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Columbia investigators handle personal, civil cases

These services are not affiliated with the Columbia Police Department.

Katie Prince/Graphic Designer

Nov. 10, 2009

Cheating spouses are one of many cases private investigators in Columbia are hired to watch; people who have skipped out on their debt are another.

Melinda Kidder, owner and lead investigator of Columbia Investigations, said her team's specialty is surveillance and undercover work.

Private investigators are sometimes hired to find out if a customer's spouse is having an affair. Kidder said in these cases, investigators follow the spouse around and see if they are actually being unfaithful.

Ron Rugen, of Rugen Team Investigations, said he handles mostly civil cases. That means serving a large number of court papers like subpoenas.

"This month alone I'll probably get 30 to 40 summons," Rugen said.

Those summons are in addition to other cases Rugen might be investigating at any given time.

Private investigators also help people locate old friends, family members they haven't seen in a while and people who owe them money.

Rugen said he does not directly give customers the information he finds during these person locations. He gives the information to the client's attorney to ensure it is handled properly.

"That helps avoid cases of stalking," Rugen said.

The work of a private investigator is not limited to domestic and civil cases, Kidder said. People who have been accused of crimes often hire private investigators in hopes improving their case.

Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Jessie Haden said CPD does not interact with private investigators.

Haden said because the burden of proof is on the prosecution, it wouldn't surprise her if someone accused of a crime utilized available tools, such as a private investigator, to produce reasonable doubt.

"It would simply be an extension of what someone's defense attorney would do," Haden said.

Kidder said when her team works criminal cases, they help find whatever evidence exists and hopefully it will help exonerate the client.

"Our goal is to find the truth whether the client likes it or not," Kidder said.

Kidder also said Columbia Investigations is working on the appeal case for an unjustly convicted person. She said it is important to her the investigators working for her are qualified and dedicated.

Missouri does not require private investigators to get a license but Columbia does, Kidder said.

"The process is pretty simplistic and easy which is great for us but it doesn't provide the client with as much of a guarantee," Kidder said.

According to the city of Columbia's Web site, the Columbia Code of Ordinances states prospective private investigators must pay an application and license fee. A criminal background check is also conducted.

People often think the best background for a private investigator is in criminal justice, where there are a variety of skills that can be useful in the field, Rugen said.

His own background as a news reporter helps him get quality surveillance footage. Rugen said someone with a background in accounting would be able to conduct financial investigations.

For Kidder, she said one of the most important qualities in a private investigator is drive.

"One of the first things I ask a prospective employee is, 'Why do you want to be an investigator?' " Kidder said.

Kidder has one investigator with preliminary military training, one earning a degree in forensics and one who has lived in the area his whole life and seems to know everything about everyone.

"I like to see an inquisitive, intelligent person," she said.

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Article comments

Nov. 10, 2009 at 9:40 p.m.

Dottie: Columbia Investigations is one of the best companies I have worked with. We have collaborated on both defense and prosecution sides of cases and Melinda has impressed me everytime. I have seen her handle some realy heinous situations with extreme professionalism. She has started with almost no information and followed the case through twists and turns to completion. Great article.

Nov. 10, 2009 at 11:19 p.m.

Peggy: Congrats Mel - you go girl!

Nov. 12, 2009 at 3:35 p.m.

Karen Chabert, RN, LNC, PI: Ms. Kidder is a Private Investigator colleague of mine and her assistance in difficult circumstances has been outstanding and above the call of duty in my case. I would highly recommend her for any case you have and you will be treated with the utmost professionalism and dignity. Congratulations on an exceptional article to Melinda Kidder and Ron Rugen.

Jan. 27, 2011 at 9:51 p.m.

Lioudmila Delatour: I am 79-year-old woman, physicist by profession, immigrant from Moscow Russia since September 26,1988. Now I live in United States, citizen since1994. My residence is in California, Humboldt County, Arcata, in River Community Homes Inc. apartment complex Section 8. I live here 15 years and like the place very much. However events of last 5 years made my life unbearable. Since 2009 or earlier I became a victim of 'No Touch Torture'. And I need help. I have read of Mr. James Walbert case and I see that my case is simmilar to his. I need some advice concerning my circomstances of payment for a service. My income is SSI - Suplimental SI, which considered as 'extremely poor', but I can have from it ~$200-300 each month to pay for a service without much disturbing of my everyday life. The second thing is - people who performs this torture are group of persons with power. They permiated my life everywhere: in Open Door Clinic service, in pharmacy, in stores, on TV, on computer, in post service, in my Bank of America accounts, on trips etc. - where they can do everything what will harm me in any way. I am alone here and they took from me my friends and general people, by intimidating and telling wrong things about me. Now they threten my life with probably electronic device, I feel it every time when they don't like what I am doing and silent torture 24 hours a day every day almost 2 years.I have many details to tell, but it will make this story to long here. My Email address is However they have it to control my correspondence. My phone #: 707-826-2893,they listen to it too. And I have a problem to understand people on phone. My letters are in their hands. So what I can do in such a situation? Thank you. The best way to reach me is a Email, but they will read it. I don't know what to do. Sincerely Lioudmila Delatour.

July 1, 2014 at 4:34 p.m.

david wester: Hahaha! Mr. Rugen's son is a dirt bag! Let's hope Mr. Rugen isn't garbage like his son! Hilarious that this article was published by Maneater about this guy's son, who impersonated a police officer on 3 occasions. Check out this guy on casenet...he has TWO pages of him being a stupid kid. Guess he didn't go to the Marines (see other article on Rugen investigations)! He went to jail!

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