Interview with private investigator
Hiding in plain sight
by Clay Neely - Clay@newnan.com
The title of “private investigator” is often synonymous with images of a fedora-wearing, cigarette-smoking gumshoe of Hollywood noir. Or maybe it’s the man with a three-day-old beard and binoculars – the floorboard of his car littered with empty boxes of takeout food and coffee cups – endlessly waiting for his subject to appear.
Thanks to these preconceived notions, Coweta resident and private investigator Katherine Wainscott enjoys a higher level of anonymity than many of her male counterparts in the field.
While Wainscott feels she may be working in a “boys club,” it certainly hasn’t held her back from doing what she loves. If anything, it’s given her a leg up.
“As a female, we’re maybe 1 percent of the investigative force,” Wainscott said. “It’s usually ex-FBI, ex-police in the field. It is a common progression many of them take. Many retire, get tired of the monotony and eventually become private investigators. As a female, I feel I have a certain niche.”
A child of the armed forces, Wainscott grew up in West Germany before moving to the United States when she was 17. Prior to her career as a private investigator, she worked as an assistant in a chiropractor’s office, and later, as an international ticketing agent at Delta.
No matter what she was doing though, Wainscott was a constant student of human behavior.
While employed at Delta, Wainscott attended a gun show. It was there that she approached a salesman advertising “how to be a private investigator.”
“I’d been snooping my entire life,” she said. “I’m the youngest of four, and was always going through my older sisters’ stuff. It felt like a natural progression for me.”
In 2003, after completing the required 400 hours needed for the class, Wainscott began working for a variety of companies, never really thinking about venturing out on her own.
“The insurance, the certifications — it takes quite a leap of faith to go out on your own,” Wainscott said.
But, in 2006, the detective founded and incorporated Bloodhound Investigative Services. During her first year of working independently, Wainscott devoted nearly every waking moment to her new business. She often worked 14-hour days across the state, solely pursuing workers comp cases.
“After a year, I had to reel it back it in, but it taught me a lot,” she said. “It’s the typical ‘school of hard knocks’ story. You can’t learn this in textbooks. It takes trial and error and every situation is different. You learn how to adapt because you’ll never make it if you don’t.”
Infidelity, workers comp fraud, skip tracing and background checks – Wainscott ensures that Bloodhound Investigative Services is able to handle a wide variety of work.
Wainscott enjoys her work so thoroughly, she alone handles the majority of cases. However, she still employs a few investigators who are licensed under her to tackle some of the additional jobs. “I have one guy who speaks Spanish. He’s kind of my wild card and does my bounty hunting. I also have another female investigator,” Wainscott said. “It’s always good to have people you can choose from for every situation.”
Wainscott has traveled across the country for her business, including a memorable trip to Las Vegas, hunting a spouse that was suspected of infidelity.
“The subject I was tracking was staying at one of the big hotels on the strip. As he hopped into a departing taxicab, I jumped into the next one in line and shouted, ‘Follow that cab!’ It was so cliche. I couldn’t believe that I just said that, especially in Las Vegas of all places,” she said.
Her cab driver immediately threw himself into the role, helping her get as close to the other taxicab as possible without being too obvious.
Still, the majority of the time spent on a job is usually dry and boring – waiting hours for a door to open or for someone to show up.
“But when the door does open and you see your subject — that’s when the adrenaline kicks in,” Wainscott said. “Even after ten years, you never lose that rush.”
Wainscott has even found herself working on a case as far away as the Bahamas, on a mission to confirm a suspected tryst.
Using her best acting skills, she managed to get an apartment with a perfect vantage point of her subject and was able to film what was going on from her room.
“I told the hotelier that I had friends coming in and pleaded for a specific room. You know, maybe I added a few tears to my story,” she joked. “You do whatever it takes.”
While at the resort, she was able to capture ample evidence of the affair. Equipped with a small video camera, Wainscott snapped a few pictures and emailed them immediately. No one suspected a thing.
Often, Wainscott will go above and beyond to disguise herself, sometimes altering hair, makeup and overall appearance.
Which begs the question, if someone has never seen her, why the need for extra measures to stay incognito?
“Just to be safe,” she said. “Some people are cautious and have done things like this before. Some are naturally more observant, while others are completely oblivious to everything around them.”
Quite often, her most advantageous hiding place is in plain sight.
“Restaurants, ballgames, grocery stores – there’s no way to sneak around places like that,” she said. “They’ll see you but would never suspect you because you’re so close, you know? You’re just another stranger to them.”
One of her more notable adventures was working with international public investigator TJ Ward on the Natalee Holloway case, using a program called “Layered Voice Analysis.” The program relies on voice algorithms and can analyze any kind of audio recording, even without the subject being present.
“It’s like a lie detector on steroids,” she said. “It’s way more accurate than the traditional lie detector. It’s so incredibly accurate. “We did analyze Joran van der Sloot and he’s a lying [expletive].”
While indisputable evidence of a cheating spouse is rarely good news for anyone, Wainscott feels that she’s merely the messenger and her role allows the client the closure they’re seeking so that they can move forward with their lives.
“It’s certainly rewarding and I don’t do it for the money,” she said. “I piss off just as many people as I make happy, but the worst part is telling someone the bad news they suspected. It’s the worst.”
Some cases end as quickly as they begin. One subject had been defrauding his company for more than three years, collecting $500 a week on a fake disability claim.
“I staked him out, and as I came around the corner with my camera ready, there he was, loading up a lawnmower on the back of his truck,” she said. “Gotcha. Just 30 seconds into the case.”
Most cases rarely, if ever, wind up in court, according to Wainscott.
“The evidence we’re able to acquire is so incriminating, the spouse or whomever just folds,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Okay. You got me. Let’s go to mediation.’”
After ten years in the business, Wainscott maintains her exuberance for her occupation but stresses that absolutely nothing is ever consistent in her line of work.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is to never assume anything. Ever. There’s just no rhyme or reason,” she said. “As soon as you think you have something figured out, it’s completely the opposite.”
“I thought I had seen it all but this job has really opened my eyes.”
Follow Clay Neely on Twitter - @clayneely