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New Horizons

Taking it Case by Case

Teachers are known for “having eyes in the back of their heads.” This retiree is putting her powers of observation to a new use.

If you see Sue Kenny in a mall, you might notice when she turns her jacket inside-out, or switches hats. You might wonder why she and her husband are taking photos, or why their camera has a zoom lens.

But if you are busy watching Sue Kenny, you might miss who she is watching—a possible criminal.

A retired special education teacher in Idaho, Kenny’s job description has become a little more complicated: “It can be anywhere from surveillance to car repossession to espionage to finding missing people to finding kidnap victims,” she says.

Kenny and her husband, Paul, were chatting with an attorney when he mentioned the shortage of private investigators. Eight months of online detective school later, the Kennys peruse public records, shoot photos from moving cars, and follow possible wrongdoers.

She shocked her IEA-Retired team with her new venture, but says most of her friends and family caught on quickly to her new opportunities and commitment. “Some people now look at us like we’re strange,” Kenny says. “But most of them have that ‘Wow, this is so exciting!’ reaction.”

 With their new skills, the Kennys created Snoop Troop Investigations, based in their home. Paul is in charge of Internet research, and Sue does much of the observation. Also on the team are their dogs—Snoopie, the company namesake, and Winnie—who accompany Sue if she works at night.

 Kenny says Snoop Troop builds trust by being dedicated to each case. After 29 years of teaching, this isn’t new for Kenny. “Parents knew that in my class, their child was the most important child,” she says. “That’s just the way I am.”

Adopted as a child, Kenny hopes to help with more cases that connect children with their biological parents and help families reunite.

Typically, Kennys receive requests for process serving, acting as go-betweens for prosecutors and defendants, or for surveillance.

Among their cases, they’ve helped uncover a daycare scheme, revealing that the owner had a violent past and should not be taking care of children. Other searches have unearthed surprising information about friends and acquaintances—including some things she didn’t want to know.

 “You have to learn to separate your personal feelings and the business,” she says.

Kenny says the reality of investigating usually has less do to with TV-like drama and danger, and more to do with a familiar burden: paperwork. She was warned that the job would require stacks of forms and fine print, but says, “I was a special-ed teacher. You know nothing about paperwork!”

As far as post-retirement jobs go, Kenny says private investigating is an ideal way to earn money while controlling the time commitment and schedule. She and her husband were putting in about 40 to 50 hours a week at their peak.

While Kenny says being a P.I. in small-town Idaho is mostly mundane, her advice for private investigators hints otherwise.

“Do not get caught,” she says. “And drive a fast car.”

--Ankita Rao