Janis McCollom,

Janis McCollom,

A weeklong electronic journal.
June 5 1998 3:30 AM

Janis McCollom,

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       My day begins at 4:45 a.m. The Felony Theft defendant is at a motel--Western Inn at 1500 610 Loop. I arrive at this location at approximately 5:15 a.m. The defendant doesn't have the room under his name, nor is it under any of his close friends' names. Yet his photo is familiar to motel employees.
       My partner and I leave the location and get with the informant. We know the defendant is in this motel. They have over 100 rooms, so it's impossible to go room to room. I return to the motel at 9 a.m. and get with the clerk on day duty. She also recognizes the photo but doesn't know his room number. So I hang out for a while to see if maybe I'll get lucky and someone will show up to pick up the defendant. Still, the place is large enough that he could slip by. After about an hour I go back to the office.
       Harris County did pick up the female wanted for Credit Card Abuse. That's one down and several more to go. The defendant wanted for Aggravated Sexual Assault is still running. The detective informs me that one of the co-sureties has a bad attitude and is not cooperating. The detective also tells me that another co-surety, the defendant's wife, is back with the defendant. The bondsman will now send demand letters to the co-sureties. These letters will inform the co-sureties (who signed for the defendant when he got his bail bond, guaranteeing that he would appear in court) that they will be held responsible for the bail amount and any extra costs associated with bringing the defendant to justice.
       I contact the defendant's wife, who denies being back with him. I inform her that she can be charged with Hindering Apprehension of a Felon. I also let her know he has been charged in another case of Aggravated Sexual Assault. Her words: "No way." Ten to one she's with him. Next question is, Where are they? How to get ahead of this one? She does tell me he goes to the Open Door Mission on Harrisburg. That's a shelter for homeless men. Now I must wait for a photo and pass the information on to the detective I've spoken with.
       At approximately 1:15 p.m. I get a phone call from another informant. The defendant with the Theft charges is at Elaine's Lounge at 5020 Airline. I head in that direction after calling the Harris County Warrant Division and asking for a sergeant. (All calls must go through the sergeant on duty in order to get help!) The sergeant is out and won't be back for about 30 minutes. I can't wait that long. I call Houston Police Department's nonemergency number and request a unit. In about 15 minutes the first unit pulls up. I explain the situation and why I think the defendant is in Elaine's. The unit calls for a dog unit in case the defendant is hiding. The defendant has already left the location. Once again he's won. I'm still one step behind him. He knows he's being looked for. The district attorney's investigators have placed the heat on him from the day before. There's nothing worse than a Theft case as far as a chase goes. It's as if the defendants in those cases have a sixth sense and can feel you coming, until you get the one step ahead of them.
       This defendant will leave the country if I don't get him soon. Hearsay is that he'll go to Belez, Mexico. He'll drive out of town and catch a flight out of another city. So now I go back to the office and make up fliers on him to give to the airport police, who, I hope, will tag the flights to Belez, Mexico. Computers are great for 1) tracking defendants and 2) sending information to law enforcement. It's a matter of getting it done, so I hope and pray that I find an officer willing to help. The defendant will have to show ID and have a passport--hopefully his own. So I pray now and hope that God is on my side this time and that all goes well.
       I hit the streets at around 7 p.m. My partner and I go to several bars that the Theft defendant is known to hang out at. No luck.
       We go to Northeast Houston on a felony drug case out of Chambers County to talk to one of the co-sureties who has been cooperative. He tells me the defendant is in the Texas Department of Corrections in Huntsville and has been for about two weeks now. He was supposedly busted in Laredo, Texas. Tomorrow I must verify all this. If I'm lucky he will be there.
       We run a couple of misdemeanor cases. Both have charges of Driving While License Suspended. This charge used to be dealt with in municipal court but was moved up to county criminal court about four years ago. In my opinion, it belongs in municipal court because it's a nonviolent offense, but unfortunately our justice system is about the dollar, and you can get larger fines in the county criminal court. These people are fined anywhere from $100 to $1,000. I take more people to jail a year on DWLS charges than any other misdemeanor charge.
       The first DWLS defendant gets away. This is a frustrating day! Not going well at all. But we all have those days. In the second DWLS case I am denied entry into the residence. Therefore I cannot legally enter nor can the police. In Texas, you cannot force your way into a residence on a misdemeanor offense. The people are claiming that the defendant is not here, which I believe to be a lie, but there's nothing I can do. These two cases will be doubled back on in the morning. It's far from over, and I hate it when they run. So in the case of the first DWLS defendant I will go to the prosecutor and request additional charges be filed for jumping bail. Once again it's up to them.
       Today the criminals have won, but tomorrow the battle begins again. There's an old saying, "He who laughs last laughs longest." Hopefully I'll get that laugh tomorrow.
       This job is stressful, with good and bad days. Today wasn't a total loss. At least the Credit Card Abuse defendant went into custody. The laws have favored the criminals for quite some time now. As I lay my head down tonight I'll ask myself a question: If the American people really knew what was going on, what would they do to change it? So far nothing. Too many don't realize until they are a victim or have a mishap with the courts. Our government used to be for the people and of the people. Where has that gone? Do the people care anymore?
       Today may be frustrating but tomorrow will be better!

Janis McCollom is a private criminal investigator based in Houston. She locates criminal defendants who have jumped bail. This is her 16th year in practice.