“You become a voice for the victim. ”

Case Solved: Private eye investigates the dark side of life

“You become a voice for the victim. It’s most satisfying.”

By Jill Draper 

When a newly engaged woman hired Barry & Associates to check the background of her fiancé, she learned shocking news. The man was a fugitive from Arizona where he was wanted for draining a previous lover’s bank account and then killing her. 

This premarital due diligence almost certainly saved the client’s life, says Barry Hutchison Sr., a former law officer who now runs a private investigation business out of his home in the south KC metropolitan area. He recommends a similar background check for “anybody and everybody that’s going to be involved in a marriage or even a long-term relationship.” 

Hutchison notified police, and the man was picked up and returned to officers in Arizona. Cooperating with law enforcement agencies is a common thing for him and his employees. “Most of the local police in bigger cities like working with us. We can hand them a case solved with a pretty bow on top of it.”

Barry Hutchison is a licensed investigator in both Kansas and Missouri.

Growing up in Nashville, Hutchison joined the sheriff’s office at age 18 and held successive jobs with various police departments and state and federal task forces for 26 years. Next he worked as a salesman in the steel industry, moving up to own, and then sell, two steel companies. After reconnecting with a high school classmate, the two married and moved to Kansas City where his wife works as a physician. Hutchison thought he was retired, playing golf and traveling. But two years later he became licensed as a private eye, deciding, “There was some good out there that I could do, that I had a unique skill set for.”

Some clients contact him first, but many come after talking to law enforcement officers who may lack the resources to fully investigate situations. “They’re understaffed, undertrained and underequipped,” says Hutchison, who sympathizes with police and sheriffs. 

The types of cases he sees are cyclic. Corporate espionage, especially protecting trade secrets, is currently big, along with typical child custody and divorce issues, and celebrities who worry that eccentric fans may turn into threatening stalkers. And ever since the film “Sound of Freedom” about sex trafficking came out, he’s been fielding an increase in calls about missing children and molestation suspicions. 

People love drama and they get into the same situations they always have, he says, with many cases requiring old-fashioned legwork such as canvassing areas where something happened and querying witnesses. 

What’s changed over the years is the technology. Hutchison snaps open a black box on his desk to illustrate. Cushioned within are various devices. One looks like a smoke detector but contains a wide-view camera lens and mic. A magnetic GPS tracker can be stuck beneath a car parked in a public place. A pair of eyeglasses features a tiny camera on the stem that also records sound. An electric plug fits into a wall socket and contains a camera.

Surveillance sunglasses with hidden camera.

Does he ever feel like James Bond with all these high-tech gadgets? Hutchison grins and says he used to play Bond music on his personal voicemail. With his best Sean Connery imitation, he recorded a message: “I’m sorry, but I can’t answer the phone. I’m busy solving a crime.”

He doesn’t read much crime fiction (sometimes spy stuff like Tom Clancy) but does read case law and watch real CSI shows to keep up with new technology. He also maintains a private LinkedIn page with many law enforcement contacts and frequents an online chat room open only to law enforcement and other investigators. 

He’s a big Mafia enthusiast and one wall of his office is lined with black and white photos of past organized crime leaders. Whenever he and his wife entertain out of town visitors, they take them on the Kansas City Gangster Tour. “We love it,” he says.

Another wall features country music and movie stars he met while running a security business in Tennessee. Once he provided security for a private party given by Dolly Parton, “the nicest one I ever worked for.”

Hutchison considers himself a top tier investigator and bills at $250 per hour, although occasionally he takes pro bono cases. In addition to years of experience with criminal investigations and human physiology (furtive body movements, voice inflection and such) he says he’s good at relating to people. “But you never know, you never know. Someone can be a pillar of the community and still be a serial killer.”

He was a third generation law enforcer, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and riding in his dad’s police car at age 12. When one of his sons expressed interest in the field, however, he told him don’t do it. 

“Today you couldn’t pay me enough. I feel sorry for law enforcement officers nowadays. They got it rough. You can be sacrificed as a public scapegoat for doing your job.” 

The other thing he dislikes about both law enforcement and private investigation work is the constant encounter with humans behaving badly. “You don’t see anything but the dark side of life.”

The bright side is when he helps put a criminal, especially a sexual abuser, in jail. “You become a voice for the victim,” he says. “It’s most satisfying.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: