personal injury business is very personal and the attorneys who handle the cases, the good ones, are life savers. Or better said... life restorers.

So today's diary entry will be brief. I have two cases far away, one very far to go after dark. Those are the ones I don't like to go to in storms -- they're in remote locations, where tree limbs fall on windy roads where oncoming lights blind.

Recently I saw someone in her 20's who couldn't work due to an injury and I asked her for her work address.
I said "That's close to here isn't it?"
"Yes, she replied, "Just down the street. I can walk to work."
"What a concept," I replied, "So even though your car's been hit you will still be able to get to work?"
"Yep" she said, "I'm a single mom and I live paycheck to paycheck. So I gotta' work no matter how hurt I am. That's why my mama taught me... live close to your work. That way, no matter what... you can always walk there, always get to your job on your own two feet."
I was impressed.
Especially since I usually do between 100 to 200 miles a day.

I shared this concept with my husband, a retired soldier of 14 years years. I told him what my young, hard-working client told tell me. That her whole family, all her brothers and sisters and mama, all live right next to their jobs.

"Yep... L.P.C.'s" my husband replied -- knowing, I wouldn't have a clue what he meant until I asked the next question.
"What are L.P.C.'s?"
"Leather Personnel Carriers," he said. "A soldier's boots. Same concept."

And so Dear Diary, this P.I. heads out for the day.
In L.P.C.'s... on accelerator pedal.
Last case is after dark, 5:00 in the Boondocks.
Where Lindsey Baum was was abducted.
I think I will follow this post with a link to her case.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

P.I.'s Epiphany

Work this business long enough and hard enough, and the stories begin to blend together without commercial breaks.

The fine line between wake and sleep is traversed by people and cases past and present.
Dreams are not just dreams... they are time-lines, case notes, haunting images of broken bones, crushed skulls, open eye sockets we enter through our cameras.
I sometimes wake up thinking I lay broken in a crosswalk, or stuck upside down in an overturned car, or trapped in a hospital bed.
It takes a moment for the reality to settle in before I can accept I am safe, I am home. I am in my own bed. That is the wind I hear...those are the birds waking up... that is the water of the bay outside our window... the oysters lay peacefully by the water's edge. All is well.

Yet every day I leave that bed and this remote house on the shores of Port Gamble Bay, the drama begins anew.
Every day, I enter the city by bridge or boat. And there's no way to start out a morning knowing what the day will bring.
There is never a dull day in this business. Or a predictable one. There is, at best, an "easier" day spent trudging throught the urban or rural tundra.
Truth be told, when someone tells me they are bored with their lives, I am stupefied.
"Boring" is a concept I have yet to discover in my life.

Driving down the road a little while ago, I was on the cell phone with a friend who is a home health care nurse. She "gets" me and the work I do.
I told her of one place I just left.
The entire apartment could have fit into the living room of our beach house.
And our house is not big. There are just two of us here unless the kids or someone visits.
The apartment I told my nurse friend about had two young adults, both in their 30's and four children spanning the ages from 4 months to 12 years.
The volume immediately went from the simple beat of my knock at the door, to ear-busting loud when the door was opened. The tv was on, the kids were screaming, it was chaos.

While the parents turned off the tv and quieted the kids, I tried to figure out whether they were "hoarders" or forced to live like that as I entered the apartment. I walked a narrow pathway through the entry, another pathway to the sofa, the walls were stacked from floor to ceiling with boxes and toys and clothes and dad's tool chests.

Both parents apologized about the condition of their apartment.
I said, "No apologies necessary. You were hit by a truck. You were hurt. I don't care about your house, only you."

The parents and kids had been hit by a drunk driver in an big pick-up.
They were all talking at once and were all wound tight.
And I could see why, as they showed me the pictures they took from accident scene and later, the collision yard.

The hit they sustained was huge -- their big vehicle was totaled, front and passenger seat broken, baby and boosters seats lifted and turned. Airbags deployed.
Heads were hit, arms were jammed, backs were twisted, necks were wrenched, children injured and screaming.
The whole family seemed to sink into one collective trauma as they relived the accident for me.

I told Dad, were it not for the big and well-built vehicle he had purchased for his family, they would not all be here. I spoke quietly, leaned into just the parents, that if they were in a smaller cars they would all have been toast. I again complemented Dad on his choice of the family vehicle.
It was the first smile, albeit a weak one, I got out of him.
"Thank you" he said, quietly.

Then Dad explained the vehicle was on a loan.
They paid over $500 a month, just bought the car, and did not have GAP Insurance -- which covers the difference (the "gap") between what you've paid on the loan and what you owe on a loan in the unlikely event of a crash landing, which this was.

Usually GAP insurance comes only with newer cars. there's was a 2003.
I silently guessed they didn't have it even before I asked and I was right.
When they gave me their numbers, I also knew they didn't know what I was about to tell them.
That they were upside down on their loan.
And even though it wasn't their fault, even though they'd been consistent in paying off their loan, it didn't matter....they could likely owe money on a car that was in a collison yard soon to be scrapped.

"Then how will will be buy a new car?" Mom asked.
"We don't have enough money now to pay our bills, feed the kids, we can't afford a down payment."

I told them I don't know. That's why people get GAP insurance when they take out a car loan. So they don't end up in this position. However, " I added, to bring some hope into the dismal equation,
"perhaps the people who gave you the loan in the first place may roll it over into a new loan, since the auto industry is hurting. "
Mom and Dad both nodded at the same time.

The other big problem was not just the lack of GAP insurance, but the lack of auto insurance altogether.

Mom explained why they had no auto insurance. She stayed home with the kids and injured Dad was the breadwinner. His job was in an industry hurting big time due to the economy. There was an eviction notice, everything went belly up and the wind blew down their house of cards. They had to move from their rented house into the apartment we were in.
They said to survive, they cut out the auto insurance.

In Washington state you are supposed to have auto insurance by law. However, there is no database that lists who has what. And when you register your car, you are not required to show proof of insurance. So, some people... many people... go without the hefty monthly insurance payment, figuring... incorrectly... that if someone hit them, then the hitter's insurance will cover it.

Fortunately, mom said, the officer who arrived at the scene told him he would not ticket them for no insurance.
I told them the officer had a big heart. Otherwise, they'd be stuck with a $500 plus fine.
Still... without their own insurance... they would be at the mercy of the Defendant's insurance company who, I explained, was not their friend.
Maybe the Defendant had rental car insurance, maybe not, I said.

I didn't say it, though I felt for certain, the Defendant's insurance company would accept liability as I quietly studied the police report they handed me.
Defendant was cited, the young family had the green light, three independent witnesses were present. Still... I thought, looking up from the report and at all of them gathered around me, this was not a good situation.

The truck that hit them was old.
There was auto insurance, but the policy limits could be too low to cover the severity of their injuries.
Fortunately, I needed not to go there.. it is not my job to discuss the financial "what ifs". The attorneys do that.
They probe the policy, deal with the adjustors, break the good or bad news to the people who called them for help.
I am merely one stop on the personal injury highway.

My job is to gather the facts. And to do so, I must gather the wits of those who have head injuries, or emotional trauma, or physical injuries, lost jobs, lost cars, terrified children.
It does get dark at times.

So after I left that family and headed to my next case, I was on the cell phone with my home health care nurse friend. She told me how working with trauma day in and day old must be having a big effect on me. She reminded me I long I have been at this work. I have no paid vacation time, no sick time, I just move like a cruise ship 24/7 from one injury to the next, she said.

Her words helped shape the epiphany I had shortly after.

It started while I watched an injured client hurl into a clear pitcher used for water in the hospital. I saw him start to heave, looked around his room for a throw-up pan, saw nothing. I grabbed his water pitcher, poured it out in the nearby sink, handed him the pitcher and he just threw up and threw up while he pushed the button for the nurse. I could see his container was getting close to overflow.

I moved to the nurses station and asked for an assist. Police were everywhere in the hospital, there'd been the capture and shooting of a guy who was targeting Seattle Police... he shot one officer, killed her partner and blew up property in a police transportation yard.

He was found and shot the day of the Police Officer's funeral I listened to on my radio. He was brought to the same hospital I was at and officers from all over the country were there about the same time my client was hurling.

One person in the hospital told me what the media hadn't released yet. The bad guy would be in a wheelchair for his trial, she said. He had an ostomy bag and could not walk. I was glad he was still alive... that the experts could probe his mind.... that he would be held accountable the horror he inflicted on the officers, their families, our community. The dead officer's wife asked a picture of her husband be placed in his cell so he would have to live with the face of the man he killed.

I often feel like I work in a Fellini movie.
The unreality of it all became my reality as I sought help for my puking client. A nurse shouted, "I'll be there in a minute."

I grabbed a throw up container from a nearby supply table and moved back to his room. I gave him the empty container after he placed the full one next to his lunch on his bedside table. The man was so sick and he said he was so embarassed between hurls.

I told him not to be as I tried not to get sick as I stepped out of the room when the nurses walked in. It's then when you beging to fight those instincts that surface and say, "What was in his puke? Can you get sick from it? Did you breathe it? Wash your hands. Where's the nearest exit?"
Unless you make a deliberate, concerted effort to stay calm... chaos ultimately ensues.

And leaving that hospital that night, beginning my rounds the next day, moving from place to place, the epiphany I had was that this business never truly stops, the inuries never end, the pain never really goes away.... it is a continuum, as much a part of life as the folks sipping their mint julips at the Kentucky Derby.

Almost none of the people I see are at fault. Yet all of them have been taken down, their lives inextricably altered by a convergence in time and space... that put them in the pathway of a speeding bullet or car, a weakened porch, a falling light pole, a blood thirsty dog, a psycho killer.

I realized that nothing I do can make a difference in the events that cause it. All I can do is be part of the clean up crew. And what I must do is make sure I gather the facts and evidence from the injured and deliver it to the attorneys... the good attorneys... who can help the injured find their way back to health and home. If there is a way.

If you have no auto insurance, even if the accident is not your fault, it could take weeks to get a police report, to get the Defendant's insurance company to accept liability, then get a rental car and yours replaced.

With no auto insurance of your own, there's no one to step in on your behalf unless you find someone like the attorneys who found me. And even then, we can't change the fact that the process takes time... time many people do not to have, to keep their homes, their doctors appointments, their sanity.

I shared the epiphany.... the realization that it never ends with my nurse friend and she told me that's why full time trauma nurses, police officers and soldiers have in-house counseling. I explained, Private Investigators have nosuch thing, no one watching our backs while we watch others'. We just talk to other investigators, or friends, who understand. Some of us even blog to release the images and realities that occupy our days and haunt our dreams. And even then, in our blogging, we must be cautious not to violate the privacy -- or sanctity -- of the cases of others.

And so I move from this post back to the cases. Some need to be closed, others need to open
In this river we called life, the flow may slow down or speed up... it never stops until the human body stops. As a P.I, I have learned the best approach is to go with the flow... it is the path of least resistance.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Road Warriors

This is a brief drive-by blog. I won't be back to this blog until late tonight because I am balancing a full case load with a bit of a bug that could be anything.

Unfortunately, there's not much swine flu vaccine in this neck of the woods.
At the VA last week, one doctor told me they had only 80 doses staff. None yet for the Veterans. Someone stole two vials from a community clinic worth about 3 grand. The robbers also tainted a third vial. The flu is now officially a pandemic and quite creepy.

We self employed road warriors... the truckers, investigators, sales people, cable guys, home health care workers, delivery drivers, repair and service folks... all of us who make our living driving our cars, navigating the concrete seas, going from place to place and knocking on stranger's and strange people's doors... we see and hear it all.

Cough and moans, sneezes and groans. Barking dogs, crying kids, the gainfully employed, the painfully unemployed. The well-connected and the unglued. We are one teeming mass of humanity all separated by walls, doors and driveways.

And we Road Warriors, the self-employed...
we have no barriers between us and "them". We can not stop because we don't feel good.
We make our money from the volume we do, the miles and hours we drive from place to place...
to investigate a case, unload a shipment, fix someone's bale, deliver a package, serve a subpeona, treat a patient... all the things Road Warriors do every day.... sometimes seven days a week, to keep the income flowing.

We can't afford to get sick, when there's no sick pay. So we keep going.
The only time we stop is when our bodies make us stop.
And that of course, is neither wise nor healthy.

So given my druthers, I would much rather blog about the Seattle arsonist just caught yesterday. And a police killer caught last week.
However duty calls even louder than the sore throat that would give me an "out."
So I'll be back at this blog in the next 24 hours.

Meantime, you stay safe out there.
And if you don't mind.... please accept some unsolicited advice from one Road Warrior.
Be ever vigilant and ever calm.
Control your anger. Reign in your temper.
Lighten up on the accelerator. Drive in the slow lane. Avoid conflict and extinguish your road rage.
Give no one "the finger"... because people angrier than you are out there.
And they've got fingers too... on triggers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Great Post New from "The Sleuth With the Proof."

We all have many careers in a lifetime.
As I said in yesterday's post, "Cement Shoes", I was a writer in a previous life who became a P.I.
Steve Spingola is a retired homicide detective who has become quite the writer.
Just click on the title of this post to get to his latest blog post.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cement Shoes

It was when I first moved to the Seattle area, that the story was told to me.
It seems like it was lifetime ago. And it was.
It was a previous lifetime of mine... back when I was a writer... not a P.I.

Back then, we were shooting one of the marketing videos or films I wrote for a living.
The opening scene was the Seattle Waterfront, looking from the east to the west... across the busy Puget Sound. The camera followed a car ferry coming towards us, delivering its occupants from Bainbridge Island to the Seattle Pier.

The director yelled, "Cut!"

The shot obtained, it was time to break -- to add talent/actors to the scene. To set the new stage. And so we sat in that chatty limbo-land between shots.

The cameraman and I were alone and we talked of everything everyone talks of to pass the time.
A helicopter approached from a distance. Our conversation stopped as we both squinted and watched it come closer.

It could be anything, a military chopper, a traffic chopper, a rich man's chariot. Then we saw it was an medical airlift, a flying ambulance.

"You can be sure whoever's on that helicopter is hurting big-time," the camera man said to me,
"It's headed right for Harborview."

Harborview is the largest and in my opinion, best trauma center in the Pacific Northwest.
One of the best anywhere.
Yesterday, I saw a client there who'd been hurt in an accident. Multiple limbs broken, head, back injuries. And that's just the beginning. It gets worse. He was on a morphine pump when I saw him, had been in the hospital a few days and he was 100% lucid and pain free.

"Damndest thing," he said, "when you really are hurt and you're on pain meds, they take the pain away without making you high."

I said, I was of the opinion, that's the purpose of morphine and other pain meds.
When you are truly hurt and in need of them, pain meds don't make you high.
They make you stop hurting and you feel somewhat normal -- so people facing a lifetime of pain from a chronic injury can have some semblance of a real life.
For people who are really hurt, sometimes only pain meds can quiet screaming, chronic, unrelenting physical pain.

The client I spoke to yesterday had a broken body, yet was 100% coherent and pain free because of the pain meds. It's the people who aren't in real physical pain and take pain pills to get high who ruin it for those it chronic pain.

The challenge of the doctors prescribing pain meds is to make a distinction between "drug seeking behavior" and "real pain". It's become such a problem to draw that line, the distinction has led to pain management specialists popping up all over the country.

So I left Harborview yesterday... left a broken man in his bed... walked through the lobby filled with people of every human color and nationality, some in casual clothes, some in native robes.

I consider Harborview scared grounds every time I walk through there. It's filled with patients in the worst of shape and families trying to deal with it all. It's where many lives converge, heal and end. And it is staffed by the best doctors, nurses, techs, staff, I have ever seen.

"Harborview is a city of crisis," I thought, as I exited the humanity-filled lobby and stepped outside. I moved through the police-protected crosswalk where cars, cabulances and ambulances drop off and pick up patients.

A helicopter descended to my left on a landing strip right near the parking area. I stopped and watched the copter land, the med team emerged, then the patient appeared, strapped to the wood board, tubes dangling.

The blades were so loud, the only thing separating us was a metal fence I and others looked through. I looked for a while, then turned away. I still heard the chopper's blades in my head after entered the parking garage and walked to my car, which faced the Seattle waterfront.
As I got in the front seat of my car, I realized the view was the same one our film crew camera had looked at so many years ago, when I wasn't at Harborview on a case.

So I bring you back to that point on the Seattle waterfront where this story began, many moons ago.

Back before I was an investigator. When I was writer who'd come to Seattle from Lost Angeles.
If you recall... I was talking to the cameraman while a shot was being staged on the Seattle Waterfront and we were looking from east to west. We were on the Seattle side, facing West Seattle, and the waters and islands beyond it. We watched a medical helicopter overhead. The cameraman told me the chopper was heading to Harborview.

And then, he told me me something else.

"I got this buddy, he's also a camera guy," he said.
"And one day my buddy was on the waterfront, just him and his lady. He had a still camera and black and white film with him. He just bought this killer zoom lens and he wanted to play with it, try it out"

"So while he was shooting over there," the cameraman pointed, "he heard a plane, then saw it, in the distance. It was much further out over the Sound, but my friend's zoom lens could pull it right into view."

"As my friend looked at the plane through the camera lens," , the cameraman continued, "he noticed the side door of the small plane was open. Then he saw something drop from the plane. He couldn't make it out, it was vertical with a base. He shot the object steadily as it fell and then, took the film to the lab in his garage."

"When he developed the black and white film and looked really close at it," the cameraman said, with a pause for effect "it was guy! A man in a suit being dropped from the plane in cement shoes!"

It took me a few seconds to absorb the info and understand what it meant. I asked the next obvious question.
"And then what happened?"

"What happened," the cameraman replied, "is my buddy called the FBI. The FBI came out, interviewed my buddy and his missus, They looked at the pictures... didn't say a word... just took them and the film. My buddy was so pissed but was told he had no choice. You don't argue with the FBI."

I pondered the story long and hard in my head before I spoke,
"This is an urban legend right?" I asked the cameraman.
"No, it's not. He was my friend and I swear to God that's what he told me."

It's a story I never forgot and I remembered it again yesterday in my car in the Harborview parking garage as I looked through the metal screen that separated the concrete floor of the parking garage from a big drop to the ground.

I thought of the client I just left, broken, battered in his bed.
And I thought of the guy in the plane, his feet covered in cement and dropped directly into the Puget Sound. I was pretty certain he had no pain pills or tranquilizers to numb whatever he had been through and knew he faced. He knew there was no way out. How do you process that, I wondered?

We live many lives in our individual lifetimes. Yesterday in the garage my two lifetimes converged in a single story I share with you today before heading out on my rounds.

I never looked further into the case of the man in the cement shoes.
I don't know if it's a true story or not.
However, I trust the guy who told the story and I know these things happen.

I also know one other thing.
This P.I. will never wear cement shoes.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sudden Deaths

I write this post on a soon-to-be rainy Seattle Sunday thinking about two words which mean so much to me and so little to others.

I have been a victim of what is called in the civil justice system, "medical malpractice." It happened to me many many years ago and took me a long time to move past it enough to talk about it. Some people never do recover from it.

Some people never realize it happened to them, or to their loved ones until it is too late to turn back the clock... too late turn on the burner that re-ignites the spark of life.

Last week a dear friend died of what I guess, and can only guess, to be a bad drug which was prescribed with good intentions. The reason I say I say it is my guess ... is because I have no proof, no evidence, except what he told me last time I saw him.

He had been in the hospital just days earlier.
When he got out and we crossed paths, we held hands and spoke quietly for a while.
I apologized for not going to see him when he was in the hospital. I told him I didn't know what was happening until the day he was released. And I was torn, I said, worried about being intrusive.

He said to me, "Never be shy. Anything helps. A visit, a phone call, a prayer, a thought, a dream." He spent more time talking to me than I to him. He told me life is short and he never realized how short it is until he was admitted to the hospital. He said he hated hospitals and he never wanted to go back. It was the first time I ever heard him say he was scared. He was a mentor to me and many other investigators in this state. I had never considered the possibility he felt fear because I never saw it in him.

I asked him if they knew what caused his rapid decline. He said the doctors said it was the result of some medications he took and stopped.
But the damage was done.

He left the hospital for a short time and he was back in the hospital last week.
He died shortly after. A brilliant, beaming, glow of perfect light.... extinguished.
So I, his family, his wife, kids, grand kids, and all the investigative community of Western Washington who knew him, grieve this weekend.

I lay in bed at night and in the morning and send him.... and all those I love who have passed.... winged prayers to their spirits, which I also like to imagine are still with us.

I want to find out the name of the medicine he took.
Another investigator told me he spoke with our friend about the medicine. While he never gave him the name of the medicine, but our mutual friend did say our deceased friend told him he read the folded package inserts and what happened to him, including death, is a possible side effect.

I have trouble coming to grips with that.

I love medicines and I hate them.

They have healed and sothed me through, loss and pain and surgery of my own.
They have saved the lives of those I love the most after cancers and other diseases try to bring them down.
They are keeping so many people alive who would not be among us today if it were not for the healing powers of medicine.

Pharmaceuticals are a mixed blessing... a mixed blend of positive and negative, yin and yang... life and death in doses.
They are often the deal breaker when it comes to living and dying... and all the stages in between.

Were I a doctor, with a full load of patients and all their concerns, I would be afraid in these litigious times, to do my work ... because a doctor's oath is to cause no harm.
Yet some medicines are harming and killing patients.
Even though that is not the intent in the prescription of them.
And the same medicines are saving so many.
It is a issue so complex, I could ponder it daily and still not quite get a grip on who is right and who is wrong.
It is a place I have trouble finding a middle ground.

I think we want to place blame somewhere when someone dies so quickly and unexpectedly. Some blame God, others pharmaceuticals, some blame themselves. And some have no one to blame. The medical procedure that may have caused death may at the time, have been unknown to do so.

I shared the short version of a story of someone I used to be friends and work with many years ago in one of my blogs.
"Beth" a pseudonym, was a writer and still is.
I was a professional writer back then and we spent many lunches wrapped around words, our careers and our mutual love of true crime books. She was only I knew who read true crime books as long as I did.

My affection for the subject began, I think, where I was born, in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Not too far from where Lizzie Borden lived, Fall River.
"Lizzie Borden took and axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41."
It was rhyme I skipped rope to.

As a little girl in New Bedford, I had a friend whose father bought Lizzie's Borden's milking stool. At least she said it was hers and so did her father, a wealthy man who lived at the end of our road. We would take turns sitting on that stool in the basement of her house, telling Lizzie stories and trying to freak each other out.

It was Lizzie's house I visited after I grew older and could comprehend it wasn't just a rhyme.
It was story I studied, a documentary I wrote in college.
And when I became an investigator, Lizzie was always with me.
Hers is a case in point -- that we never know, really know, what goes on behind closed doors.

Was there something between Lizzie and her parents, some kind of abuse that triggered her attack?
Did she just snap?
Or was she crazy all along?

I believe Lizzie was the killer. And Like O.J. in his criminal trial, she too was rich and a had good team of lawyers to win her innocence even though she was guilty.

I do not believe Lizzie's case had anything to to with medical malpractice. I don't think "medical malpractice" was even a concept way back then.

Nor was it in is our minds when my friend Beth and I discussed Lizzie's case and our shared affinity for true crime books over lunch and visits to each others house.
We were, as friends, glued to each other because of our commonalities -- the writing and the subject matter we were drawn to for reasons neither of us knew.

Time passed. I lost touch with my friend Beth. I called her and never got a call back. I tried for about a year and gave up.

I was transitioning myself to investigation when I got a phone call from a mutual friend, an artist, both Beth and I knew.

She said Beth asked her to tell me her father had died and she wouldn't be able to call me back. I was, at first, mortified such a good friend wouldn't tell me of her father's passing.
I couldn't let it rest and had to know what happened. And, as writers and investigators can do, I unlocked a door, so the words spilled out of our mutual friend's mouth.

"It was the strangest most horrifying thing," the mutual friend said as she unraveled the threads of the story for me.

Beth's brother was 32 years old. He lived alone, was always just a little "odd," but held a job and lived his life in a small home, close to his parents who he appeared to love very much. And the feeling was mutual.

Then one Sunday about 3 pm, he drove up to his parents' house in his pick-up.
His father was asleep on the sofa, napping.
He walked into the kitchen while his mother was cooking, ignored her hello, took the biggest of her knives and without a word... a hesitation... a beat.... walked into the living room and stabbed his sleeping father to death.
The first blow was straight to his heart.
The second his abdomen. The rest, all seventeen of them added insult to fatal injury as the mother watched her son kill his father while calling 911 from the kitchen.

Mother left the phone dangling off the hook, as she ran out the back door to the nearest neighbor's house.
The police, ambulance, then the coroner arrived.
When the police came, Beth's brother sat on the front porch of the house, on the the stoop, blood all over him and the killing knife laid next to the sofa where his father never woke up from his nap.
Beth's brother was catatonic... he would not speak or talk to anyone. He went from police car to jail and later on to a prison for the mentally insane.

In the time between arrest and conviction everyone tried to figure out why. Why he would commit patricide, kill the father he loved all his life? Just like that? They'd been fishing just the weekend before. What could make him turn?

His defense team figured it out.

He was a "Forceps Baby".
Today, if he was delivered the same way, one might have a case for medical malpractice.

But back then, no one knew that when he was born... and babies were stuck in the womb...
the forceps doctors used and placed on the frontal lobe of the babies' soft skulls while pulling them out of the birth canal caused brain damage. Brain damage that usually did not reveal itself until those babies became young men and women with a simmering brain injury that turned into a rolling boil.

Typically, when those forceps babies became adults in their late twenties, thirties they developed or exhibited a sort of latent schizophrenia that manifested itself in violence to themselves or others.

Beth's brothers defense team and the jury concurred... he was a forceps baby and that was what caused Beth's brother to snap, to kill the father he loved so much. To leave Beth an only child. To devastate her mother, who would never be the same. He was guilty by reason of insanity.

Beth's brother may still be locked away to this day or he may be out. I do not know.
Because after that happened, Beth sent me word that she never wanted to talk to to me again. Not because she was mad at me, or ashamed of me. But because I was her cohort in reading true crime books. And she felt if maybe she hadn't read those books maybe things would be different.

I recall the countless discussion we had about why we both were so fixated on true crime cases. "Maybe we're just sick" Beth laughed.
"Maybe we just want to understand the thinking of criminals and killers so we can protect ourselves and our families," was my theory.
"Maybe we read these books, " Beth once hypothesized, "because there will be some connection to our lives."

Didn't matter why. After her brother killed her father, Beth said she could never read another true crime book. And she could never hang out with me again because I reminded her of the stories she read and then lived through. Maybe her reading of the books, she had confessed to our mutual friend the artist, had brought this on her family.

The loss of Beth's father, brother, her family and our friendship was too complex for me to wrap myself around. I honored her request and never once saw or called her again. I do not know if she even knows I am an Investigator now.

It was indeed the forceps on the baby's frontal lobed that triggered the aberrant behavior. That method of forceps use in deliveries is no longer done.
So if a doctor delivered a baby that way today... and the same results occurred... it could be considered a case for malpractice. But back then, it was standard practice.

I think the point of this post is this.

Live every day without taking it for granted. Love with your full heart. You never know when someone you love will exit the planet.

Placing blame is an after thought, it does nothing to bring a person back. It does however, help to answer the most important question asked after a life altering injury or death.

I know now why Beth's brother killed her father. I still don't know why Lizzie killed her dad.
And I only think I know why my beloved investigator friend died so suddenly. Because he took the pills... and every pill had side effects... and we all hope we won't be the ones that get the worst.

Medical malpractice investigations are not only hard and expensive for the attorneys to take on, they are are also hard and expensive to win.
They are incredibly complex and often the process of the investigation reveals other factors that raise questions about whether the victim contributed in some way to the downfall -- taking other medications, smoking, drinking, or having an underlying medical condition no one knew about until the injury or autopsy.

Nothing can change the fact that someone you love is dead.
What helps to soften the blow is to understand why.
And for those reasons, many people turn to investigators and personal injury attorneys, for answers.
The answers never solve the problem, they just break the questions down into a equation more fathomable to those grieving.
And then everyone does what they must.
Move on...
with one foot in the future and another stuck in the past.