Private investigator Ron Rugen waits and waits, and then he waits some more. This is the monotonous world of a private investigator.
Unlike most detectives on television, Rugen, the founder of Rugen Team Investigations, mostly investigates civil cases, such as finding people, serving summonses and subpoenas and doing surveillance work.
The conditions Rugen under which works while doing this surveillance aren't always luxurious, but no matter how long he has to wait, Rugen said he would never break the law for anyone.
"I go out in my unmarked vehicle with my tinted windows and sit very bored and very stiff for hours at a time and just wait for something to happen," he said.
Scott Biondo, president of the Missouri Association of Private Investigators Inc. and a friend of Rugen's, described Rugen as a person who values honesty and integrity.
"He's concerned about providing the client with results and being fair with them," Biondo said.
Rugen has a good reputation among private investigators and in the Columbia area, he said.
"There are very few other people in this state that I would refer a piece of work to," Biondo said.
Private investigator Kevin Burgdorf, who operates out of St. Louis and specializes in criminal cases, said he refers some of his potential clients to Rugen.
"I recommend Rugen to do process of service," he said. "I recommend him to my clients, and he recommends me to his."
Rugen entered the PI field in 1994 after he became the victim of a cheating spouse. Going through the divorce process, he realized there was a need for investigators who assist attorneys in fact gathering. But Rugen said he tries not to become emotionally involved in the cases he investigates.
"You kind of have to detach yourself from it," he said. "But you feel bad for people."
Because of his past experiences, Rugen feels personal connection with victims of cheating spouses.
"I know how it feels, and there's nothing more you can say than it just sucks," he said. "So I pray for my clients. Literally."
Rugen grew up on a farm near Syracuse, Mo., a town of about 199 people. After he graduated from high school, he was ready to move somewhere bigger and went to college at the University of Central Missouri.
"You'd have a few lecture halls of 100 kids, as opposed to going to elementary school where you had two grades to a classroom and about 14 to a grade," he said about going to college. "Quite a big change for the country boy."
After graduation, Rugen worked as an assistant news director at radio stations in Jefferson City.
Rugen said the work he does as a private investigator isn't much different from his job as a broadcaster.
"You're still gathering facts, you're researching, you're gathering information," he said.
The nature of his job doesn't allow him many vacations. Rugen, who is working on three or four active surveillance cases right now, can't just walk away from a case.
"You're always kind of working a little bit," he said.
When he does get some time off, Rugen relaxes by cooking and he said his favorite dish to make is fried chicken and milk gravy, which he attributes to his farming background.
"I do a lot less eating out these days and cook a lot of stuff from scratch," he said.
Rugen also enjoys spending time with his three children. One of his sons, who will leave next month for Marine boot camp, is seeking a career in military intelligence. His other son is interested in computers and networking.
"The nut didn't fall far from the tree," Rugen said.