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.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Financial Fraudsters

To look at her, you'd think she was someone's elderly aunt, maybe even grandmother.

She was married to a short, stout man who drove her work every morning and picked her up every night. They had no children. It was just the two of them.
They lived their lives like proverbial clockwork.

He was on disability due to an industrial accident that left him unable to work, yet able to drive.
At 8:45 every morning, he dropped her off in the parking lot, watched her walk in the door, then drove back home.
At 4:45 pm every day, he was back in the parking lot.
He always arrived 15 minutes early and listened to the car radio while he waited.
Then she exited the building, walked to the passenger door, opened it, leaned over and kissed him on his right cheek. Always the same thing every day.

She never seemed to change. She always wore flowered shirts, cardigan sweaters, long pleated skirts, dark nylon stockings and black Mary Jane's with a 1" square heel. She was the "loving old lady" out of central casting... with short silver curly hair, chubby pink cheeks and an ever present smile.

She brought plates of homemade cookies to work, decorations for the holidays and she gave extravagant gifts to co-workers, friends and her only living relatives, her sister and husband.

She was the book keeper for a company that manufactured metal parts.
She'd been there every day since it was started by two brothers -- nearly 35 years earlier. It had grown to more than 50 employees.
Day after day, she quietly came and went... cooking the cookies... and the books.

And what a secret chef she was!
No one realized she'd been skimming off the top for 20 of her 35 years with the company.
It wasn't until an IRS audit that the deception revealed itself.

She'd stolen more than $450,000 from the company and spent every cent of it.
Some money went to the little sun porch and swimming pool she added to the back of her house.
Some went to the Ethan Allen furniture she bought for her humble 2 bedroom ranch house with the sun porch and swimming pool out back.
Some went to the elaborate gifts she bought co-workers, family members and friends.
What was left went into the slot machines at a casino not too far from her home.
None of it went where it should have. To the IRS.

My family was the recipient of two of her gifts more than a decade and a half before her fraud was uncovered.
At that time, she was just the kind, elderly lady with a big heart and evidently, big budget.
I remember I looked at the expensive gifts she'd mailed across the country to us with the price tags still on them --- and thought it odd -- not only that she would send such expensive gifts to the family of one of her co-workers; but that she would want us to know what those gifts cost.
I wrote a thank you letter about her excessive kindness and noted her unnecessary, appreciated expense.

Then, years... states... lives.... parted.
And it wasn't until almost 16 years later that the IRS investigation uncovered her financial fraud. The money she was supposed to be paying them and others went into her pocket book.

I was shocked when I was told of her skimming, scamming and sentencing.
She was arrested, tried, got three years in jail and ordered to pay restitution on every cent she stole.

Her excuse was the one almost every one like her uses.
"I only meant to do it once and then pay it back. Then I did it again, and again... and fully intended to pay it back. Soon I was in too deep."

She did the jail time, but never paid back a single penny.
Instead, she and her husband declared bankruptcy, left the state and moved into a fifth wheel parked on her sister's property where they remain to this day.

Because of her actions and the unpaid taxes, the company she worked for also had to declare bankruptcy.
They closed their doors shortly after her conviction.
That, of course, meant all the employees who worked at the company also had nowhere to work.
Which mean their families also suffered.

The gifts she had given my family had long ago been given to others in our life travels.
No way to get them or give them back.
I am still bothered though, to this day, by how easily I accepted the expensive gifts without a clue where they really came from.

The effects of financial fraud are similar to the effects of a pebble tossed into a still pond.
When the pebble impacts, there's a ripple effect that causes individual rings to form from the center outwards.
With fraud, each ring represents lives affected and often ruined by the perpetrator of that fraud.

Who commits financial fraud?
Could be Bernie Madeoff or the kindly old lady accountant.
Could be the guy or girl you met on the net.
Could be someone you never met.
Could be an employee or your twin sister or your brother.
Could be the house cleaners you had for years who suddenly left town with a pile of cash you thought was secreted away.
Could be the house sitter you hired who got your mail and your ID.
Could be someone who targeted you -- just because you have money and they don't.

A few years back I worked a case for a friend whose ex-girlfriend stole his checks and wrote $40,000 worth -- the entire contents of his checking account --- while he was overseas for four months.
Because he discovered the crime at the four-month mark, the statute of limitations to contest a claim had expired according to his bank. He had three months to report such a crime and he'd get his money at back.
At month four he was just too late.
The best we could do was get her charged criminally, indicted and convicted on more than 30 counts of theft.
She too got jail time and restitution my friend will never see.

Today I talked with a friend whose sister was recently taken for 16k by a guy she barely knew and invited into her home.

And a few weeks ago I was contacted by another friend who believes our mutual wealthy elderly friend is being defrauded and targeted by his new younger and materialistic wife. We both think she will sooner or later try to kill him for his life insurance money once she's gone through all his assets and cash. She has literally shut the door to our friendship with him and keeps his family away.

I could write paragraphs about the financial frauds I have investigated or been privy to over the many years I've been at this business.
Suffice to say.... what I have learned from each and everyone of them is this:
Watch your assets. And tell others you care about to watch theirs.

In these hard economic times "everyone" is what fraudsters consider "fair game."
Even you.
If you need a Private Investigator who is also a Forensic Accountant, just click on the title of this blog. It will take you to the website of my friend and favorite in the field, Mark Wilson who calls himself the "Forensic Bean Counter."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Betty's Descent

Betty told me her only child... her beloved son.... 17 years old, was a passenger in a car that was going 120 mph when it hit three trees.
Evidently, the vehicle missed a curve, went airborn and bounced from tree to tree until the third tree stopped it.
Betty's son got 135 staples in his head and a massive brain injury.
He broke his neck, his right collar bone, three of his right ribs, broke two bones in his leg and a bunch of small bones in his ankle. His spinal column was in bad shape too. It took the Jaws of Life to release him. He would be confined to wheelchair for life.

There was no auto insurance for the car he was in, she said.
Betty's own auto insurance had lapsed months earlier.

The kid driving the car died. His parents lived in a mobile home, paycheck to paycheck.
There was no money to go after, Betty said.
Her son was now in a "special home."

Betty told me this was just of a string of "unfortunate episodes" in her life.

Right after her son's accident, her father died.

Two months after that, her mother had a stroke.

Between the the family chaos and the stress resulting from it,
"I snapped," Betty said.

She started taking more and more of the Xanax the doctor prescribed to help her sleep and to stave off her panic attacks.
Then she moved to Ritalin to "keep me moving because its balances out the Xanax."
And when she fell off her chair and hit her back while drunk, the doctor prescribed painkillers.
She topped off her chemical cocktail with a vodka chaser... or two... or three.
Starting with breakfast, ending with a shot before bed.

Then one day, she decided to go somewhere, she could not recall.
She got into her SUV, which she also could not recall.
Nor did she recall turning her SUV into a missile that took out a parked car and a city street light.
Fortunately, the only person she took out was herself.
Arrested at the scene, a DWI, hospitalizations, surgeries, and jail time brought her back to her senses, she said.

Until... Betty's husband left her and moved on to a younger woman.

Then she lost her job, her health insurance and her home.

She told me all this for no reason, except to tell someone -- because we both know no one can change the past.
We either linger on the past or dwell in it...
attempt to bury it or "forgetaboutit"... and move on.

When I met with Betty she lived with her sister, slept on the living room sofa.
"I'm essentially homeless" Betty said without emotion. "I can tell my welcome is wearing thin."

Betty's grip on life grew even thinner since our first and last meeting.

One Saturday evening, the night before she was scheduled to leave her sister's and move into a shelter, she was alone in the house.

Betty decided she couldn't take the physical, emotional and financial pain any longer.
She took over 50 10mg. Xanax she'd collected, drank a whole bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold.
And just before she felt like she was going to pass out, she put a plastic bag on her head and sealed it with duct tape. (That's a use the duct tape originators never imagined, I am certain.)

Whoever "they" is... "they" say.... when we reach our ultimate limits, the break point where we can take no more, we either commit homicide or suicide.
I talked about that with another P.I. over lunch today.
We both agreed if we snapped we'd take ourselves out before we'd take anyone else out.

I got the whole story over the phone, about how Betty did herself in.
It consumed me for a while, her death.
Did I suspect she was suicidal when I met her?
Could I or anyone have stopped her?

Yet there is a lesson in this madness. And that would be this:

There is always, up until the very end, a choice.
And even when you think you've exhausted those choices, there are still other choices.
Had Betty told someone what she was thinking, things may have turned out differently.
Or not.

Bottom line is you never know how the story is going to end... unless you end it yourself.
Then, and only then, is all hope lost.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Playing The Part

Leroy Cook, my favorite "PI Pundit," wrote an excellent article called "A Private Investigator's Many Roles." In fact, I don't think I could've said it better myself. Which is why I'm posting it here.

Just click on the title of this post and it will get you to Pursuit Magazine and Leroy's article.

We Private Investigators learn our greatest lessons outside the classroom and on our own.
Like a child who learns not to touch a red hot burner by touching it that first time...
P.I.'s learn how to dodge bullets only after being fired at.
This business is truly one of trial by fire.

When we're doing a surveillance and we are seen by the subject, we call that "being burned."
I've been burned on a surveillance or two. Ok, maybe a few.

It's hard not to be seen, figured out, especially in this paranoid world.
Savvy investigators call the local police before staking out a certain area.
They let the police know who they are and why they are there just in case worried neighbors call in.
Yet, despite our best efforts, sometimes, things turn.
When we're burned, we call it it a day and drive away.
And maybe... come back the next day.... in a different car.

I especially like what my favorite PI Pundit has to say about how a good P.I. has to be a good actor. The roles we play are what get a reluctant subject or witness to talk. Or an overly anxious client who's flipping out... to stop, breathe and mellow out.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Big Bullies

We P.I.'s walk a fine line in our search for the truth and the means in which we express it.

There are always parameters to consider, boundaries to respect, borders to be drawn.
And within those confines... there are mountains to climb, hurdles to leap, boulders to move.
Private Investigation can be a very challenging business.

When a case comes in from someone I don't know.... asking me to find someone they have lost touch with... my first question is: "why?"

There's always a reason.
That reason will either be the truth or a lie.

"My first real boyfriend. "
"My long lost girlfriend."
"My father's brother."
"I'm big fan of his and want to mail him a letter."
"We lost touch so long ago."
"Childhood friends"
"I want to know if he or she is still alive."

My second question is "what will you do with that information?"
Then there is a third, and fourth question.
And finally, my declaration.

"If I find the person.... and there are no guarantees I will... I will give them a letter from you or a message from you. However, I will not give you their address, phone, location unless they want me to."

The locates, like the backgrounds, can be the bread and butter of many a P.I.'s business.
However, the butter can spoil and the bread can mold and you could be poisoned by your own case.

Find a woman hiding from an abusive or psychotic male and you may have murder on your hands.
Miss a couple of states in your background search and you've got a sex offender employed in an elementary school.
Violate someone's rights in a pre-employment search and you've got yourself a lawsuit.
That's why some P.I.'s back away from backgrounds and hide from locates.

There was a rumor going around among my fellow investigators many moons ago.
The rumor was the Department of Licensing was calling Investigators in a sort of "sting" -- to see if they would find information about a person and hand it over, without respecting the subject's privacy or rights.
I think the rumor was fact.
There is great need for caution because some clients can be dangerous to a P.I.'s professional health.

Case in point are the cases of P.I.'s directing stalkers to their victims.
Many are the horror stories of adopted children reunited with parents who turned out to parasites, or predators.
And there will always and forever be the darkest of the domestics... when love turned to hate.
Then hate tainted the mind... and what was once a sea of love, became a poisoned swamp.

Recently someone told me they were getting a "friendly divorce."
I said there was no such thing as a friendly divorce.
A divorce is war, any way you look at it.
It is never a coming together, it is always a tearing apart.

As the current economy continues to tank, we know what rises to the surface.
And a P.I. never really knows if the person hiring us is being real, or just tossing us a line.
While bad acts are good for business, they are bad for the planet.
The P.I.'s karmic quest is to balance the two.

In this investigator's opinion.... there are generations of little bullies who've grown into big bullies.
Many of them have found their way into influential positions that can make or break a person and their business.
Private Investigators see these big bullies all the time.
They are the subjects we pursue because they are pursuing our clients.

When we were kids, brawn beat brain.
As adults, brain beats brawn hands-down...
provided, you play your cards right.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Favorite True Crime Book Reviewer Is Back!

Yvette Kelly, who writes an amazing true crime book review blog I am shamelessly addicted to, was the victim of a crime and it's taken some time for her re-emerge. Check out her account and follow her blog. It's one thing to write about it others' stories, to investigate them. It's another thing to live through them. Here's her first hand account.

I'll be back later this eve with my own blog post about a guy I saw Friday night with a story to tell that surprised even this seasoned investigator. Need to write up a few cases first. So please check back.
Meantime I'm glad Yvette is back.
At least she thinks she is.
Recovery from crime takes a huge amount of time. And then, I wonder, do we ever really recover? Link below or on title to this post.
True Crime Book Reviews: I think I am back!!