Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

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Archive for the ‘Writing About PIs’ Category

Summer Surveillances: Lessons Learned

Posted by Writing PIs on July 13, 2017

Updated July 13, 2017: This article was originally written in July 2010 after one of the Writing PIs experienced heat exhaustion while conducting a daytime surveillance. At the time, we had conducted dozens of surveillances, many during the summer months. Both of us knew what precautions to take during summer surveillances, but nevertheless the heat took its toll on one of us while on an outdoor surveillance. As summer temperatures are rising, it’s more important than ever to caretake one’s health when outdoors.

Summer Surveillances

Every summer, the number of surveillances we conduct increases. We figure this is due to people being out and about more in the sunny weather, parents not being tied to their kids’ school schedules, people taking vacations, and so forth.

This past summer, we learned (or in some cases, re-valued) some lessons in conducting successful surveillances, which we’ll share in today’s post.

Lesson #1: An investigator needs to respect the heat! While conducting a days-long, grueling surveillance this summer, one of us had issues with heat exhaustion.  It was a strong reminder that any work conducted outdoors in the summertime means staying cool & staying hydrated.  Here’s a few ideas for staying cool: bringing ice packs along on the surveillance, picking shady spots to park in, ensuring there’s adequate ventilation, if appropriate running air conditioning (there’s also portable units investigators can purchase that help keep the inside of a vehicle cool), when possible taking breaks in air-conditioned buildings, wearing a rimmed hat and sunglasses.  Staying hydrated includes such safeguards as drinking water, Gatorade or fruit juices (not sodas or coffee!), as well as wearing loose-fitting and cool clothes.

Lesson #2: Mine your client for details. It’s funny how many people call and ask us to follow someone without any suggestions or knowledge about the subject’s schedule or habits.  Maybe in the movies a PI can jump into a car and follow someone for hours without any idea where that person typically goes that time of day, or is scheduled to go on that particular day, but it’s asking for failure in real-life surveillances.  It aids the surveillance significantly to have an idea where the person might be travelling, or if they have a set appointment (hair dresser, exercise club, therapist) for that day and time.  How does a PI find this information?  It’s critical to interview the client and ask about the subject’s habits, schedules, work routines, and so forth.  Sometimes we’ll work on an “on-call” basis with a client (he/she calls us when they have information where a subject will be that day–of course, this doesn’t mean we’re available at that particular time, but this is an understanding of the “on-call” approach).

Lesson #3: Stay in close touch with your PI partner.  We conducted multiple two-car mobile surveillances this summer, and we re-learned the value of staying in constant touch when we’re both “rolling.”  Before we drive through traffic following a vehicle, we’ll call each other on our cells, then leave that line of communication open as we drive.  We put our phones on speaker, set them on our laps, then talk to each other as we drive.  This way, we can immediately inform each other if the car is turning, if we’re playing “leap frog” with the vehicle, and so forth.  In the “old days” we used our two-way radios, which got problematic if we got out of the range of the signal (it also was difficult to be pressing the talk button at times while driving).

Note: In our state, any driver under 18 years of age is prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. The prohibition includes phone calls, text messaging, or similar forms of manual data entry and transmission. Adult drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone to text message, or send similar forms of transmission, while behind the wheel. Regular cell phone use for voice calls is permitted. Drivers of any age may use a wireless device in the case of an emergency.

Tips From Other Investigators

We’ve heard other investigators talk about using tinted windows, installing a roof vent in the vehicle, wearing canvas shoes, if possible working at night vs. the day, one even swore she remained cool with a bandana filled with ice wrapped around her neck (an interesting image!).

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use any of this material without written permission from the author. Unless an image is noted as being in the public domain, please do not copy or use any graphics/photos, thank you.

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International Women’s Day: Honoring Female Investigators

Posted by Writing PIs on March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s. On this day, thousands of events occur around the world to celebrate women and their accomplishments.

For International Women’s Day, I’m honoring several women PIs through articles written about them to radio shows hosted by them. This post isn’t meant to be all-inclusive by any means, just a cross-section of outstanding women investigators, including their fictional counterparts.

Radio Shows: New and Old

Below are two radio shows, one hosted by a contemporary female PI, the other about a old-time radio female private eye.

PI’s Declassified

California PI Francie Kohler hosts this weekly Internet radio show where she interviews private investigators and other professionals in associated fields. The show airs every Thursday at 9 a.m. Pacific Time: PI’s Declassified.

Old-Time Radio: Candy Matson Yukon 2-8209cover ebook 2000px longest side

This old-time radio show kicked off in 1949. Every show opened with a ringing telephone with a female answering, “Candy Matson, YU 2-8209,” after which the theme song “Candy” played. According to the Internet Archive, Old Time Radio (OTR) researchers view this radio show as the best of the female private eyes. It ran until 1951. Listen to single episodes here: Candy Matson YUkon 2-8209.

Articles About Real-Life Female Private Investigators

Possible sketch of Kate Warne, the first U.S. female PI

Possible sketch of Kate Warne, the first U.S. female PI

Below is a sampling of articles written about female PIs:

The First U.S. Female Private Eye: Kate Warne (The Zen Man)

Q&A: Norma Tillman–Right and Wrong (Pursuit Magazine)

What Does It Take to Be an International Private Eye (interview with international private investigator Yin Johnson and her husband Phil, via RC Bridgestock Blog)

The PI Wears Prada: One Woman’s Midlife Career Change (What’s Next)

What Is It Like Being a Female Private Investigator? (The Zen Man)

This Private Investigator is One of the Few Jersey Women Working as Sleuths (NJ.com)

Articles About Fictional Female Private Eyes

There are many entertaining female “eyes” in literature, going back to the mid 1800s.

Dangerous Dames: A Timeline of Some of the Significant Female Eyes (The Thrilling Detective – if you haven’t checked out The Thrilling Detective, you’re missing out on one of the most comprehensive and entertaining sites about fictional private eyes on the ‘net)

Female Private Eyes in Fiction: From Lady Detectives to Hard-Boiled Dames (by Guns, Gams & Gumshoes’s Colleen for Festivale magazine)

Did you know a well-known writer of private eye novels based a female PI character on a real one? Check out the interview “Susan Daniels: If Sam Spade Had Been Samantha – Cleveland’s Female Private Eye”

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Click on cover to go to Amazon page

Click on cover to go to Amazon page

“As an experienced private detective and a skilled storyteller, Colleen Collins is the perfect person to offer a glimpse into the lives of real female P.I.s”
~ Kim Green, managing editor of Pursuit Magazine: The Magazine of Professional Investigators

 

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content requires specific, written authority.

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#WriteTip PIs, Lawyers and Clients: Who’s Driving the Bus?

Posted by Writing PIs on June 11, 2016

Would a PI grill a new client while the lawyer says nothing?

Would a PI grill a new client while the lawyer says nothing? (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

A Cliche in the Making?

Recently, I’ve read this scenario in several private eye novels: In a first-time meeting with a new client in a defense lawyer’s office, the PI runs the show while the lawyer stays mum in the background. Sometimes the PI gets aggressive with the client, going full-tilt interrogation mode, demanding to know what the client said and did at a crime scene, for example. Meanwhile, the lawyer sits idly nearby, saying zilch, the epitome of passivity.

I’ve never met a milquetoast criminal lawyer. Especially on their turf.

Better to double-check for accuracy than propagate a cliche in your story.

Better to double-check for accuracy than propagate a cliche in your story (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

After reading similar scenes in multiple books, I began to wonder if some writers are reading scenes like this in others’ private eye stories, so they copy the same set-up as if it’s realistic. Nope. It’s not. Copying a scenario, especially one involving a legal setting, without conducting some research to check accuracy is lazy writing. You might as well put your PI in a trench coat, carrying a sap, and swilling whiskey while on the job. You know, the stuff cliches are made of.

Let’s look at a few reasons why a PI wouldn’t behave like this.

Why a PI Would Not Blindly Take Control

Typically, a PI has already spoken to the attorney about the case, as well as the lawyer’s client’s involvement, before the meeting. It could even be the PI has recommended this particular client to the attorney, which has happened to us in the past, but we still let the attorney guide the meeting because if the PI takes over, problems can occur:

  • The PI might lead the client to have unreal legal expectations.
  • The PI could propose an unwanted (by the lawyer) course of legal strategy, or the investigator might foreclose the exploration of a viable legal or factual defense.
  • It is unethical for a lawyer to practice law with someone who is not a lawyer, a gray area that the PI could step into if he/she’s trying to run the meeting.
  • A client can lose respect for the lawyer if the PI is coming across as the one in charge. (Note from Shaun, the defense lawyer in Writing PIs: “This is more from the lawyer’s perspective because the last thing a lawyer wants to lose is his client’s respect.”)

Contributing to the Discussion

Nothing wrong with a PI making contributions in such meetings, but a smart PI knows better than to try and drive the bus.

Although you could turn this around for humor, or tension, in your story. Maybe the lawyer warns the PI to stop talking, and the investigator keeps yammering away, until the lawyer invites the PI into the hallway “for a chat.” Or maybe the lawyer warns the PI ahead of time to keep his/her opinions to herself, please, and let the attorney run the meeting…and the PI doesn’t.

Shaun had such a chat with an investigator many years ago because she had a bad habit of trying to “play lawyer,” but at the same time she was a stellar private investigator. After he gave his closing argument at trial, the PI passed him a note that read, “You forgot to mention these points…” And listed items she thought he had missed. “You need to ask the judge for a few more minutes to finish your closing.”

Shaun gave her a look and crumpled up the note. Twenty minutes later, the jury came back with a not guilty verdict.

Related Articles

#BookExcerpt The Work of a Legal Investigator 

A Private Investigator’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Attorney-Clients

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy/distribute any images noted as copyrighted or licensed. Do not copy or re-use any portions of this article without first contacting its author, Colleen Collins, for her written permission.

Coming Soon: How Do Private Eyes Do That? Second Edition

Coming August 2016 (image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

Coming August 2016 (image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

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Writing a Female Private Eye Character? This List Is for You!

Posted by Writing PIs on July 8, 2015

Featured on LowKeyPI.com - 70 Influential Female Private Investigators on Twitter

Half of the Writing PIs, Colleen, learned recently that she’s ranked #3 on a list of 70 influential female private investigators in the industry and on Twitter. She’s honored for the mention.

Writing a Female PI Character?

Lists like these are also great resources for writers wanting to learn more about the real world of PIs, especially the work of women in the field. If you’re on Twitter, check out these Twitter accounts and read about the day-to-day work of female investigators, articles on the profession written by women PIs, and more:

Article link: 70 Influential Female Private Investigators on Twitter

Being a Woman in a Male-Dominated Field

At times it makes a difference being a female in the profession. For example, a client might feel more comfortable working with a female PI, or the case demands a woman, such as the time Colleen took a pole-dancing class to surveil a class member for a case. (After spending a few days in bed with a heating pad, Colleen now has great respect for pole dancers.) Otherwise, Colleen says,”I’ve always been treated like an equal by my peers, be they male or female.”

Articles About Female Private Detectives

Below are a few articles about real-life female PIs:

What Is It Like Being a Female Private Investigator? (thezenman.com)

The Undercover World of the Female Private Investigator (Daily Record)

International Women’s Day: Honoring Female Investigators (Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes)

The First U.S. Female Private Eye: Kate Warne (thezenman.com)

“Women are much better private detectives” (The Guardian)

Article about a “modern Day Miss Marple” who runs an all-female detective agency (Daily Mail)

Have a great week, Writing PIs

To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

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#WriteTip Answering Writer’s Question: Insurance Fraud Investigators

Posted by Writing PIs on June 20, 2015

Writer’s Question: In insurance fraud investigations, would an investigator work directly for the insurance carrier or a firm representing them?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Insurance fraud is often contracted through the special investigations unit, or SIU, which is a group of specialized insurance adjustors and in-house investigators for an insurance company.  These in-house investigators aren’t investigators in the purest sense of the word — they instead manage other SIU employees, outside contract investigators and attorneys (in other words, they are more managers than investigators). The reason being that insurance companies don’t want to be seen as conducting investigations that might result in the denial of their policy holders’ claims. This potential conflict of interest gives rise to the need to hire outside private investigators or investigative agencies.

Private investigators in this type of work need to have experience in insurance coverage, adjusting matters, as well as other general investigative skills. Such a PI could be hired by either the SIU, in-house counsel at the insurance company, or a private attorney who has been retained by an insurance company. Who does the hiring of a private investigator is a function of whether or not the case is in litigation or claim status.

We know a former expert insurance adjustor who left the insurance business to open his own insurance fraud investigations agency (representing bad faith insurance claimants).  He’s made a lucrative business of this because he so well understands the inner workings of insurance companies.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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#WritingTips: Creating a Pet Detective Character

Posted by Writing PIs on May 8, 2015

A Pet Is Lost Every Two Seconds

We recently read that in the U.S., a family pet is lost every two seconds. That’s astounding, and yet within our own neighborhood we see lost pet signs posted nearly every week. According to the National Humane Society and the National Council of Pet Population Study and Policy, one out of every three pets is lost at some point in its lifetime, and only one out of ten is found.

True Story: Our neighbors’ lost cat was found after four months…living in a fox hole several miles away! A man saw one of their “Missing Cat” posters and recognized it as possibly being a cat that was living in a fox hole on his elderly neighbor’s property. The older woman had been leaving cans of cat food and water outside the fox hole for the cat, who refused to leave its sanctuary. Who knows what that poor cat went through during those months, but it managed to stay alive and find protection.

We Once Found Four Missing Dogs

A few years ago we accepted a missing pet case to try and find four dogs, all the same breed. Our client was elderly, didn’t own a car, and although we weren’t pet detectives, we felt sorry for him and wanted to help.

Some skills PIs use for finding missing persons can be applied to finding missing pets

We started out by contacting local rescue shelters, putting up flyers, calling vet hospitals and clinics…unfortunately, no one had seen the dogs, but they were willing to put the word out. By the way, the flyers had a large picture of one of the dogs, the date the dogs went missing, their names, and our phone number (a special one we set up for this case).

We then drove around the area where the dogs had lived and handed out more flyers. Then we went on foot into a large park near the elderly man’s home, and again handed out flyers and asked people if they’d seen any of these dogs. This is one of the tasks we would conduct to find a person, too (canvas neighborhoods, show photos of the person, ask if anyone had seen him/her, and so forth).

We Found a Lead

While canvassing the park, we met a man who recognized the dog in the poster. He pointed out a remote, corner area of the park where he had seen several of them a few evenings prior.

From our research on this type of dog, we knew its history went back to the Vikings, who used these dogs to hunt moose. These dogs were known to be hardy, with thick fur to protect them from the cold, had above-average intelligence, and were pack animals. We returned to the park that evening and found all four dogs, happily hanging with their pack, foraging for food.

Tips for Writing a Pet Detective

If you’re writing a character who’s a pet detective, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does he/she own a search dog?  Many real-life pet detectives do.
  • What tools does your pet PI use? For example, night-vision binoculars, motion-activated surveillance cameras, a bionic ear to amplify sounds?
  • What investigative traits does your fictional pet PI use? As with other PIs, they might rely on their reasoning, analysis of physical evidence, interview and interrogation, and surveillance techniques to recover lost pets.
  • Where did your fictional pet PI learn about animal behavior — for example, in college, in a veterinarian’s office, or while growing up on a farm?

Pet detectives are generally caring, tenacious and often earn certification in the field. A well-qualified pet detective can make between $300-$1,000 a day.

There’s one last point about writing a pet detective: He/she probably has a big heart. After all, animals possess all that is best in humans.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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#MondayBlogs Answering Writer’s Question: When Does a PI’s Activity Become Intimidation?

Posted by Writing PIs on March 20, 2015

bad guy

Today we respond to a writer’s question about PIs and intimidation.

Writer’s Question: When does surveillance, or any legitimate investigative activity, become intimidation?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Many investigative activities (such as surveillance, knocking on doors and attempting interviews, service of subpoenas) can be done in such a manner to intimidate the target of an investigation. The legitimate activity can be so pronounced and intense that the subject not only knows they’re being investigated, they fear the person who’s hired the investigator (or they fear the investigator him/herself). This is intimidation. An example of an intimidation is to leave a dead fish on the windshield of someone’s car with a rose in its mouth (which L.A. investigator Anthony Pellicano did to intimidate a newspaper reporter ). This reporter was a witness before an official proceeding and Pellicano was charged for intimidating a witness with this not-so-subtle gift of seafood.

While the FBI agents in The Sopranos could sit at the foot of Tony’s driveway and even FBI special agentchat with him on occasion (which is not covert surveillance), they could not attempt to run his car off the road or interfere with his business because those acts constitute intimidation (or police harassment).

Private investigators are regularly asked by bill collectors to visit debtors. This is a dicey area because federal credit collection practice laws permit contact but they don’t permit collectors to threaten with bodily injury or improper damage to the debtor’s reputation. Any time that a debtor can prove that a PI is guilty of these acts then the PI is personally liable, his firm his liable, and the collection agency is liable. Your fictional PI might be employed to knock on doors and collect money, discourage witnesses to testify in a court case, or take photographs of an individual and his/her home, car, workplace, etc. When these acts are done to intentionally frighten the witness and/or drive them from either testifying or bringing a claim in court, those actions are legally classified as intimidation.

Writing PIs

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Finding Missing Persons: Old-Fashioned But Still Valid Gumshoe Techniques

Posted by Writing PIs on June 23, 2014

A lot of people think today’s PIs just sit at computers and look up information.  That’s partly true — today’s PIs do a fair amount of research online, but that doesn’t mean the old, tried-and-true ways of investigating on foot aren’t still sometimes the best way to find information.

Hitting the Street, Knocking on Doors

Hard to believe there was a time without computers and databases, but once upon a time a sleuth looking for a missing person had to hit the streets, knock on doors, conduct surveillances, and do research on-site at court houses and other places.  Some of these seemingly old-fashioned means are still valid, and sometimes even more useful, than digging electronically.

A Little Girl Was Missing

Seven or so years ago, we were driving in rush-hour traffic, tired after a day researching records in several courthouses, happy to be going home and calling it a day…then we got a call on our cell phone: A five-year-old girl had gone missing.

It was a case we’d already been working on. The little girl’s biological father was struggling with mental/drug issues, and the little girl’s grandparents, who had custody and were concerned for her well-being, had hired us to investigate his lifestyle. Just that morning, before we’d left for our courthouse work, we’d researched where the father might possibly have moved to (he’d withheld his new residence address from the grandparents) and we’d located a plausible street address, although we hadn’t double-checked it yet.

After getting the call, we quickly drove to this new possible address. It was an old Victorian home remodeled into four apartments, and we ran to the apartment we believed he lived in, but no one was home. Peering through the windows, we saw the place was empty, with trash and moving boxes piled inside. We began knocking on neighbors’ doors. No one answered. Being a little after five p.m., we guessed that the other residents hadn’t returned home yet from work.

Relying on Random Wi-Fi Signals

Those were the days before we had smartphones. Often, if we needed quick Internet access while in the field, we’d try to pick up a Wi-Fi signal via one of our laptops. Sometimes we’d have to drive slowly down a street to find one of these signals!

This day, we lucked out and picked up a signal right away. After successfully accessing the Internet, we looked up the county assessor’s office and researched the owner of the Victorian apartment building. After another quick search to locate his phone number, we called the landlord, gave him the father’s name, and asked if he had recently lived in the apartment that was now empty and filled with trash and packing boxes. The owner denied knowing the father, and claimed there had been another tenant who had lived in that unit and she had recently moved, but he didn’t have a forwarding address. Later we learned the owner had lied to us.

But at the time, we were stymied. From our research of the father several days before, this address had definitely popped up in our searches. Maybe he was living in one of the other units with a roommate?

We Decided to Do A Trash Hit

We spied a dumpster behind the apartment building and decided to check its contents, see if there were any clues to the little girl or her father. This is what’s called a “trash hit” — you literally go through the trash. We had definite procedures for conducting trash hits in our investigations, but this time we were on a time clock and did it dirty and fast: We jumped into the dumpster.

We found a box addressed to the father at this address! So he did live here — or had lived here. We now believed, despite what the landlord had said, that the father was the tenant who’d suddenly moved in the last day or so. Digging through the trash, we found a few children’s items, including some yogurt cartons. We called the grandparents and described the items — when we described the yogurt container, the grandmother started crying.  She explained that was her granddaughter’s favorite kind of yogurt.

A Long Evening of Research

We peeled the return address label off the box addressed to the father, and drove back to our home office, where we started a long evening of research, which included many calls to local law enforcement, to locate the little girl. To bring this story quickly to a happy ending, by the time the sun came up, we had located the little girl and her father — they were 2,000 miles away at a relative’s.

You can see how much physical work was involved in making this discovery. Visiting a location, knocking on doors, making phone calls, and eventually crawling into a dumpster. A few weeks later, the grandparents sent us a thank you card with a photo of their granddaughter. It’s one of our treasured mementoes.

Other Tasks a PI Might Conduct to Locate a Missing Person

Additional techniques include:

  • Researching court records (such as evictions and traffic violations that might contain information that indicates where the person might be living, their type of car, their workplace, or associates who can be interviewed about the person’s current location.
  • Pulling driver’s records at the DMV (to pinpoint everything from a person’s physical description to their signature to recent addresses).
  • Interviewing people who may have known the subject (for example, past and current neighbors as well as relatives, past and current landlords, co-workers and known associates).
  • Surveilling places the person was known to frequent (friends’ or relatives’ homes, bars, workout clubs, etc.)

Our current nonfiction book A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms is now available on Amazon. Audiences: Writers crafting legal thrillers, fans of legal movies and TV shows, researchers & armchair legal eagles

Click on cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

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Answering Writers’ Questions About Private Forensic Labs

Posted by Writing PIs on April 14, 2014

Below are writers’ questions about private forensic labs, and our answers.

Writer’s Question: Where can someone find a private forensic lab?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Personally, we network with other private investigators, lawyers, addiction treatment personnel, even coroners about good DEA-approved private forensic toxicology labs. We searched to see if there’s a list of these labs online and found the following:http://home.lightspeed.net/~abarbour/labs.htm

Writer’s Question: Are all of these labs available to civilians?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes:In the link above, the specification to be on the list requires that the lab routinely performs tests for private as well as public agencies.

Writer’s Question: How much do these labs charge civilians?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes:In our personal experience (working with civilian client-cases that require chemical analytics), the cost has been about $250 per sample for drug testing. Urine testing is between $20-$150. Hair sample testing in the $120 range. If you’re needing more specific info for a story, contact a local lab and ask their prices (our experience has been that lab personnel are very accessible and can clearly explain testing methods).

Writer’s Question: What if a civilian suspected someone wanted to poison a relative?  Can they go to a lab and be upfront about their concerns?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Funny you should ask. We actually had a private lab chemist chat with us about a case she recently had that came into her office. A mother suspected her daughter was poisoning her (putting chemicals into the mother’s nightly glass of wine). The chemist at the lab told us the mother was right — they found toxic chemicals in the sample the mother brought into the lab.

Photo courtesy of Mick Stephenson

Photo courtesy of Mick Stephenson

Writer’s Question: What is the process? What paperwork would the PI/civilian have to complete? Does the lab call/mail results? How long does it take to get results?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: All that’s necessary is chain of custody material:  That the sample was captured and handled carefully by the PI, and that it was then sealed and sent in a bag to the lab. In our experience, the lab has faxed us a simple form where we document what we requested to be tested, and how we are paying for their service (like any other business, they want the money upfront).

Regarding how the lab sends results, we typically have received results by fax and email.  We have also called the lab to inquire on the status of tests, and have found lab personnel to be very accommodating — they will take the time to answer our questions, explain their turnaround time for results, and so forth.  If they aren’t busy, we typically get results in 72 hours, sometimes a bit longer.

Writer’s Question: What evidence, if any, would the lab be required to report to law enforcement officials?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes:They don’t have a requirement to report to law enforcement.

Writer’s Question: Is there a time limit or other conditions that affect if results would be unattainable or inconclusive?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Samples don’t lose markers for chemicals unless they are kept under poor conditions (moisture, or heat such as light).

Have a great week, Writing PIs
Click on cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

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Answering Writers’ Questions: Finding Evidence Long After a Crime and A Cheating Spouse Case

Posted by Writing PIs on September 8, 2013

Below we’ve posted several writer’s questions and our answers about evidence and cheating spouses.  We provide background to some of the questions in brackets.

Finding Evidence Months After a Crime

[This first question was in response to our describing how PIs might find evidence months after a crime has occurred.  In this instance, Shaun, one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PIs, had found a .44 casing outside our client’s residence]

WRITER’S  QUESTION: In the case where Shaun found the .44 casing … did he leave it alone and call the police so they could photograph it in place? Or did he take pictures of it and put it in a bag and take it to the police? What happened?

The casings proved that the neighborhood was crime-ridden

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: The .44 casing was found months after the charged crime and it was not material evidence in our case. However, the casing was proof that the neighborhood where this occurred was extremely crime-ridden, and that our client had a reasonable belief that he had to resort to deadly force to protect himself and his son.

Had the casing been found the morning after the confrontation where our client shot his .357, Shaun would have done the following:

  • Not touched it
  • Left the casing exactly where he found it
  • Contacted the police
  • Taken a photo of it for our client’s attorney

To bring this story up to date, the photograph Shaun took was listed as evidence at the trial, at which he also testified about the nature of the neighborhood (it being crime-ridden, which was backed by data from various interactive crime maps), and how he found the casing.  Our client was found not guilty.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Couldn’t the defense (or prosecution depending which side your client was on) claim that the casing had been placed there later? Or was from a different incident at another time?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: In this case, our client was the defense attorney, and it didn’t matter how the casing got there months later–what mattered in this particular case is that it showed how reasonable our client was in pulling his gun in self-defense.

Answering Writers’ Questions: Cheating Spouses

[This next question pertains to our sharing a story how we interviewed the “other woman” in a cheating spouse case]

WRITER’S QUESTION: And about interviewing the woman in the cheating husband case – I take it there’s no concern about tipping off the cheating husband that he’s being investigated?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: For this case, no, as he’d already seen the photographs (because his wife had filed for divorce and her attorney had the photographs) by the time we’d interviewed the “other woman.” Generally speaking, however, we wouldn’t want to tip off the cheating spouse that they’re being investigated.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Have either of you ever been threatened by a spouse who has been caught? Or by the person they’ve caught them with? Without wanting to give away too much from my WIP, I’m thinking that might be a possible threat to my guys. I’m just wondering if it’s a credible storyline that the cheater might go after the private investigators for destroying their marriage.

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: In the “other woman” case we’ve been discussing, she was also married.  A week or so after we interviewed the other woman, she contacted us saying she’d hired an attorney and we were to not contact her again for any reason. We didn’t believe she’d hired an attorney, and figured she was bluffing because she was scared, but we had no reason to contact her again (after interviewing her).  In fact, we felt sorry for her (she had two young children, and her husband was devastated that his wife had fooled around).

To answer your question whether we think it’s  credible in a storyline that the other woman or other man might get so freaked out, have so much to protect, that they’d go after the PI?  Yes, that’s credible.  We’ve been threatened in other situations that weren’t cheating spouse cases (we’ve had dogs sic’d on us during process services, and Shaun once had a woman follow him, pounding her fists on his back, after he served her legal papers). The worst threat by far was a case where the woman to whom we served a restraining order mounted a full-on cyber-stalking attack on our business/reputations.  This woman had a lot to protect–five million dollars she’d stolen, and which by the way has never been found.  Colleen wrote about this case in her nonfiction book Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

 

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Posted in Importance of Crime Scenes, Infidelity Investigations, Nonfiction Books on Private Investigations, Real-Life Private Investigator Stories, Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Answering Writers’ Questions: Finding Evidence Long After a Crime and A Cheating Spouse Case

 
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