On Nov. 7, Terry Monasmith was given the task by his attorney employer to videotape a subject at a hotel in Wichita.
The man made an insurance claim that he was unable to partake in any physical activity.
When Monasmith entered the hotel, he was carrying a briefcase holding his video camera. An obvious camera bag could have tipped the subject to the surveillance effort. Monasmith also thought of a story if the clerk asked why he was staying in Wichita instead of driving the hour back to Marion, his hometown listed on his driver’s license.
Once in the room, Monasmith was able to lean out his window and catch the man at the hotel’s pool, providing the evidence his employer was looking for.
This is just one example of situations Monasmith finds himself in every day. There is a certain personality and mindset required to work in security and be a private investigator, he said.
“I don’t think just anybody can do it,” Monasmith said. “You have to have real attention to detail. You’re dealing with the legal system.
The job is not cut and dry, in and out. There are lines that are easily crossed.
“Ethics and morals come into play. I don’t have somebody looking over my shoulder,” Monasmith added. “In this industry, you make money on other people’s misfortunes.”
Monasmith owns and operates Dark Horse Protection. He and his wife, Erica, are the primary employees of the business; she does the accounting. If Monasmith has a static security job, such as ferrying an executive or former politician, he will subcontract those positions.
He travels all over Kansas and even crosses state lines to track people down.
Monasmith is physically imposing at more than 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, but he is affable and outgoing. While he needs to know criminals and aggressively search, he has also built a network of people to help him.
Monasmith was hired as a security officer for a witness in the Scott Roeder trial in 2010. Originally, the witness was supposed to walk through the throng of local media members at the front of the 18th District Courthouse.
“It’s all about protecting that person from danger,” Monasmith said. “But you want to protect person from embarrassment as well. He did not want to be bombarded by the media.”
From his time working with work release in Wichita, Monasmith talked to one of his friends at the courthouse. He was able to gain permission to park in an employee parking lot and take the witness in a side door.
Monasmith also has contacts with local police departments. He said the Hesston police were helpful when he was trying to serve a subject with a legal notice.
There are also postal workers. Post masters and postal workers, as a source of information, are a little different; they are legally bound to withhold certain information like a subject’s new address.
Having a subject’s most recent address, Monasmith has asked workers if a person still lives at the residence. If the answer is no, he sends a letter to the house asking for address assistance and writes not to forward. It then comes back with a yellow label with the subject’s new address.
“That does not mean you’ll find them there,” Monasmith said.
When a subject relocates to a state like Arizona, Monasmith usually contacts his employer to contract the work in that state. Monasmith is licensed as private investigator and has insurance in Kansas. He is working on being licensed in Missouri.
“I’m a big believer in keeping things local,” Monasmith said. “There’s a lot of red tape.”
Not every job is an adrenaline pumping thrill ride for Monasmith; giving notices of foreclosures and other legal notices have become a big part of his business.
The business and Monasmith have evolved over time.
Originally from Newton, Monasmith went into the Army, where he worked on the Patriot missile system. He got off active duty in 1995 and he lived in Branson, Mo., where he met Erica and they married in 1998.
Monasmith started in security working as a third-shift guard at Bank of America and worked his way up to a manager.
Looking to move back to Kansas, he changed course and went into corrections in Wichita in 2006. He then moved onto the El Dorado correctional facility where he worked his way up to a black suit — specialized officers who do riot control, inmate shakedowns, and other high-risk operations.
“The correctional field really helped,” Monasmith said. “Every day you’re working in an environment with the scum of the Earth.”
About this time, Monasmith began doing private security work, mostly static for entrepreneurs.
“I stumbled into it,” he said.
Eventually, Monasmith built up a reputation and customer list and created Dark Horse, moving to security full-time. He started with security before becoming a licensed investigator.
“I know guys who all they do is insurance fraud,” Monasmith said. “I haven’t really set my claws into one specific thing.”
In June 2008 and now with a family, Monasmith moved to Marion, while maintaining an office in Wichita. He said the location in Marion was optimal because it is 60 minutes from many locations. He often drives to Salina and Wichita. Also, he wanted better educational opportunities for his sons, Wyatt, 13, and Wade, 11.
This past year, he moved his office into his home in the 300 block of North Locust Street.
What Monasmith likes about his chosen profession is that he often working in the field.
“The biggest thing I enjoy is the freedom, not being tied to a desk,” he said.
However, one of the drawbacks is that Monasmith will work long and strange hours.
“What I do is far from 9 to 5,” he said. “Two weeks ago I didn’t get home until 11:30 at night.”
But Monasmith is evolving with his schedule as well. Last year, he worked it out so that he could attend all of Wyatt’s wrestling matches.
He has also tried to be involved with the Marion community; he was on the city zoning and planning board for a time.
He is also working on the security system planned for the new gazebo for the park, offering to pay for $4,000 worth of the project.
“As a citizen, my kids play in the park; I believe in that project,” Monasmith said. “I do like it here. I don’t have to worry about my kids.”