By Ron Buretta

Every day we make decisions. Most are pretty easy. Once in a while you are faced with a decision which will have a far reaching effect; good or bad.  If a caution light, more like your conscience, goes off, pay attention. A wrong choice can leave reminders behind.

Some choices leave physical scars. I’ve got 30 stiches of reminders from my teenage years. Some bad calls leave emotional scars. Guilt and anger ate at me for many years. My choices left me well-off financially but my marriage suffered. Being a workaholic came with that price tag.

For decades, as an investigator, people poured out their heart to me. I saw first-hand the devastating effects of wandering far off the spiritual path. This was not private eye television fluff with happy endings or cases solved. These scenarios involved real people, shattered families, tears, financial ruin, prison, murder and suicide. Without mentioning names, here are a few of over 16,000 cases my agency handled.

People Who Seemed to Have it All

“Ladue Lady” was my only case with a television-style car chase. When you get into that situation, you wish you weren’t. Someone could get hurt or killed.

Her boyfriend was behind the wheel of a moving truck. She was in the passenger seat cheering him. Ladue Lady was in the midst of a nasty divorce with a court order not to remove any assets from the house. She was very wealthy. Violating a court order wasn’t going to stop her. After the divorce, she received a big settlement, which she squandered within a few years. Her solution? Suicide.

“The Cocaine Kid” had a nice home, drove a Porsche and had a good income. He filed bankruptcy, which his own lawyer and I, his investigator, contested. He claimed he spent most of his money and sold off his expensive jewelry to support his cocaine addiction.

To complicate matters, his wife filed for divorce. Before the proceedings were finalized, he kidnapped his wife’s employer. When he was stopped on route to the Lake of the Ozarks, the officers found heavy chains and cinder blocks in trunk of his car. He claimed he had no intention to kill her or dump the body. The chains and cinder blocks were for traction on his car. All he wanted to do was “talk” to her.

Before the criminal trial, a young FBI agent paid me a visit. He was investigating The Cocaine Kid’s bankruptcy fraud. Among other red flags, our subject was wearing the gold jewelry he claimed to have sold on the street. The fraud charges were dropped since he went to prison for assault and kidnapping.

People Who Failed to Respect Death

“He’s Off Drunk Somewhere” didn’t heed death’s warning. His buddy was drunk when he fell from a rope swing at a campground, and later died from the critical injuries he sustained. “He’s Off Drunk Somewhere” was a witness.

I spoke to his dad while trying to serve a witness subpoena. When I asked where he lived, his father replied, “Probably off drunk somewhere.” I eventually located him but was tricked when he lied about his identity. Next, I  reached out to his probation officer and we arranged to serve him civil process at her office. My subject showed up extra early for his appointment, so I missed another opportunity.

The next month I called to confirm his required meeting.

“He won’t be here,” the probation officer said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because he’s dead.” 

After an argument with a drinking buddy, He’s Off Drunk Somewhere stormed out of the car intending to walk home. On route he passed out unseen next to a parked car. Heavy alcohol intoxication and a bitter cold January night found him dead of exposure the next day.

S.G. cheated death when a steam roller slipped off a wet asphalt parking lot landing on top of him.  Fortunately, he landed in a damp creek bed where his body was compressed into the earth. He ended up with injuries to his thighs and legs. S.G. recovered only to be shot to the death months later in a strip club parking lot.

Growing is Essential to Living

A baby is adorable, but it would be sad to see an infant always remain as such. It would also be eternally sad to see someone remain a spiritual baby. A person can be born again early or late in life. Whenever that happens, real growth – through attending church, Bible study and other holy habits – should then become a lifelong pursuit.

We are targeted, from cradle to grave, to want this, do that or believe in something else. Hollywood, social media and advertising present their idealized version of life. We need a compass to get through life. Without a guide, we are guaranteed to get lost.

I read the Bible through twice before joining my church. I knew bits and pieces of Scripture but it was only with the guidance of an excellent pastor and Bible study leader that the words deepened in meaning. In the pre-dawn hours, reading and praying, my spiritual eyes opened wider.

Hindsight is always 20/20. There is value in living and learning, not only from our own mistakes but from the errors others have made. It’s easier, cheaper and much less painful to avoid a problem than to pick up the broken pieces afterwards.

Counting My Blessings

I’ve had a few close calls that could have ended in tragic death.

  • I fell out of a tree stand just missing a thick tree stab. A few years later I attended a wake for a client who fell out of his tree stand.
  • An organized crime member used two crooked police officers, who were running counter surveillance, to try to pin a crime on me. I learned of this off a wiretap and foiled their plan.
  • In 2019, I was hit by a tractor trailer on Hwy 70 in St. Peters. All the other vehicles missed me, at highway speeds, as I was pushed across two lanes of traffic.
  • In 2021, I was taken to the hospital by ambulance for a pacemaker install. I had an undiagnosed heart condition.

God gave me multiple second chances, chances He didn’t give some of the people in my stories. Why me? What are the odds? Only God knows.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Proverbs 19:21

Ron Buretta is a University of Missouri – St. Louis graduate. He worked as a private investigator for over forty years, published four articles in professional magazines and frequently lectures to law firms and professional organizations. He and his wife have been married for 51 years and have two children and three grandchildren. His relationship with Christ began when he was in his twenties. You can email Ron at