On October 1st, 30 years ago, after leaving his high school job at a local family run grocery store in 1987, Dean filed his business tradename registration - Investigative Services. Karen joined him in 1996.
In 2008 the agency focus became Legal Investigations and Expert Consultations in Personal Injury, Negligence and Death in Civil, Criminal and Probate litigation.
Many ask how our agency was started, our background and experience – all the usual questions. It has been an interesting 30 years.
How Dean came to found our agency, as with all things, was about timing. At the time, Dean had been working at a local family grocery store since high school. He was moving up and being prepared for management at age 20. Always keeping his ear to the ground, he became aware of some troubling issues affecting the business – and the economy. With that, Dean decided a different career was due. What career?
Working in a grocery store for almost five years, you meet a lot of people – especially those working downtown and in the local courthouse. Several attorneys and judges often came in and one suggested process serving. What is that? He offered Dean a statute book from a collection recently replaced. Although interesting, it didn’t have that special ring to it. It did give him the idea to look closer at the legal field, and he gave his two-weeks notice in early September. Still finding nothing, Dean began looking in the Yellow Pages for ideas. Starting at the beginning, he came across ‘Detectives’ and that was his interest. Having no experience – what was next?
Having experience was going to be important, so Dean contacted other agencies in town. He found four agencies - one interviewed him and no others returned his calls. The one interview didn’t go far – it was mostly surveillance and the pay was going to be rough to start out. So, Dean declined and they would become friends. Still having no experience or prospects – now what?
Deciding to double-down – having no detective experience, or business experience – he decided to form his own agency – at least something to hold over for about six months, until he found something more career oriented. Filing a business tradename, and then having business cards printed, designing some marketing materials and purchasing an answering machine that would call his new beeper – Dean was in business. Sort of. He went to every law office in town personally. The phone was silent for weeks – almost a month – what seemed like months.
The Learning Curve (1987-1997)
Then the first call came - to serve a bank garnishment. So, it was time to read that state statute book given to him – the first assignment was completed and the invoice left at the law office. Then the paralegal wanted a ‘Return of Service’. A what? Time to read the book again – and deliver an affidavit with the invoice. Within a short time, he was getting calls for more process serving. It was a way to meet attorneys and paralegals to get a foot, or both, in the door. It turned out the leading process serving company in town closed its doors after the passing of the owner. Process serving was not what Dean was looking to do, but it did grow – and into other opportunities.
Looking back on his ability to find lost family and friends – from when his Dad was in the Navy, Dean realized he could offer something more – Finding People and Finding Out About Them! Reaching out to other private investigators for tips and resources – all declined to help. More research – and without the help of the web or Google. The first tool – the phone book. Most people were found simply looking in the phone book. Over the next several years, Dean would develop resources and techniques through diligence and growing experience.
In October 1991 Dean met his future Wife and business partner, Karen and her two daughters. It was, truly, the most positive life changing event. Shortly after, while riding his motorcycle in town, Dean was struck by a car turning left. He was laid up for a couple of months with limited driving for field work ability. Those same private investigators who did not hire him early on had become friends and took care of Dean’s clients. They truly showed friendship and professionalism.
By the early 90s he became one of the most sought after private investigators specializing in the areas of locating people and background checks. He gave his first presentation in 1993 to the Larimer County Young Lawyers – many would become clients, and are reading this newsletter now. In 2000 he would then give his first national conference presentation. Shortly after, he developed the ‘Skip Trace Seminar on CD’ sold nationwide – after learning how to burn CDs and make labels.
In 1996, his Wife Karen joined the agency part-time. Karen pushed to market more investigations and less process serving. Developing clients throughout Colorado of primarily collection and landlord plaintiff attorneys, adding assets and liabilities investigations became a growing service. Also growing was communication. Beepers were replaced by pagers, and voicemail replaced answering machines. Soon, cell phones – large and cumbersome – became available. Then databases became available, although very limited. Most research was still needing to be done at the local library and also the university library. Fax machines had come in, and email had just started. Dean’s first email was to a friend from elementary school – and he instantly replied – wow! A short time later, Dean did some research and found how to use a cell phone – much smaller now – and laptop to communicate from the field. This was in 1995 – long before public safety agencies had the ability. In fact, a law enforcement friend had needed help finding someone wanted on a warrant. After being successful, he asked Dean about his mobile setup. In the following years, local law enforcement agencies began working with the largest provider for mobile communications to equip supervisors’ patrol vehicles; now every patrol vehicle has a ‘Mobile Data Terminal’ or MDT and remote access to data and communications.
Then some federal and state laws on privacy began to have a negative impact on available resources. It was again time to adapt and overcome some obstacles. Leading into the Y2K scenario, a multi-year contract with the local county child support enforcement unit lead to an unprecedented program of both enforcement and paternal rights for DNA testing without default paternity determination. The program boosted the county from the bottom third for enforcement to the top five in Colorado. The concepts used would later be used in our own plaintiff personal injury legal investigations, also with great success for our clients.
The Middle Years (1998-2007)
The late 90s continued with adapting to new laws, new resources and new demands of clients and their growing needs. Then, on September 1st 2000, tragedy struck our family and business. On a personal trip Dean took his Dad to Colorado Springs to see his aunt / Dad’s sister, they were hit by a drunk teenage driver. It was an experience that would change everything. Months of recovery for both Dean and his Dad, as well as Karen – from hearing the collision while talking to Dean on his cell phone (and headset), they had much to be thankful for and work on together. Like in 1991, Dean was unable to work – other than at home – for several months. His Dad remained at his sister’s for a year to rehabilitate. As before, friends and fellow private investigators offered to help and took care of their clients. They, again, truly showed friendship and professionalism. Even as recovery progressed, multi-tasking and running a business – it was either work or run the business – both had become almost impossible. Shortly after Dean’s Dad returned home, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened. Another round of a difficult nationwide economy would follow.
Based on some occupational therapy and testing at the local university, Dean’s testing showed his primary skills were in law enforcement and investigations related fields. Having an interest in forensics, in the summer of 2002, Dean contacted the local coroner’s office. He spoke to an investigator who shared they were accepting applications for their reserve investigator / deputy coroner training program. Dean applied and was one of five accepted for the group that would start in September. He was the first to complete all the required modules and was recruited to join a newly appointed forensic pathologist in a neighboring county, who had just been appointed the county coroner. Dean would work part-time for the next couple years. In the interim, the group completed the modules and graduated from the program in June of 2003. To this day, Dean and Karen hold a close relationship, as this forensic pathologist remains the agency’s consultant and direct referral. Dean was recruited from a volunteer reserve investigator / deputy coroner to part-time. In 2004 Dean was offered a full-time position, contingent upon him completing a required Colorado Peace Officer Standards Training law enforcement academy. Dean attended in 2005 and graduated with honors in November, and was hired full-time.
At that time Dean and Karen limited private investigations to individual locates, individual backgrounds, and individual assets and liabilities investigations. Just before starting the academy, Dean also finished the first edition of a book on these specialties. The first of what would become more books and many articles from their agency to their peers and profession.
Karen also had the desire to learn more about forensics and death investigations. Still being the only training of its kind in Colorado, Karen was accepted for the 2004 investigator / deputy coroner program in June and also completed her modules. She was also recruited as a volunteer reserve investigator / deputy coroner, and also part-time office administrator, then hired as a part-time investigator. This would continue to mid-2006.
Their experience includes scene investigations, interviews, assisting with autopsies, photography, and all aspects of death investigations. In January 2003 Dean also introduced digital photography to the coroner’s office. Through a grant, the county became the first agency – of any kind – in Colorado to issue and use digital cameras for their investigators. Dean left the coroner’s office in the summer of 2008, having a strong need to return to the private sector. Before leaving, he developed policies for retention of digital files, as well as on-site and off-site backup, converting to paperless and digital formats, and investigators use of enhanced communications and remote access to files. These are processes Dean and Karen would adapt to their renewed private investigations agency. In 2006 Dean predicted a downturn in the state and local economy by 2007. This would become a national economic crisis, unlike any seen for decades – including 1987 and 2001.
The Recent Years (2008-2017)
The most current years were very busy – from re-starting their agency to a growing family! Their new agency was going to focus only on legal and death investigations – personal injury, negligence and death. Learning from experience, and wanting to share their experiences, they also became involved in state, national and international associations. These were to develop networking, experience, learning opportunities, and to give back to a profession that had been good to them and helped raise their family – through good times and rough times. Within days of contacting their client list, calls and cases came in. The struggling economy followed and created some setbacks, and were predicted to resolve by 2018. They adapted and overcame, and also grew.
In December 2008 their first grandchild, and only granddaughter, Jacee Sue was born to their oldest daughter. Jeberly had a very difficult experience after, and was hospitalized – they almost lost her. After she had recovered, they learned their youngest daughter was pregnant – with twin boys. In July 2009 their grandsons, Gage Alan and Cash Michael were born seven weeks early. Winter had a difficult pregnancy and was hospitalized weeks before their due date, then flown to Denver for emergency delivery. Their grandsons were in NICU for seven (Gage) and ten (Cash) days. The children’s hospital was fantastic and Ronald McDonald House took care of the parents. They still donate to both at every opportunity.
In addition to their Certification in Medicolegal Investigations, from late 2008 to June 2009, Dean studied for the Certified Legal Investigator examination series. He passed with four others, being the “Nashville Five”; since that time, one of them – Susan Carlson – passed away after a long illness. This was followed by Dean and Karen earning the Certified Criminal Defense Investigator designation after the examination. Following this, Dean published a textbook – ‘Practical Methods for Legal Investigations: Concepts and Protocols in Civil and Criminal Cases’ – through CRC Press, and together they revised a second edition of ‘Professional Locate Investigations: Individual Locates, Backgrounds & Assets & Liabilities’. This would be followed with distance learning courses, books and articles contributed by Dean and Karen.
Since 2008, Dean has been continuously involved in multiple association boards and committees – from training to legislation for their professions. Karen continues to also be involved equally in the cases and consultations, which includes being administrative manager for the largest international association of private investigators.
Their agency grew and soon expert consultation requests came in. They began offering flat fee consultations to families in equivocal deaths. These are most often suicides, and the family has legitimate questions and concerns, and seeks answers. These are the only private cases they accept, and are most often through their direct referral program for private investigators. Their agency grew to offer legal investigations and expert consultations in personal injury, negligence and death / serious bodily injury in civil, criminal and probate litigation. This includes expert consultations in criminal defense.
In the summer of 2012 Dean and Karen decided to sell their house and travel before the grandkids started school. It was decided to travel, and work, by RV. From the summer of 2012 – with the maiden voyage being to a joint association conference – to early 2015, they traveled and worked. They covered 27 states in those years, taking trips for a few months, then returning for a few months. As their grandkids were getting closer to starting school, it was time to be near them and settled again. In 2015 they settled back in northern Colorado, where Dean is a 7th generation native and Karen has called home since the early 1980s.
In May of 2016 their youngest grandson, Lincoln Kyle was born to give Jacee Sue someone to play with and pester. Jeberly had issues after delivery, thankfully reduced with having the same doctor – and many of the same nurses – as when Jacee was born, everyone had a close eye on her.
Celebrating 30 Years!
Since 1996, they have worked together on cases – from locates and backgrounds, to neighborhood canvasses and witness interviews, to civil and criminal serious bodily injury and death investigations. They work together and independently. Karen has long brought a unique perspective of women’s intuition and insight to every case. Not only two sets of eyes and experience, but an additional sense of detail in reviewing the evidence found in records, reports and photographs.
They make their home in northern Colorado and have the joy of their grandkids often – sometimes not often enough. They have continued to travel and attend conferences for various reasons and benefits. Dean continues to be a frequent speaker multimer times a year, and both are often asked for contributing articles in leading association and professional trade journals. They have grown their professional friends and colleagues, many like family. They are both fond and proud of these growing relationships. Their clients, many dating back to Dean’s first phone calls, continue to grow. Clients have retired or become judges, judges have retired, and the landscape of private investigations has changed dramatically. Dean and Karen were fortunate to begin at a time of early technology and grow with it, while keeping the time-tested skills necessary for effective investigations.
Reflecting back, they have seen and done many great things and have been through many experiences. Everything used – from beepers and answering machines, to phones and fax machines, to cameras and video, is now held in a small phone. The Yellow Pages are all but extinct, and not long after finding ‘Detectives’, the category was removed – leaving ‘Private Investigators’ – now not a used category. Licensing of private investigators now exists in Colorado, to protect their profession and consumers. There are now over a dozen agencies where Dean and Karen first started, yet very few garner the majority of the legal investigation work for attorneys.
The reserve investigator / deputy coroner training program has ended, as it was adapted into a new coroner requirements and training statute in 2007. The training and certification has been replaced by the state coroner association and their annual conference.
Their newsletter, published quarterly to local clients on paper in 1996, is now monthly and digital – reaching thousands of clients and colleagues – like you – locally, nationally and internationally. Times change, or actually grow – like their family and agency. They never know where their paths lead us – or when they may cross, like ours did by chance 26 years ago – when Dean was just starting out and still wondered what the future would bring.
Today their legal investigations and expert consultations are a passion for their clients – from attorneys and their injured or wrongful death clients, to private investigators and their family clients looking for answers, and their criminal defense. In each of these, they are passionate about assuring the rights of their clients are protected, and answers found to further their case or bring healing and closure to their loss. Their passion for helping those who have lost a loved one has also found us assuring that a person, often a suspect in a death, is not wrongfully accused, arrested and convicted – and at other times, the right person is brought to justice.
The Next Years…
They plan to simply continue. To continue taking care of their family. To continue taking care of their clients. To continue being involved in their profession as much as possible.
To continue working with you and making a difference – no matter how small – in the lives they touched. Just as you have made a difference and touched their lives.
They love and are passionate about their work, and hope to pass on something to any or all of their grandchildren. At the least, they will share the values and experiences they have learned.
Thank You! Dean and Karen