Catherine Townsend
Crimes of passion are my passion.


/// The photo is from a federal lawsuit, so it should be covered as a public record.

David Fischer
Associated Press
9100 NW 36th Street
Suite 111
Miami, FL 33178
Telephone: 305-594-5825
Fax: 305-594-9265
[AP Logo Email]

From: Robinson, Kevin []
Sent: Thursday, September 29, 2016 5:42 PM
To: Fischer, David
Subject: Cake photo

I've attached the original PDF forwarded to me by Byron's attorney, as well as a version we cropped.
Hope this helps.

Kevin Robinson
Crime and Justice Reporter


Office: 850-435-8527

In addition to the identity of the man on the grassy knoll and the location of Jimmy Hoffa’s body, armchair sleuths have found a new viral mystery to ponder: Who really baked the “Sorry I Tased You” cake?

The drama started last week when The Pensacola News-Journal reported that Stephanie Byron filed a civil lawsuit in federal court alleging that a former Escambia County deputy discharged a stun gun into her chest and neck without provocation in July of 2015. According to court documents the deputy, Michael Wohlers, later attempted to apologize by sending Byron a cake with “Sorry I Tased You” written in blue frosting.

But after the story went viral and was reported by news outlets around the globe, some eagle-eyed Internet sleuths began to question the cake’s credibility.

Read more:

Afraid to text your drug dealer? Try a ‘Dumb Phone’

New York yuppie party people are reportedly freaking out following a rash of high profile drug busts that included a Merrill Lynch associate and a millionaire Chipotle exec, the New York Post reports. From the article: ‘A Manhattan publicist who considers herself a weekend indulger admits the headline-grabbing arrests serve as a wake-up call. “This is actually terrifying. Everybody is scared,” says the 30-something, adding that she intends to curb her cocaine use. After all, if you get arrested, “your face is all of a sudden all over the world. Your career is over.”’

The paranoid partiers are afraid to text their dealers. Some are using services that delete messages after a day, while others have resorted to buying through third parties. As they hunt for high tech solutions, my question is: Why don’t they use burner phones? Anyone can walk into a phone store, put ‘Mickey Mouse’ down as your name and pay cash for a phone that is virtually untraceable.

Smart phone technology is great for many things: Swiping to find a love interest, checking out Yelp reviews of a new Thai place or figuring out how to walk to the nearest 24-hour CVS – NOT for putting ‘Coke Dealer’ in your contacts.

Why I won’t seduce your spouse

This week I have had two people ask me to sleep with their spouses – which, as a reasonably attractive female PI, is definitely an occupational hazard. It’s also a constant cocktail party punchline: “So you try to hit on men, trap them and take pictures, right?” I usually make a joke like “Of course. Just add three zeros to the end of my hourly rate,” or “I think you’re confusing me with Craigslist,” which tends to get the message across.

Seriously, enough already. I’m an investigator. Not a hooker. I will not seduce your spouse. I can get what I want through careful planning, intelligence and hard work–I don’t need to take my top off.

Yes, there are agencies (whom I will not name) who use women – usually unlicensed, inexperienced women – that act as ‘decoys’ to hit on men and ‘honeytrap them’. I am not one of them – and in almost all cases, I believe that this practice is a bad idea. Here’s why:

Surveillance is expensive, and cheating usually doesn’t matter in court. I work in mostly no-fault divorce states. That means that, in most cases – barring a pre-nup that spells out specific consequences for bad behavior (which I don’t recommend) – the judge will not give you a better settlement if you walk in on your wife having a three-way with her cousin and a circus midget.

Of course, I do my share of following cheaters. If someone already knows but just wants closure, or is worried about child custody issues, it could make sense to get intel on a new paramour.

For example, I had a recent case involving a husband who became suspicious about his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, and needed to see if he was doing drugs on a regular basis. In this instance, hours of surveillance absolutely made sense – especially since she was planning to move him in with the couple’s two young children.

Sometimes the infidelity is the ‘gateway’ to the subject’s double life, and can lead to intelligence about criminal activity, cons, fraud, drug dealing, money laundering and even murder.

I don’t believe in entrapment. Relationships are rarely black and white. Honestly, when someone is in a rocky relationship (which, if the client has come to me, they are)  talking to, flirting with, and even planning a night out with an attractive member of the opposite sex proves nothing.

To truly find out if they would go all the way, I would have to kiss/touch/sleep with them. Which brings me to my next point…

I NEVER cross physical lines with subjects. I’ve spent more than a decade deconstructing human behavior, and developing skills that make people want to talk to me. Would I flirt to get information? Probably. To me that is no more emotionally manipulative than a cop who makes the suspect believe that he is sympathetic in order to get a confession.

But getting physical would cross a MAJOR moral and ethical line for me. Also, many of my subjects are wealthy, powerful and handsome. If I enjoyed the hookup, it would be a major conflict of interest – not to mention the fact that if the case ever did make it to court, my professional reputation would be seriously tarnished.

So to all you suspicious spouses out there – I would love to help you with your case. But for all the reasons listed above, please remember that only organ on offer is my brain!

What a PI Can Learn from Thanksgiving

In honor of Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend, I’m re-posting this – because crazy family drama is timeless! After living in Los Angeles, London and New York I’ve spent Turkey Day with a constantly changing cast of friends, family and total strangers – and all of them have taught me valuable lessons in the art of investigation.

I don’t dwell on my ideological differences with my ultra religious Tea Party family member, because that would make my host uncomfortable. Instead, I steer the topic toward survival techniques. Last year I learned how to pick a lock and survive for a week in the woods with no water. Thanksgiving has taught me that everyone, no matter how diametrically opposed his or her viewpoint, can teach us something about life.

As a detective, I know that finding common ground with the subject of my interviews will help them become more comfortable.  So with the militant vegan, I talked juicing and yoga over Tofurkey – he didn’t need to know that I  keep my grandmother’s mink coat in my closet for extra-cold days.

Holidays are also a crash course in the art of diffusing drama, which is a crucial skill for a PI. Often, I will have to soothe a client’s nerves during an infidelity investigation, or be a shoulder to cry on when they are looking for a missing relative. So when someone’s wife is on her third Bloody Mary and joking about her husband being impotent, I can turn the table toward a different topic.

Thanksgiving has definitely helped me hone another hugely important investigative skill: The art of good research.

When the turkey gets burned and everyone is scrambling, my fact-finding skills are suddenly very much in demand for locating a grocery store that has pre-cooked birds – or at least a pizza joint that delivers.  Does applesauce work as a recipe substitute for sugar? Will a raisin give my dog the runs? Why do people kiss under mistletoe? Does that woman Uncle Frank brought have a criminal record? Everyone turns to the detective to find answers. With the help of Google and a few trusty databases, I can entertain and save the day.

Research also comes in handy when avoiding the angry hordes on Black Friday by figuring out which stores bring their sales online. Instead of worrying about which member of the angry mob will Tazer me over a TV, I can sit around and shop in my pajamas.

Thanksgiving has taught me the importance of making a backup plan. During a surveillance, I always make Plans B and C in case I lose my subject. I map out his entire routine for the day so that I can get through the assignment as smoothly as possible. The same rules apply when traveling: Before I get to the airport, I have checked my bag online, emailed myself a boarding pass, checked lounge access and verified the weather report at my destination.

Then when a flight gets cancelled, I use apps like Flight Tracker to make a list of alternative airlines  – and if there are none, to book a rental car before they are all sold out.

I’ve spent some holidays in huge mansions; others serving food to homeless veterans in the cold. Some were with friends and family; others totally alone. Holidays, for me, are a time to remember that even though I can’t always control the outcome, I can appreciate the people around me and be thankful for small things. Learning to be patient, roll with the punches and never give up even when things get tough is perhaps the most important lessons of all.