We've all had personal mysteries that we would like solved, but not everyone has the means to hire a private investigator. So live vicariously by reading this eleven accounts of people who hired private eyes and what they found.
Many thanks to the Reddit user who posed this question and to those who responded. You can check out more answers from the source at the end of this article!
1/11. PI here. I work in three countries, including the U.S. The messiest case I ever had was a cross-border child-snatch involving a family dispute in Texas where the mother took the children to Mexico. The father was livid when he called me because no authorities in either country would get involved. He also couldn't go into Mexico and snatch the children back because if the Mexicans caught him, he would have ended up in a Mexican prison while it was all sorted out and his wife was related to a Mexican alderman who might have used his influence to really slam him.
He told me he was convinced she'd gone off to live with an old flame in a major Mexican city about three hours from the Texas border. I remember how hard he cried and even considered doing the job pro bono. He wanted to hire me for two jobs: first, to prove infidelity on her part and then, once we had that down, use the evidence as leverage against her if she resisted his taking the children back.
I spent a week researching the woman and the man. They were both decent hardworking people at a glance. Nice home, steady jobs, well-raised children. Then I started digging into the domestic violence calls at the house. He'd beaten her on four different occasions over a three year period. The last one resulted in a stay at the hospital.
I started getting a sour feeling about the case. I traveled down to see where the woman lived; found her on my second day. The two children, both young girls, were happy and bouncing about. The woman walked with a limp. It was the same leg he'd broken.
I followed that family for three days, thinking and wondering what I was gonna do. On day 4, I made up my mind. I went to an attorney who worked in the city she lived in, colleague of a friend. I paid him $1,400 to deliver a message to her, saying she needed to make reparations to her family affairs and file for a divorce and custody because he was coming after her.
I went back to the husband and told him I was withdrawing from his case because I didn't like where it was heading. He was angry and instantly grew aggressive.
That just solidified my intentions. I told him that if he wanted to press me, I could just as easily go work for her. And I would have taken her case pro bono.
This was a few years ago now. I hear she's doing well and continues living in Mexico but is legally divorced with full custody of her children. She still walks with a limp. They always say it's best not to get involved. And I mostly agree. But sometimes, the world needs you to.
2/11. About 10 years ago my cousin was deployed in Afghanistan on his second tour. During phone calls back home his daughter made mention of an uncle he knew didn't exist.
My aunt decided to hire a PI for him and found out his wife was cheating with a doctor. Of course, he was heartbroken. The divorce that followed was quick. However there is a bright side to this.
After switching to a reserve unit he was able to finish college and go to law school. His ex wife? She was dumped by the doctor not long after the divorce. She attempted to reconcile but my cousin refused. He's remarried. She lives with a group of friends in some run down house.
3/11. A relative of a friend of mine approached me one day and asked if I could help in finding his brother on the internet somehow. His brother had up and left town with no indication of where he was going leaving a wife and 2 small children behind. They were not separated and still lived with the kids. He took little more than the clothes on his back. They didn't know if he was in trouble, running from someone or just a deadbeat.
They brought me his passworded desktop pc, which was an XP machine and easily cracked. There wasn't anything in the browser history, the documents folders had nothing and the machine was relatively blank. I did find a World of Warcraft installation though and inside that was everything that I needed.
In the games screenshots folder I found several shots of his dwarf talking to a female night elf very cutesy-like, including some chat lines about being together and flirty emotes. It was clear what he had done. This turbo nerd left his family for an elf.
In the screenshots I could see a few addons, one particular WoW addon (Prat) that he had installed has a scrollback chat buffer it saves. I was able to locate the settings file containing that buffer and in it was his last conversation with her before leaving, including an actual address ~800 miles away. Google provided a name, phone number and satellite photo of her house and car.
They were blown away when I gave them his pinpoint location. He called the number right there on his cell phone and asked for him and sure enough he was there, probably shocked to get a call from his brother after this disappearing act.
As far as I know, he did not return home but I'm sure my little detective work made sure the kids got their child support.
4/11. My wife hired one. She found that she was wasting money, and that I'm a very boring person.
5/11. Lawyer here.
Malingerer plaintiff sued employer, claiming he couldn't work anymore due to on-the-job injury. Crippling neck, back, etc. injuries. Wanted lots of $$$.
We hired a P.I. to follow him and ascertain how hurt plaintiff really was.
Next week, P.I. rolls in to law office. Pops in video tape. Video of plaintiff drinking some beers and climbing up a rocky river wall to dive into a river from a bridge. Swim around. Make out with woman. Not his wife. Repeat. Eventually swim shorts come off.
Pre-trial settlement conference... plaintiff still wants big cash. We pop in tape in a conference room. Case settles about 30 seconds into tape. P.I. earned his fee for sure.
6/11. We discovered that the driver who hit me not only went off the side of the road where I was (legally) four wheeling on a quad.. and she was talking on the cell phone, looking into the passenger seat, driving with no insurance and a revoked license because of previous convictions for causing accidents.
After the truck, pushing my quad in a t-boned position, plowed so much dirt up in front of us that after 70 feet it finally came to a halt. The investigator had evidence that she was driving 35mph in a 25 zone and she didn't brake after impact. After the truck came to a stop, she jumped out and started running away but witnesses caught her and held her there.
My friend who was sitting behind me, both of us 14, were carted off in ambulances and I never saw the woman's face. The trooper wrote the report that I (14 years old) had taken an RV (instead of ATV) and pulled out in front of the woman, even though it was clear the accident happened off the roadway.
The trooper interrogated me while I was laying on the ground waiting for ambulances before my parents even arrived. I was in shock while he rephrased the question "have you had any alcoholic or illegal substances today" several times. My neighbors finally asked him to wait until my parents arrived. In the hospital room he questioned me further while my parents were on their way. The nurse had to ask him to stop as my neck was being evaluated and I had not even had pain medication yet.
The accident was deemed my fault although there were 2 eye witnesses who testified against the woman to the trooper and later in court and I was told by the DMV I would have to pay the woman's truck damages before I was allowed to get a driver's license and I carried SR22 insurance for 5 years after I received it.
The investigator uncovered proof that the trooper knew the woman who hit me and was possibly family friends with her. For the months in between the accident and when the investigation was complete, I fought an awful amount of guilt, believing it was my fault and not having any memory of the accident.
My friend's leg was badly injured and required extensive surgeries over the next 5 years and she was visiting from Texas and had to be med-evaced back there via helicopter which left her family with a huge financial burden.
During that time, I even considered suicide and took one attempt that thankfully failed. My parents took the case to the state Supreme Court over the course of the next 3 years and when we finally came to trial the judge said the only way the report could be cleared and the financial obligations relieved is if the state trooper took back his statement.
When we began going that route we were told the trooper had been dismissed from the force for wrongful behavior and his testimony was worth nothing. That was an expensive lesson in corruption. The financial stress contributed greatly to my parent's divorce. However, if we hadn't hired the investigator, we may have went on thinking it was my fault. I am very thankful to know that it truly wasn't.
7/11. When I was ten my parents separated and went through a nasty divorce. Sometime during all of that he hired a PI to follow my mom around. The PI concluded that my mother was a sex worker. She did escort service and hung around doctor's conventions. The PI took photos and logged everything. My dad snuck into the house my mother and I lived in with a camcorder and recorded the discover of a ledger documenting all of her clients and the money exchange. He leveraged it in the divorce so he didn't get screwed over entirely.
My dad didn't tell me any of this until I was in my 17 or so. I didn't believe it until I thought back and remembered some things. She had a pager and back in the 90's only a few types of people had pagers: Doctors and sex workers. She would suddenly be gone late at night if I woke up. She would always say she was out grocery shopping. I also remember walking in on her wearing a revealing dress made of leather. No more revealing than what girls wear to the club but hey, that is weird when it's your mom and you are 10.
Anywho. My dad still throws it at me when he wants to prove how much better of a person he is than my mother or my step dad. In her defense, she was paying her way to become and RN, which she is now.
8/11. My mom was an attorney who worked in Worker's Compensation insurance. Her colleagues were representing a woman who had been gravely injured on the job and deemed totally unable to work.
The opposing attorney hired a PI to investigate this woman. Let's call her "Jane". They get to court and present the video footage as their platinum evidence proving that this woman was totally able to work. Here Jane is mowing her lawn. Here she is unloading her groceries from her car. Here she is walking the dog. Here she is going for a run. Etc etc.
Jane's attorneys sat there totally quiet. When it was their turn to cross examine the PI, they declined any questions. Their turn was up next. Who is the first witness for the opposing side? "We would like to call Jane's identical twin sister to the stand."
Jane's identical twin had moved in with her bed-ridden sister after the work accident. Full benefits awarded to Jane. Apparently the look on the faces of the opposing attorneys was the stuff lawyers dreams are made of.
9/11. My grandfather once hired a PI. See, he has a large vineyard, as well as he has a few engineering projects he's working on. Well, two guys pressed charges on him because they claimed they had hurt their backs working for him, and he needed to pay for the medical bills disability, ect.
He thought it was a little fishy, and hired a PI. The PI uncovered that they had not actually been hurt, and documented the two people working at a lumber yard, which has a LOT more physical labor than a vineyard. It cost my grandfather a bit to hire him, but way less than what he would have had to pay those two scammers.
10/11. My uncle was a PI for awhile. He mostly worked for insurance groups and lawyers to make sure the correct person was being served or prosecuted. He would have to figure out stuff like who burned the farm down, John Smith jr or John Smith sr. Was Jan Doe the divorcee or the 3rd wife. One time this kid wrecked his Ferrari. Kid ended up posting his version of the wreck on MySpace. He told how he intentionally wrecked it because his parents didn't get him the Ferrari he wanted. It was very Tom Havaford from Parks and Rec.
11/11. A friend of mine's brother died about twenty years ago. The police concluded it was suicide, but neither my friend nor his parents believed the brother would have done such a thing. They hired a private investigator to look into the brother's girlfriend. They were suspicious because she suddenly moved away and didn't want contact with them at all, didn't even come to the funeral.
The PI found she had had a very shady past, involved in various scams and a previous boyfriend had also died - again, suicide. The PI then asked the family whether they were sure they wanted to look further, warning them that previous cases had turned into obsessions and had ended up uncovering facts that had haunted the clients for life. My friend wanted to keep him on, but the parents decided it was too traumatic for them and called off the PI.
Bonus: It's an old joke, but I really wanna hire two PIs to follow each other. I know that, realistically, it won't work. They'll pick up what's happening quickly... But still.