By Kelly Riddle

Any PI who has a full-time business with employees and normal overhead hates to turn a case away. However, there are times when the best thing you can do is walk away from a client. Domestic cases are the most common types of investigations that call for all of the investigator's senses to be on-guard. I have learned that dealing with individuals has the potential to go astray more than your normal corporate or insurance case. Failing to lay the groundwork or short cutting a consultation can create major problems in the end. I always spend more time interviewing the potential client in a domestic case than I do in most other cases. One case in particular had the potential to backfire more than most.

I had a male subject named Ken who called and had to meet with me as soon as possible. My schedule allowed some time that same afternoon and the subject presented himself as a nice, easy to get along with man. He indicated that his wife had dropped him off at work the day before and failed to pick him up after work. He caught a ride home and when he arrived, all of the furniture and household belongings were gone alone with his five-year-old son. Ken indicated that he would understand if his wife didn't want to continue their marriage, but he wanted to know where his son was and to see him on a regular basis. At one point during the consultation, I boldly stated that she probably got tired of his beatings and decided to run from him. This would tend to antagonize most men, but he kept his cool and continued to stress the need to find his son. Convinced that he posed no problem, I agreed to help. Ken gave me the name of his wife's sister, who lived in another town, but did not know where she lived. He was convinced that his wife was hiding out with her sister.

I began attempts to locate the sister. Fortunately, he gave me the wrong name and I pursued a person that didn't exist. Several days later, I walked in the house just in time to see his mug shot on the TV and the news indicating a warrant for his arrest was outstanding. He had located the mother-in-law and shot her execution style because she wouldn't tell him where her daughter's were. In the mother-in-law's purse was a piece of paper that directed him to a storage unit. Ken broke into the unit, found other documents that directed him to the sister and her apartment. He conducted surveillance and one morning observed his wife and son exiting the apartment. Ken approached his wife, who shot at him with a handgun but missed. He returned the fire, striking her but not killing her. Ken grabbed his son and fled. Several days later, police were called to a bank for a suspicious person call and found Ken and his son sitting in his car. He shot himself with his son sitting next to him in the car.

This is an extreme case example, but a realistic one. Fortunately, as soon as I discovered what was occurring, I contacted the police department who reviewed my file and concluded that I had nothing to do with Ken finding his wife. This was one of those times that cause you to stop and review policies and procedures. I now have strict guidelines on accepting domestic cases. In addition, my disclaimer on the front of all reports also include the following, "The client and/or their representatives has represented to Kelmar and Associates that the information enclosed in this report will be utilized in a lawful and non-violent manner and agrees to hold Kelmar and Associates
and their representatives harmless from miss-use of any or all of this
information." Trust me, this does not prevent this from happening, but is one of many steps that we as PI's should take.

One of the most important aspects of a consultation is making sure that the client understands what to expect from the PI. Everything from what will be in the report to the cost and time frame should be outlined. Remember that they probably have never had any prior experience with a PI. As a PI, we have to treat our business like a business, but we should remember that we can say no to a knew case!