Sunday, May 31, 2009


Friday Night: Soldiers' vs. DUI

Friday, I was winding down for good about midnight. The call came in at 12:25 am from an attorney who wanted me to call two soldiers from Fort Lewis right away -- husband and wife -- who were rear-ended by a truck. I spoke to the wife, she was the passenger in the car they just bought. They were hit by a guy who they described as impaired. They don't know if he was drunk, slow, heavily medicated or what.

The soldier's wife called 911 three times. The 911 operator said they would not come unless ambulances were required.

No one was bleeding, the DEF accepted liability, they exchanged information. And just to be sure, the wife/soldier called her Sargent and he came to the scene to witness the Defendant's impaired behavior. All the cars were totaled, including the pick-up truck they were rear-ended by.

One thing an accident investigator quickly learns is this: when the vehicles are totaled, the people in the vehicles are likely totaled. The people are totaled physically, psychologically, financially, any or all of the above.

What impact does to steel (which is tens of thousands of pounds stronger than flesh, bone, muscles, sinew, spinal column, discs) produces the same effects in the human body.
The soldiers just got out of the ER when I spoke to them. They had ruptured discs, torn muscles, their health, healing and military careers are uncertain.

The irony, the wife/soldier said, is the two had just returned from Iraq, they were out having dinner on their first date back home.

What has them so upset, she said, besides their extensive physical injuries which jeopardize their future in the military...
besides the damage to their brand new car...
besides the obvious impairment of the defendant...
besides the fact the police wouldn't come to the scene....
besides all that...
what has them MOST upset is the fact that the insurance company of the Defendant (the person who hit them)... and the insurance company of the soldiers is the SAME company!

The injured female soldier said that makes no sense, isn't there something wrong with the Defendant being represented by the same insurance company as the victim?
I tell her yes, in my opinion, it is a conflict of interest. And it happens all the time. I tell her in the old days some attorneys wouldn't take on such cases. Now it happens all the time...
whether it's Allstate vs. Allstate, Farmers vs. Farmers; Geico vs. Geico; Hartford vs. Hartford: or USAA vs USAA.

She asks a lot more questions because her adrenalin is flowing. Since we're closing in on 1:00 am and my adrenalin is all used up, I tell her I will answer her questions and ask a few more of her when we meet. I schedule an appointment a few days into the week to give the law firm time to review the case and see if it's a go. I email notes of the call to the law firm, then do the wisest thing possible. I sleep.

Saturday : Pregnant Woman vs. Septic Tank

7:00 am. Phone rings. This case is a "premises case" which is a case that happened in a certain place, or premise.

The potential clients called the lawyers from the neo-natal unit of a hospital where the victim was being treated. The lawyers called me because this is what they consider a mission critical case.

The clients, male and female fiancees, are having a baby. She is nine months pregnant. It is their first. She was injured by a fall and she may now lose the baby.

The couple were staying in their aunt's trailer in a trailer park. The trailer park manager was working on and in a manhole draining a septic tank which was about 10 feet from the aunt's trailer. He had the manhole cover off the manhole, the cover was beside and to the left of the open manhole.

He also had a piece of what was described as a carpet or mat he normally covers the hole with when it's closed to keep the stink of the septic tank at a minimum. That mat was laying on the grass near the manhole cover.

He told one witness he had to leave the scene briefly to make a phone call. Instead of putting the manhole cover back on the open septic tank hole, he left the septic tank hole open, and inexplicably covered it with the mat, which was described to me as a brown thick carpet or rug that was kind of like astro turf.

At the very moment the manager left the septic tank cover open with the mat on it... and walked away to make his phone call.... the 9-month pregnant woman exited her aunt's trailer with her husband to take their dog for a walk. The woman's right foot caught the edge of the mat on the open manhole cover, her right leg fell into the septic tank, scraped down it's concrete side, and her was cut and covered with human and other septic waste. Then her upper body tipped forward until she slammed her 9-month pregnant tummy hard on the manhole cover. Immediately she felt a sharp pain in her tummy and the baby stopped moving.

She was rushed via ambulance to the ER, then neo natal. The baby's health is in question. So is mom's... because when her right leg fell in the septic tank, mom got cuts and scrapes and got sewage in them. There were witnesses present, photos were taken of the open manhole cover and now the properly covered manhole cover. There were more than five witnesses, including the pregnant woman's husband and two men who pulled her out of the septic tank. In addition, two of the paramedics almost fell into the open septic hole and they weren't happy.

No one is sure how the baby is doing. The woman is seriously p.o.'ed and I am hoping the trailer park has insurance to pay for any damages they caused to the woman, the baby

I ask the woman to get me a few things -- the managers name; the rental agreement of her aunt's trailer; the name of the owner of the trailer park. I email the attorneys so they can review the case.
Then I get back to the Saturday that hasn't begun yet.

Sunday A.M.: The Oyster Heist

Today I discover the company a group of my neighbors have hired to harvest oysters off their section of the beach, are a bunch of crooks. Let me clarify. The neighbors aren't the crooks, the company they hired to harvest the oysters are crooks.

I have been suspect of the oyster harvesters since the day they arrived a week or two ago. They promised my neighbors vast sums of money for 70% of the oysters. And if they agree to a 3 year contract, they will get three years of harvesting plus oysters seeding.

Moose and I have oysters on our beach, hundreds if not thousands of them. Port Gamble Bay is among the most clean and remote areas on Hood Canal /Puget sound waters. Every morning and night I walk my dogs along the beach and if the tide is low the oysters are with me.

Something didn't seem right about the oyster harvesting crews. My first encounter with the well organized group of oyster harvesters, left me merely suspicious... though everything seemed legitimate. There were plenty of oysters and the neighbors who owned the tidal rights and the oysters on the land they owned had a right to sell them. They were told they'd get 75 cents a pound and thousands of dollars for property taxes or roads.

The epiphany came this morning, on my walk with the dogs, when I passsed the bags of oysters than had been bound for days now at the water's edge. Two days ago, one worker said they were going to NY. The other said CA. In three days they'd gone nowehere.The oysters were living, breathe creatures confined to steel prisons, croded by the donzens into bags of blue plastic nets sealed with sip ties.

I began talking to neighbors on this Sunday, figured out who the oyster harvesting company is, investigated them, and found out they are scumbags, cheats, liars, thieves and convicted criminals who have not only defrauded people out of thousands of dollars; they have also depleted oyster beds all around the Puget Sounds. They promised people thousands of dollars for their oysters and the people get nothing but empty beds.

I print a few copies of the info I found on the web, and hand deliver it to the neighbors who are home and doing business with the oyster company, or planning to do so. I ask them to notify other people. Tomorrow the Kitsap County Sheriff, the Fish and Wildlife Dept. will also be notified.

If we're lucky the oyster hoist has been stopped in its tracks.
The challenge for me tonight is not creeping out into the evening with my flashlight, scuba knife, and cutting the netting... letting all the oysters go.
However, this is now for the police, the Fish and Wildlife Department, the Health Department and the neighbors who now have the info.... and the oysters.... under their watchful eyes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


So.... I am getting emails from people with P.I. questions.
I figured this question/anser thing might be an interesting way to keep helping... and keep posting... on days I'm out working cases and scenes. I've deleted names and contact info from the emails for obvious privacy reasons.
If you have a question to ask and you can figure out how to ask it here, (which i can't because I am trully technically dyslexic) email me or friend me on Facebook.
Hi Susan,
I received your email information from Mark. W. First, thank you for offering to assist.
I am interested in learning some basics about background checks. I am planning on leasing a residential property out for some extra income. A friend of mine suggested that I do a background check on the potential renters. My questions are:
· H How can I go about doing this in a cost effective way?
· Is Is it legal for me to conduct background checks provided that I obtain the potential renters’ consent to do so?
Thank you.
Hi Kelly!

I am getting this question a lot.
It is legal for you to conduct a background check provided you follow your individual state and federal laws. You just have to do backgrounds the right way... within legal parameters... or you can and will be sued in a court of law.

Yes, you will need the renter's consent to run a a background.
Lots of people run backgrounds everyday without consent, but those are not the same kinds of backgrounds which you are doing. Yours is related to a business, in which you have a fiduciary interest. You also have a legal obligation to comply with federal and state public disclosure and privacy laws.

You will obviously need need a rental application from the person your are leasing/renting to. Your will need a release/signature/letter that allows you to do the background and credit check. check.
You will need someone to call previous landlords and references. You will need someone savvy to do that because drawing information out of people can be tricky.
You will need a credit report, and you will definitely need a release for that or the Feds will get you.

In WA State, Investigators have to get a released signed by the person we are running the report on; authorizing the release of his own report and specifically naming the Investigator.

I am not sure how you'd do it exactl... you being a non-Investigator, non-Realtor type, who can legally access the credit report part.

I have heard cases where you have the renter run the report for you. I think there are companies that provide those services for realtors. You can call a local property management firm and pick their brains and they'll give up all the info for free if you are nice enough to them.

You will need to know bad guys and bad girls lie. Big time.
And good people hit hard times. People all over are losing their homes, if you judge them on their good character, need and reference, despite their bad credit, you could be bringing a wonderful, caring family into your home... and your karma could be rewarded.
Or not.
Like mine, your job is a blend of data and deduction.

Re: the bad people -- On their apps, they could say they lived here and here and there...
and they will omit the "there" part where they have some criminal/sex offense charge. There is no one national database that will list national criminal charges unless you work for the FBO, government or police agencies. You have to go yourself, physically, or via cyber-surfing, from state to state...and county to county.... and if you miss a key county or charge, you could ultimately be liable for any illegal activity your renter commits on your property.

A good friend of mine was torn between hiring a leasing company to do this for him, doing it himself, or hiring an investigator. He decided to call a property management company and I haven't heard from him since. So, I suspect he found his answers.

Hope some of this helps!!!!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Granny Gives It Up

Got lucky today. Figured out a way to get a protective granny to give up information on her adult grandson who is in hiding. The grandson did a very bad thing and needs to be served a subpeona before the statue of limitations runs out. We had just 24 hours left, two process serving companies couldn't find him.

I woke up this a.m. with a pre-text epiphany and gave grannie a call. Sure enough, I got her grandson's phone number out of a relcuatnt lips which i imagined were quivering. And got her to confirm the address I thought he could be at.

It's always like highest of highs for a P.I. to find that missing person Did that little hamster dance thing. Then called the attorney, who did same.

Now they are hoping to find a P.I. or server where the grandson lives (Bumfruck, Egypt) so they don't have to pay me for the four hours of round-trip drive time it would take to get to his place, knock on his door and hand him his subpeona. IF he was home.

I like serving supbeonas. Some people run at those moments, right after they I.D. the subject and serve him. To me, the whole thing's a rush. And at the end, the point where the papers leave my hand and enter the subject's, I usually a stick around for a moment or two while the shock sinks in on the subject's part. Those are the moment I breathe in for some odd, clearly jaded reason. And I often add a witty, compassionate, or wry comment depending on how their response goes.

Time now to leave the keyboard, get in the car and cross the water via car ferry to teach my class on investigation at UW. Tonight we have a guest speaker, a death investigator who runs his own private forensic inestigation agency. His company had independant medical examiners, who do autopsies, helped ID bodies, work places like Katrina, disaster zones. He has one case study I have heard many times and it still blows me away. I watch my students watching him and they are focused on him and his every word the full three hours.

Life is good and never dull when you pursue your passion.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Update: Newlyweds who fought at Holiday Inn accept plea deal

The sobbing bride told the judge: "I'm in jail in my wedding gown after being beaten and humiliated. I'm all over the world in the news, and I think that's punishment enough." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Woozy airplane passenger tries to bite flight attendant's leg

The incoherent and disruptive female passenger was apparently woozy from a combination of pills, alcohol and lavatory hand soap. When she's not under the influence, the woman is "a very intelligent, charming woman," says her lawyer.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Drew Peterson down for the count.

One more manic off the streets.

I am convinced Drew Peterson is a psychopath, sociopath and narcissist. Add compulsive liar to the equation and you’ve got one of those people who believe their own lies.
Try as I might to always be objective, to bring no preconceived notions to a case; sometimes this inner voice speaks to me. It can be a whisper, or a scream. In Peterson’s case, it was a scream.
Call it instinct, psychic message, delusional, gut instinct… it’s nameless to me. It’s just a voice that guides me on my investigations and says… Look here. Try this. Re-frame the picture.
Look again. And again. And look once more.
That same voice has been screaming to me about Peterson’s guilt and the danger his current young girlfriend is in.
At last, he is under arrest for at least one murder. He’s behind cold, steel, unkind bars. And a cop arrested is not in best standing among fellow inmates. There is a prurient pleasure is pondering his fate.
I watch his Perp walk and he appears to revel in it.
His snide smile and sassy comments shine the spotlight on how delusional he truly is.
His defense attorney contends this is cocky attitude is Peterson’s form of coping mechanism. I contend the guy is more than a few beers shy of a six-pack.
Peterson was a police officer. Wife three is dead. His fourth wife is missing. Still, he’s ready to marry wife five.
He was also in the process of negotiating a deal for a reality show in a whore house.
Now, tonight, he is in finally in the big house.
For that on this Saturday evening... one big amen.