Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Todays Cases: Arsonist, Stalker And Runner

Every day in the life of a private investigator is different. Today is no exception. Many calls to return and cases to work. And with every ring of the phone, another possible assignment.


Today we're investigating the background of a serial arsonist turned murderer. He’s in jail. He was staying at the home of the two people he killed and the house he burnt down are insured. The insurance company paying out the claim hired a lawyer who hired me to see if the killer might have some assets somewhere no one knows about.


Today I also work two stalker cases which could turn into slander liable cases in the civil arena. One case involves a stalker on the internet. The other stalker is in real time. In both cases we know whose doing it, yet the police and prosecutor are unable to do anything about it for lack of evidence.

That's when a private investigator steps in. Because when there's not enough evidence or cause for a criminal action, there may be enough for a civil action or suit. Often, civil investigators can find evidence the police don't have the time or funding to pursue. And when we find information that can help the police in their concurrent criminal investigation, we pass it on.


The last case requiring my attention today is a hit and run. I get several of these a month and they never cease to amaze me.

Just as some people will walk into a burning building, while others run from it, some people actually run from a car they hit rather than face it. In the split seconds following a car crash, the Defendant, the driver who caused the accident, makes what I believe is a primal decision – to stay and face the music, or run.

It's important to find the hit and runner for many reasons. The police and prosecutor want to throw him or her in jail. The auto insurance company of the person hit wants to hold them responsible for damages. And the person who got hit, the victim, or Plaintiff, wants justice, vindication. And always, a reason "why."

In Washington State, hit and runners have 48 hours to turn themselves in before being charged. In a recent hit and run I worked, the driver who hit a casino worker crossing the street on an Indian reservation up north, ran. He went to the car wash,, cleaned off the underbelly of the car played a few hands of poker, did the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, and then turned himself in an hour shy of 48 hours. He was home for dessert. Meantime our client was on life support with a wife and two kids by his side.

Personal Injury Attorneys

There are many people who mock attorneys. And there certainly are attorneys worth mocking. However the ones I work for, the personal injury attorneys who represent and fight for the rights and recovery of injured victims, make me both privileged and proud to be a part of the civil justice system.

When people say personal attorneys are in it for the money, indeed they are. Because only money pays the tens of thousands… or hundreds of thousands…. or millions of dollars…. required to make a person whole again after being shattered by thousands of pounds of steel.
Medical bills, future medical bills, lost wages, pages and suffering. It’s not too much to ask for when your life is shattered.

Total a car and you total the human body. That’s a fact. Getting an insurance company to pay the money required to make the human body whole again is, in my opinion, virtually impossible without the assist of a personal injury attorney.


On my links list, you find a link to my personal injury attorney in Washington. They also have offices in California, If you have a case you’d like to talk about, give them a call. And tell them Sue, the Investigator, sent you.

Monday, April 27, 2009

GPS - Are Satellites Watching You?

Investigators are often hired to put a GPS tracking device on cars by the vehicle's owners. The GPC units are small and commonly stuck to the underbelly or inside fender of a vehicle. The data from the units travels to a company that forwards it electronically to the P.I.'s computer in a variety of report formats. P.I.'s pay a monthly fee for the service per client, then they add those costs to their time and bill all those hours to the client. So obviously, GPS tracking can be a lucrative field. It is however, a field filled with legal land mines that can blow a P.I. business away with just one lawsuit.

Each state has its own laws re: the use of GPS. The key is to know what is legal to do. And what is not.

Car rental companies are legally allowed to use these devices to monitor their rental cars in the not-so-unlikely event someone skips and runs with the car. That's because the car rental companies own the vehicles. They hjave a fiduciary iterest in them.

Car rental companies also include ignition shut off switches on some of the cars in their fleet, triggered externally by off devices that put the car in shut-down. So the driver who drove off without paying is shut-out and often, locked in.

Parents are using the devices to track the cars their minor children drive for all kinds of reasons. Many are the cars that have gone off the road and not been found until days, weeks, months and longer. With a GPS mounted to someone car, there's satellite trail a worried parent or family friend can follow to a missing person.

And as you'll learn from the story that follows, scorned lovers are among the others re using GPS devices to track their prey in the hopes of capturing incriminating info in their electronic webs.

Each states has its own laws about G.P.S. devices. Before you, or an investigator you hire, installs one of these units on a car make sure the law in your state allows you to do so. Find out whose consent is required from such electronic surveillance.

Most states recognize the car's owner as having a legal right to place the GPS device on the car. If the car title is in the husband's name only, the husband can put the device on his car.

If the car title is in the wife's name and the husband is tracking the wife, she has a case for invasion of privacy. The husband can... will be be sued... possibly even charged criminally, if he put an electronic tracking device on a car his wife has sole ownership of. In many states, only the person who owns the car has the right to put a device on the car.

If they both own the car, it could be a toss-up depending on the individual. However if the state is a two-party state, meanting both parties must consent to a "recording," a case could be made for invasion of privacy.

"Woman Who Was Spied On Plans To Sue"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 4:22 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 7:29 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Teej Cummins' outlook on life changed when she stopped at a Shawnee Hills store in September.

When she left the store, a stranger approached her and told her that someone did something to her car.

Cummins said that the stranger told her that a black van drove up. A man with a black box got out and crawled underneath her car, attached the box and then drove off.

It turned out that the person in the van was a private investigator who was looking into Cummins' job injury claim, 10 Investigates' Paul Aker reported.

He used a GPS tracking device. With a magnet, the GPS usually sticks, undetected, to a car's undercarriage. Cummins said that she thought whatever was hiding under car might be a bomb so she called police.

"The officer (asked), 'Do you have any enemies?'" Cummins said. "I remember that moment and the sure panic."

Al Smith, a private investigator, uses similar devices. He said that when a GPS is installed, he can watch a driver's every move on his computer screen.

"With technology today - if you use it right - it's better for both parties," Smith said.

Private investigators said that the tracking devices make it easier to do what they have always done, follow people. They said that watching from a computer can be even safer than chasing in a car.

Investigators say the practice is legal.

Ohio State Moritz College of Law professor Ric Simmons said that Ohio does not protect people from tracking devices.

"It's really not criminal in the sense that all he was doing was following someone in a public place and that's been legal and been allowed forever," Simmons said.

Simmons' comment brings no comfort to Cummins, who now sees trouble where others see nothing.

Move cursor over post headline for rest of story)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

His First Surveillance

In Washington State, private investigators who are licensed to work for other private investigations agencies are called operatives.

I was training a new operative. We were working his very first surveillance, a domestic. Our client, a woman, was married to a high-powered male attorney. The wife knew her husband had been cheating.

She planned to divorce him. She also planned to sue him for fraud because he took out a loan with her as co-signer before she was aware of the affair. She thought the loan was for a refinance. Instead, she soon discovered the loan was used to start up a new business for the lawyer and his mistress.

If it could be proven the husband and mistress were “co-mingled” before the loan was made…
and it could be proven they were still involved in said affair…
the wife might have evidence to support the claim she had been defrauded in the loan she co-signed. She could use that evidence as leverage on whatever level she chose.
So our job was to catch the husband and his new legal assistant in the act.

There were three cameras and three investigators on surveillance that night -- another investigator and the one I was training. We were stationed on the sidewalk across the street from a highly expensive condo overlooking Seattle’s waterfront.

Our cameras were honed in on an apartment window described to us by our client, the scorned wife. To be sure we were at the right spot, I called my client and asked her to stop by and I.D. the window for us -- which she did. She counted up stories from the bottom, then counted windows in from the right side. We sent her on her way and went about our business.

It wasn’t long before activity happened. My new operative caught it first, two forms in the window. Naked. Going at it.
He, being the new operative, was as thrilled as the man in the window obviously was.

“What a job!” he kept saying as he clicked away with his camera. “You mean we actually get paid for this?”

“You don’t usually get this lucky, this fast,” I said, marveling at the full services the legal assistant provided. Clearly, the two
had no qualms staging their act in full view.

“I love this job!” the operative exclaimed glued to his viewfinder.

I tried to figure out the duo in the window. Maybe they thought their apartment was high enough up not to be seen. And that would be the case were it not for the three us capturing their antics with our close up lenses.
Or maybe, I thought, they were exhibitionists who wanted to be seen.

All in all, it appeared to go well. The lawyer got his, we got ours and our client was happy as could be when I called and told her what we got. Of course, she wanted to see it. So we met her at a nearby location and showed her the video.

She looked closer and closer. Then reached in her bag and took out her glasses. She peered again.

“That’s not him,” she said, “That’s not them.”

I told her we shot the same apartment she pointed to. She insisted it wasn’t her husband. We went back to the scene, counted out the floors, then the windows until we stopped at the window she led us to.

“No, I guess I was wrong. It’s not that apartment. It’s the one below it. Maybe I should’ve brought my glasses when I showed it to you before.”

I look at the apartment below the one we filmed. The lights were off no one was home. I looked at my client and wondered what galaxy she was from.

“We filmed the wrong people?” the new operative exclaimed. “What now?”

In the movies, a slime-ball P.I. would knock at the door and offer the video up for a price. In real life, the P.I. worries about liability, violation of privacy and lawsuits.

“What we do now, is exit stage left,” I said, as we moved from the street to a nearby restaurant to debrief.

A couple rounds of drinks and laughs later, I erased the footage from all the cameras.

A couple months later, we got the evidence the client needed and she got her divorce settlement and then some.

And a couple years later, that new operative is now an old-timer who still works with me. Every surveillance we get brings us back to that first one, which still makes me smile…and cringe… when I think about it.

Some mistakes you never make twice. And that mistake would be one of them.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


When someone calls and asks me to find out if someone he or she is involved in is cheating, I ask why they think something is going on. At that point, I get a laundry list of evidence, sometimes concrete, sometimes circumstantial. And almost always, the person who calls me to see if their special someone is cheating is right -- their spouse is cheating.

I usually tell these callers to save their money and just split up. I say if you think someone's cheating they probably are. And if you have such doubts about a relationship, why stay in it?

Still, seeing is believing and that's what many clients want in domestic investigations.

How do you know find out if someone's cheating?

Surveillance is a primary tool for digging up infidelity, though long days and nights are involved. It helps to have multiple vehicles and operative when conducting a domestic surveillance. Surveillance can be costly and isn't always conclusive.

There are many clues in a partner or spouse can give you that individually, or collectively, add up to indicators

The first clue is in your partners behavior -- his or her attitude towards you has changed. You sense a distancing, withdrawal. This can be a physical distancing... an emotional one... or both.

Many clues lie in everyday objects. One such object is the cell phone. A cheating spouse or partner has a partner in domestic crime and they must communicate. Cell phones are chock full of information, numbers, call times, text messages. Extracting this information is key.

Computers are also instruments of deception and a cheating spouse will go out of their way to change screens when you walk in the room, or to block your access to emails. Spyware is all over the internet, many a cheater has been caught in his own web.

Cheaters change their wardrobe, buy new toys, work longer hours, take private

Cheaters usually run on adrenalin, hormones and recklessness, sooner or later they trip up. Search the net and you find thousand of lists of traits associated with infidelity. I've included a link one of my favorite sources in my link section on this blog -- The Cheating and Infidelity Portal.

Most investigators work a fair share of domestics cases over the years. As police forces are quick to tell their new recruits, domestics can be the most complex and dangerous of situations.

The challenge for any investigator working an infidelity case is not just getting the information, but helping the client process the information you are providing. A domestic investigation is a powder keg just waiting for a match. People who find out they are being betrayed can turn volatile and violent. So a cheating spouse case can turn into an assault. Or worse, murder.

Whether you're investigating a domestic, or you're mired in your own dissolution, the key is to know you can't control what another person is going to say or do. All you can do is control your own response to information and situations that are potentially explosive.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gastric Bypass Gone Bad

Yesterday's case is done and will be delivered today on my way to my next case today -- a Medical Malpractice, or Med Mal, for short.

These cases are challenging for personal injury attorneys who must have the deep pockets to fight and the mojo to win such a case. Not only are Med Mal cases expensive to take on, they also require specific witnesses, including other medical professionals, willing to rat on one of their own. So when an attorney sends me out on a Med Mal,I know they know they're onto something.

And this one sounds good to me. The client is a man who had a gastric bypass for weight loss. It wasn't until 3 months after his surgery and lots of complications that it was determined a plastic tube was left inside him after the surgery. Evidently no one on the surgical team noticed it.

This is the fourth case I've done with medical equipment or tools left in clients abdominal cavity post surgery. This one seems like what attorneys might call a Slam Dunk because the man I am going to meet has x-rays showing the plastic tube still in him. I will get his story, his x-rays, records, take some pictures and deliver my case notes to the lawyer.

Gastric bypass surgery works for some. Not for others. There are enough risks inherent in the surgery to warrant caution. When you proceed, you're desperate and expect to finally succeed at weight loss. What you don't expect, is for a doctor to lose a piece of medical equipment inside you.

Such a simple thing, you would think, to clean up your work space before leaving.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Car vs. Bike

Today one investigation. I’m rushing to get out. So this post will be brief.

A 19 year old on a bicycle rider was rear-ended by a car. In the first match, the car won. Now we take the fight to the civil arena. This time, it's bicycle vs. the vehicle.

The bicycle rider is the Plaintiff. The car’s driver and insurance company is the Defendant. The attorneys I usually work for go after the insurance money and seldom, if ever, a person’s assets. The reason for this is - insurance money is collectable, a judgment against a person might never be collected. Case in point is O.J. Simpson’s civil suit. The Goldman/Browns have not collected their judgment all these years later.

People often declare bankruptcy after being sued and losing. Attorneys can’t afford to invest in cases and lose.

And the goal is to find, then acquire, enough money from the DEF’s auto insurance policy to pay medical bills, future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering. Sometimes, there's not enough money in the DEF's policy to even cover the medical bills. In Washington state, a person's own auto insurance can kick in via it's UIM or Un-Insured/Under-Insured Motorist policy.

Things is, the victim I am seeing today is really injured. He'll need all the insurance money we can find. Broken arm, broken hand, will need surgery involving plates and screws. He has a job requiring use of both arms and hands. And he has no health insurance. Chances are good, if he can’t work, he’ll lose his job, he’ll lose his apartment, and he’ll have to move back with his parents. Damages will be significant.

I meet victims of life-altering injuries when the bottom is beginning to, or about to, or has fallen out. The current economy has turned brick and mortar homes into fragile houses of cards. One big injury, one mighty blow... and down she goes.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rear Ended - Case Notes

Yesterday was a day that started off like most any. I was in the living room of an injury victim. This one, a 33 year old mother of three. Let’s call her Latonya.

Latonya’s mother was also there, guarding her daughter from the
unknown quotient… me…. the investigator. I identified myself, explained my mission and endured Latonya’s tough mother’s interrogation.

Latonya said she was driving the kids to a matinee, stopped at a stoplight behind another car. She said she was careful to leave lots of space in front of her behind the car ahead. She said she always does that. It was mellow she said, quiet. Everything was cool until they all heard it. A loud screech then BAM! One huge hit sent Latonya’s head into the steering wheel. Two of the kids in the back also hit their heads, one hit on a laptop he was looking at. The other hit the window. There was no airbag deployment because there was no frontal impact.

All went to the hospital by ambulance. Latonya’s car was totaled. So was car that hit her – a large latel model Cadillac driven by an old white man with a black name, Latonya said.
She couldn’t recall his name. I looked at the police report.
I tell her his name is Jerome. That’s no name for a white boy, I said. Latonya and her mother smiled. The ice was broken.

I probed deeper, the attorney needs to know everything about a client so they aren’t cold-cocked at the time of trial. I asked about pre-existing injuries, other accident, anything. She said no other accident, nothing… except… one thing. I noticed he takes a long breath before speaking. She said she was shot in 1994.

Where I ask?
In the neck, she said.

She told of being on a corner, with a group of people, near a shopping area. They all had just stepped off the bus and were waiting for the light to change. They heard voices behind them. Shouting. Latonya said just as the light changed, she heard more screaming.

She said she remembered turning to the woman beside her, a older Asian lady, Their eyes met in a questioning glance. Then bang! Bang! Fast as that. Latonya said, she went down and so did the lady she was looking at. They were both shot. Their eyes were still locked as they fell to the ground. The Asian lady died. Latonya told me stone-faced.

Latonya was airlifted to Harborview. She was both paralyzed and four months pregnant. The baby lived. Latonya eventually walked. Decades pass to the point we’re at. The living room. I was noting all this when Latonya’s mother added one more key element to the equation.

The bullet is still in her neck, she said.

I put down my pen and studied Latonya. So walked through fire…. gunfire. She endured… got great jobs… was going back to school. Everything was cool, she said, until this white dude named Jerome rear-ended her and the kids at what police estimate was 50 mph.

No wonder, I told her, you have tingling in your neck. There’s a bullet in it! No wonder, I said, you haven’t gotten better in the three months since the accident. I asked if the ER or Chiro she had seen did Xrays, MRI’s of her neck, spine. She said no.

This is the stuff you see out there. People who survive it all, only to be taken down by the last straw. I told her there was plenty of insurance in place. And if I was her, I said, I would get myself right down to the same hospital and the same doctors who treated that gunshot wound almost 15 years ago. I would have someone look at that bullet today and make sure it didn’t move.

As Latonya’s tough eyes filled with water, and her mother nodded in agreement., I reached for my camera and asked if I could take pictures of her to prove I was there. She said yes. I talked to her as I look through the lense. First, a long shot.

She is a beautiful girl, underneath her pain.
I said, “You’re such a beautiful young woman. You look like a model.”
She thanked me and said she used to want to be a model.
I zoom in.
You still look like one I, I said. Well, maybe… a broke down model.
Latonya started laughing, harder and harder.
Yep, I said, That’s your new handle, broke down model.

She laughed again, repeating the words, broke down model over and over. Then she groaned. She told me to be sure to add that to my case notes, laughing makes her neck hurt.

I worried about the bullet moving and encouraged her to use all the insurance in place to get that bullet checked out mass rapido.

As I was leaving I slipped my business card in her hand and said to keep in touch. She may need backgrounds on her kids on one day.
That caused another round of laughter as I headed to my car and worried about the bullet moving.

This is why my problems see so small at the end of the work day. Bad as it gets, I don't have a bullet in my neck.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Pit Bull Named Killer

The pit bulls didn’t know any better. They never do. It’s the people who buy them and raise them who should know better.

A happy pit bull, a socialized pit bull, a pit bull raised in a positive, healthy, environment, can be as harmless as a kitty cat.

But when you add negative catalysts, like hostility, cruelty and ignorance to the equation; the kitty cat turns into the Tasmanian devil.

I have investigated my fair share of dog attacks.
I’d say as far as breed attacks go, in my experience; it’s a 60/40 split. Meaning: 60% of the time a pit bull is involved, the other 40% it’s another breed. A Lab… a Rottweiler… a mixed breed tied up outside a supermarket that bites a hand that reaches out to say hello.

Last month, a Lab mix bolted half way out of an open car window window at a gas station and tore of the bottom half off my client's ear. The client was a gas station attendant and the woman driving the car with the dog in it fled the scene. She was followed by witnesses who got her plate.

Last year, a pit bull escaped from its yard while another of our clients, a mailman, was on his rounds. The mailman was bitten twice before he beat the dog off with an expandable baton he carried with him. When the mailman saw the dog heading toward a young kid heading towards the scene, the mailman shouted and raced towards the dog to draw his attention away from the child. The mailman put himself between the dog and the kid. And then the mailman took another dog bite.

Someone called 911. The police arrived. The ambulance. Then animal control. The pit bull was taken away and then its life was taken away.

And the mailman, my client, was one more unsung hero living with a traumatic memory he can’t erase.

A few years before that was my most memorable dog attack case.

Our client was a minor, four years old, mauled by a one-year-old pit bull.

The owner of the dog was a 17 year old female gang-banger from Everett, a city north of Seattle. She saw someone selling pit bull puppies outside the supermarket. She fell in love with one.

She named the pit bull puppy “Killer”, blew pot and tobacco smoke in its face. And she fed Killer gunpowder, the same additive fight-dog owners use to make their dogs more vicious and crazy.

The girl and her gang hung out in a park most people from the neighborhood avoided after dark. When people she didn’t like would walk by, she would say, “Killer, Kill!” then laugh with glee when her dog would, bark and yank at the leash, and her target would run.

You’d think the 17 year old, being a minor, might have a parent who had a clue what she was doing to the dog. But Mom was dead from an overdose for 5 years now, and dad was too high to notice.

So one sunny northwest Saturday, this girl took her dog for a walk in a nearby neighborhood full of playing children.

One mother, who knew of the dog and the girl’s gang involvement, looked out the window and saw the girl with the dog. She opened her front door and yelled for the girl to take the dog out of the neighborhood. The woman had her son, a 4-year-old boy tucked protectively behind her, just inside the doorway of the house.

The woman shouting at the girl set off a chain reaction. The pit bull turned to the woman yelling at its master. The pit bull pulled, and then broke its leash. It ran directly for the woman, then past her, to the four-year-old boy hiding behind his mother, inside the house. The dog opened wide and bit the boy in the skull, face and neck, just missing his jugular.

Mass hysteria ensued. Ultimately and miraculously, the dog and boy were separated. The boy was airlifted to Harborview. The dog was taken away and quarantined while the police and Animal Control investigated. Because the dog didn’t have its shots, the boy got a series of painful ones.

I interviewed everyone involved in this case, everyone except the girl and her father.

I photographed the little boy’s long, jagged, red-stitched rips and tears. They were ugly, angry and life altering. I talked to the little boy’s mother, all the witnesses, and the police.

Writing this now, it is the exasperation on the police officer's face I recall most vividly.

I asked him about the girl who owned the dog and the father who was supposed to parent her. The officer said the father raised her daughter the way the daughter raised the dog. As an object, not a living, loving creature with potential.

The father got his daughter high; the daughter got the dog high. Like the dog, the daughter didn’t stand a chance in the environment she was raised in.

“She intended to use that dog as a killing machine from day one,” the police officer said. “The dog was doomed by a little girl who was doomed by her parents.”

Time has passed as it always does and this story would have faded away were it not posted here. The update is this:

“Killer” was executed.
The girl has grown a few years older. Maybe she’s grown wiser...
more likely, she’s grown meaner.
Last I heard, her father went to prison. That’s when she went to the streets of Seattle, which can be as mean as the pit bull she raised.

And the little boy is growing up. His scars have faded, the memory hasn't and won't. His mother said he won't go near dogs and he's terrified of the dark.

No one wins in cases like this.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Background On Background Investigations

I'm no longer surprised when someone calls and asks me to do a background on themselves. I use to be perplexed, why pay me to do what you already know?

Then I learned some people applying for jobs want to know what their prospective employer could know.

And now, human resources companies all across the country are running checks of on line backgrounds. They're using hot sites to track you down like Spokeo,(there's a link on this page)

Other people with a rough past and worry whether sealed juvenile records, or other court records, can resurface and/or ruin them.

Some people want to know if an estranged partner or an identity thief is using their social security number or credit information.

In this age of instant access to public records and countless payable private database, all the information is out there. Much of the information is available free on the net. Even more is available through paid databases. It's just a matter of knowing where to look. And what you're allowed to look at.

There are many databases only licensed investigators and attorneys can access.In exchange for a per search or monthly fee we can access information not available elsewhere. Some of the information we get is reliable, some is not. That's why a good investigator checks, re-checks and cross-references information gathered.

However, all of the information I find, or you find, is covered by federal and state privacy laws. So if you get information on someone you're not allowed to have, you can and will be sued for invasion of privacy.

That's why when you work with an investigator, its important to get one who's licensed in their state, one who knows and respects those laws.

Anyone can put up a storefront. Anyone can call themselves an investigator. But only a reputable, state licensed investigator has your back. When you get paid to investigate you put your license and your client's case, on the line when you cross the line.

The challenge is maintaining the difficult and delicate balance between the public right to privacy and the public's right to know. If private investigators are legislated out of our ability to probe into a person's past, the public could be at great risk.

A retailer has the right to know if a potential employee has a record of theft.
A daycare owner has a right to know if a potential employee is a sex offender. The mother hiring a day care, or nanny, needs to know where a childcare provider is coming from. A business has a right to know who they're doing business with. And vice versa.

The first question I ask a client when they ask for a background is why? Then what will you do the information. If those two answers to not fall within ethical and legal parameters, I don't take the case.

There are databases you can use today for reliable free public records information.
One of my favorites is PublicRecords.OnlineSearches. Try it see the vast array of info you can find on yourself.

Remember, all information public record databases provide is believed by them to be reliable. However accuracy is never guaranteed. Some databases are not updated daily, others weekly, monthly, some not at all. And because data entry is a big part of the process and humans make mistakes entering info into databases, some databases are completely unreliable. In the days ahead, I'll provide more links and information about searches you can investigate for yourself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Love Triangle - written on surveillance

Two sides
against the middle.
Rome burns
while lovers fiddle.

Two feed
on one's contempt.
Everyone burns
until the fire is spent.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Case Notes: Dead Meth Head

Dead Meth Head

There is video of the police officers approaching the parked Cadillac under the streetlight.

There is footage of the police officers discussing how to get into the trunk.

The camera holds, then someone enters frame with a crowbar and the officers do something to the lock that you can’t see because they block the camera’s view with their bodies.

There is footage of them opening the Cadillac trunk. And then everything stops for a few heartbeats while the officers fathom individually what they are collectively seeing.

Within seconds, all heads move forward, then shoulders hunch as upper bodies move towards the car’s trunk in the synchronistic dance cops do when taking a closer collective look on a crime scene.

What the video doesn’t have is sound.
So you can’t hear them discussing what they found.
What you see is the camera zooming in on a foot dangling out the carpet with a Nike shoe on it.

They found Jess.
He was 24 years old, wrapped in plastic and stuffed in the truck of old Cadillac. And though nearly a year dead, he was my new client. His two sisters hired me to bring Jason’s true killers to justice.

The thing is, the policed knew who killed Jess. It was his best friend and Co-Meth Head Dave

He was the first and final suspect for two reasons:

First, Dave owned the Cadillac Jess’s corpse was in.

Second, the night Jess’s body was found, Dave called a few neighbors for help loading something in his trunk. Only one, Willie, offered to help. Willie later said he was afraid of Dave so he figured he’d help Dave do his thing then just get home and be done with it.

As they entered the garaged and loaded what appeared to be a rolled up carpet into the corner onto a dolly, neither man said a word.

When they got to the Cadillac trunk, Dave opened the truck and the two men hoisted the carpet in the truck. It was heavy and gave Willie the willies, he said.

As they were maneuvering the carpet, to get the last of the carpet roll in the car trunk, Willie noticed some of the plastic fall out of the carpet’s hole hole. Through the plastic he could see what looked like a shoe. Willie looked closer and saw flesh above the shoe line.

Willie said, at that point, he was done.

He turned on his heels and walked away from his car without a word; went across the street to his house and called 911. Willie told the operator he thought his neighbor Dave just put a body in the trunk of car.

911 asked Willie how he knew this.

Willie said because he helped Dave load something in the trunk of the car and didn’t realize it was a body until he saw
What he thinks was a human foot with a shoe on it.

That’s what brought police to the rear of the Cadillac that cold winter night when they found Jess, wrapped in plastic and carpet in the trunk turned tomb

By the time the SWAT team arrived to bring Dave, Jess’s alleged killer into custody, they discovered justice was already self-inflicted with a gunshot wound by Dave to his own head.

Seems Dave was hiding out in his neighbor’s house when police were struggling to offload Jason’s body from the trunk of his Cadillac to the waiting Coroner’s van.

It was 30 degrees outside. A layer of snow was on the ground; the carpet, which was jammed into the truck, was frozen and stuck to 3 of the trunk’s interior walls.

Dave watched from his neighbor’s window as investigators struggled with the massive carpet roll, which didn’t come out as easily as it went in.

I look at the timer on the video I am watching of this process. It took 15 minutes to get the body out of the car.

During those 15 minutes the neighbor whose house he was in has had no clue what was going down. The neighbor was a single woman in her late 70’s. Dave occasionally stopped by to watch TV with the lady at night.

The SWAT team got the old lady safely out of the house.
That’s when they found Dave on her living room floor.
They called it suicide.

And that’s precisely what it was.
Because Dave knew the police knew he was the one who killed Jess, so Dave chose the quickest way out.

He put a gun he always carried to the right temple of his head, pulled the trigger and blew blood and brain matter out the hole in his skull the bullet created; splattering the stuff all over the old lady’s pink shag carpet and up the ruffle of her vintage floral sofa.

I study the crime scene, the blood and grey stuff that flowed out of Dave’s head wound. The gun he shot himself with lays next to his hand.

What a mess the crime scene is, I recall thinking.
I wondered if -- and how -- the old lady ever got Dave out of her floor.

It seemed simple enough, a police officer told me.

One Meth Head kills another Meth Head. Happens all the time. Meth makes people crazy, intensely paranoid, and violent. All their crimes are over the top, showing an excess of violence.

Both Jess and Dave showed high levels of Meth, alcohol and other drugs in their system. They were known Meth users and occasional dealers. Case closed, the police said.

Jess’s sisters, however, felt differently. They didn’t believe Dave was a Jess’s only killer.

Because, the sisters explained, when Jess’s body was brought back to the Medical Examiner’s office and the plastic was unwrapped, six separate gunshot wounds were found on Jess’s body. And Jess was beaten heavily about the face with multiple blunt force hits to his body.

His sisters believed more than one person had to have done this to him. They believed Dave by himself could not have shot, pummeled, then wrapped their brother in plastic.

They were friends, the sisters said. They bought and shot Meth together. It had to be the combined efforts of many Meth Heads the sisters said.

They hired me to find those people.
I brought in an attorney.
We re-opened the case and investigated for months.

We met with the Investigating officers. We re-examined the scene evidence in a police evidence warehouse on the edge of Seattle. Ads I write this, I still smell the blood-soaked plastic and the stench of the shoes as they evidence was reopened and photographed for the private investigation.

We talked to Meth Heads, visited scenes, reviewed witness statements, and talked to neighbors. And we came up with the answer the family didn’t want to hear

Jess, their brother, with high levels of Meth in his system, kicked in the door of his friend Dave’s house in to collect money. Jess’s footprint was on the door. Jess told a witness he was going to Dave’s to collect some money Dave owed him from a Meth buy.

Kicking down Dave’s door was the first blow. Dave responded. Bigger than Jess by almost a foot, a violent fight ensued. Jess was shot, pummeled, shot some more until he was dead. During a neighborhood canvas, some neighbors report hearing gunfire that night.

Dave cleared out his living room; dragged plastic from the garage and wrapped his former and now dead, best friend in plastic sealed with duct tape.

Then Dave rolled the plastic-wrapped corpse in the living room rug.

He got the hand truck from the garage, hauled the carpet on the hand-truck by himself; rolled the hand-truck through the back entrance to the garage and stood the whole rug package up a corner against the garage wall.

Some time passed as Dave cleaned his living room and left all his supplies in a corner. Close to midnight, Dave decided to move the body from the garage to his Cadillac. He called a couple of neighbors for an assist until Willie agreed.

Dave was an auto body rebuild guy. The plastic, the duct tape, the carpet was his. So were the bullets in Jess’s body.
Yes there were still questions, there always are. But we had more evidence to support the fact that Dave killed Jess. There were no indications of anyone else on the scene.

And nothing we did would change that fact or bring Jess back.

The sisters, unwilling to accept the truth they wanted to hear, berated the police. They said the police investigation was tainted, biased and limited. They called the detective’s superiors; a second investigation was opened, then closed, as the seconds police investigation confirmed what the first one did.

They hired, and then fired, their first private investigator.

Then they hired and ultimately fired me when I came to the same conclusion.

Being fired didn’t affect me. My investigation was done and the truth is the truth. Even when you don’t want to hear it.

They never heard it.

Last thing one of the sisters said to me, her parting words were, “To hell with you P.I.’s and police, I’m handling the case myself.”

It was and still is, I believe, her unique and futile way of keeping her dead brother’s memory alive.

The two sisters wear solid gold orbs on their neck holographed with Jess’s image. They speak of him like a revered deity. And they speak of all the investigators on the case, the police; the first P.I.; and then me, as fools.

I walked away and still look back.

Because every now and then, another Meth Head shows up wrapped in plastic. It’s usually the Meth Heads that do it.

I guess that’s why the police call it, “population control.”


Battered Boy

He was born of mother
Who couldn’t love another.
She looked smart.
She seemed bright.
She just didn’t know
how to love someone right.
She controlled his days,
darkened his nights.
He knew no freedom,
he had no rights.
She was a mother,
who was no longer a wife.
And he was the cement
chained to her life.

He was her property,
so she claimed.
Then she set out to
extinguish his flame.
She filled his head
with fear
and shame.
He had a voice,
he had a name.
But when he cried out,
no one came.

And so he grew,
under her shell.
Which was for him,
A living hell.
Where demons dwell
in venom wells.

Baby Boy grew up
and learned to walk.
Things got worse,
When he started to talk.
When he would speak,
She would squawk,
“Speak of me,
not of yourself.
And if you’re not good
You go back on the shelf.”
Which over the years
Became a theme.
She’s being nice,
She’s being mean.
Either way he wasn’t keen
on himself.

Inside, he was an ugly elf,
lost in the woods.
In his teens,
he wore hoods,
To hide his head
From her verbal blows.
Her cackling,
Her crows.
Her endless flows…
of molten lava,
his burning toes.
His blood boils,
he can not win.
He felt his birth
Was his original sin.

The boy grew up,
became a man.
Which is a wonder really,
that anyone can
escape the bonds of another so wrong,
who sings her daily, “woe is me song.”
She said she loved him,
then beat him down.
As he grew older
He thought he’d drown.

She pulled him down with
Words and threats
She spanked, then beat him
To collect her debts.
She sent him to juvie
and the nut house,
where others told him,
he’s not the louse.
It’s her… all her
And her dark evil house.

He walked through our door,
he'd grown into a man
I reached out to take his hand.
He met my eyes
I saw no lies.
And I think he saw
Some one wise.
So he told me the story
Of his horrible life.
Of the mother who
Traded his love
for strife.
And a father who was never there
because of voices in his head only he could hear.

He’s 25 years old now
and survived her wrath.
He’s wounded and tarnished,
he’s been bashed.
And because of her,
he doesn’t trust
that other woman
won’t make him rust.

I say to him,
“Look ahead.
The past has passed.
It’s back in bed.
You are awake,
You walk the earth.
It’s not your fault
that she gave birth.”

These children live
in private hells,
where demons rant
and panic dwells.
And if they find
their way out,
they’re never free
they’re filled with doubt.

Sometimes they turn to other men,
who’ve been where they are and
Its safe to be friends.
And women are just,
a means to an end.

When we hugged goodbye,
I let him know
He’s brave,
He’s strong,
He has time to grow.
I showed him that all women aren't bad.
Not all are filled with pain,
sorrow, or mad.

I hope he reads these words one day
So he knows that I heard him,
That quiet spring day.
We all have our pain and torment to to bear
But this was too much…
For one who’s so dear.