To most of us, our idea of a private investigator is based on watching such television shows as “The Rockford Files” and “Magnum P.I.” Smooth guys who were able to blend in even though they were the best looking guys in the room. And, in Magnum’s case, they were wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt! Philip Kline has managed to “blend in” for almost three decades. And that’s saying a lot about a man who stands 6’5” tall!
Internationally renowned for his investigative skills, as well as providing protection for some of the country’s biggest celebrities and politicians, Kline and his team undertook a project brought to them by “Dateline: NBC.” The network was curious about the mysterious disappearance of Patrick Kim McDermott, whose claim to fame was being the boyfriend of singer Olivia Newton John. Declared dead by the Coast Guard, as well as investigators hired by Newton John, something in the case file raised a red flag in Mr. Klein.
Klein has authored and just released the book “LOST AT SEA: The Hunt for Patrick McDermott.” In it he recounts the many hours, days and even years it took him to find a man who didn’t want to be found. Mr. Klein recently took the time to speak with MediaMikes about the case.
Mike Smith: How did this case compare to others you’ve had in the past?
Philip Klein: Well you know I do a lot of investigative work and body guard work for some of the most influential people in the United States. I’ve got to tell you, when NBC approached me about this I was kind of skeptical at first. But it turned out to be a real “who done it.” Actually more of a “why did they do it.” It wasn’t really “who” did it because we know…it was the man who was missing. But it was “why” he did it. Most investigators will tell you that the motive is the most important thing of the case. And when we found the motive of this case everything pretty much fell into place pretty quickly.
MS: Since the book has been published have you been contacted by McDermott or any representative? (NOTE: In the book Mr. Klein tracks McDermott to Mexico, where he later negotiates with a representative of Mr. McDermotts )
PK: No we haven’t. And the reason why is that we made a promise that if he provided a DNA sample…what we refer to as “proof of life,” we wouldn’t bother him anymore. His position, through his legal counsel, is that he just wants to be left alone. He has not committed any crimes, there are no warrants for his arrest and there are no, what we call in the business BOLOs, be on the lookout for in his name. So what we did was take a step back and decided that we needed to end the case. We asked his rep to send us a proof of life and we got just that.
MS: I remember in the book that you had agreed to not bother him once the proof of life was provided. I was just curious if maybe you had gotten a phone call or email saying “you were right…that’s exactly what happened!”
PK: (laughs) No, it doesn’t work like that. As much as I’d like it to work like that. I think what happens in the real world is that he is expecting an onslaught of press because the book has been released. And because he’s expecting an onslaught of press he’s probably gone back under. He’s very good. He’s learned the system down in Mexico. He knows how to disappear. He knows how to blend in. That’s what he’s probably done at this point. If I was consulting with him I would tell him that’s what he needs to do at this point.
MS: There almost seemed, not on your part but on your team, to talk directly with Olivia Newton John. Was that an outlet you really wanted to investigate but just didn’t feel it was right?
PK: Well, not necessarily. Well, you may be right in some ways. In every case there is a victim and in this case we considered Olivia Newton John one of the victims. Do we believe that Olivia Newton John knew anything about his disappearance? No. We believe that Patrick McDermott…we know that Patrick McDermott…went to her two weeks before he disappeared. He gave her some flowers and a funny card and said goodbye. They were going to break up. Olivia’s idea of the break up was…she felt that it was going to be a temporary break up. He’d done this before. In the police reports she called it a small “time out.” We believe that McDermott made the decision that that was it. He was going down to Mexico so he said his goodbyes. It’s very unusual that when someone takes off like that they say goodbye to the things they love or that they know that are common to them. And I think in Patrick’s case that he did have fond feelings for Olivia. You don’t date somebody for that long and not have some kind of feelings for them. But in the end I don’t think he wanted to hurt her. He just wanted to go on with his life. Of course Hollywood is a very, very tough place to survive. And I believe he decided he just couldn’t do it anymore. Especially in the fast lane with an “A” list star. He was always the nice looking man on Olivia Newton John’s arm. And so I think he said goodbye to her in the way he knew how to say goodbye. He bought a gun. He emptied his bank accounts down to zero. He got as much money as he could off his credit cards and he took off.
MS: Has the popularity, and the easy access of, the Internet made your job easier or harder? There is so much information out there that often you don’t know what’s true and what’s not.
PK: We have a big sign in our office for all of our investigators to read. It says “Don’t Believe What You Read on the Internet!” The Internet is a great tool, especially for investigators like us. That is one of the things we were able to do, use the Internet. We created what they call a “spider” web site…a trap site…where we could watch the IP addresses come in. One of the things you learn very quickly is that when people are running or trying to hide they’re always looking over their shoulder. So we used that concept and created the website “Find Patrick McDermott.com” We set that up as a “spider” site and we were able to trap IP addresses. We released the web site only to relatives and close friends of McDermott, including the Olivia Newton John camp. Then we sat back and watched. We blocked it from Google. We blocked it from Yahoo. And we just watched it for two weeks. And, sure enough, we started getting hits from Mexico. There’s nobody in Mexico that knew we were doing anything. So we figured at that point that he was down in Mexico. And we also knew the bigger piece of the puzzle…somebody was communicating with him down in Mexico.
MS: Do you know the status of McDermott’s life insurance policy?
PK: The insurance policy was not honored because of our report. We do know that Ms. Nipar (NOTE: Yvette Nipar was Patrick McDermott’s former wife. Despite her claims otherwise she has tried to undermine Mr. Klein’s investigation almost from the beginning. She has even gone so far to write Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, a letter asking him not to sell Mr. Klein’s book) was paying the insurance policy and keeping it active. It was a $100,000 life insurance policy. Of course the insurance company has a policy of not releasing any pertinent information except to family members. However when we did send them a formal 1702 notice, a notice saying we wanted to know who was paying the insurance policy and if the policy was active, they did copy Yvette Nipar. I think that was their way of saying, “no, we’re not going to tell you who’s paying on the policy but we’re going to copy our letter to whoever is paying on the policy.” That’s where we got that connection.
MS: I know from your emails with Ms. Nipar regarding your request to test your DNA sample with a sample of her son she refused and told you that the Coast Guard had samples of Mr. McDermott’s DNA. Did they?
PK: We did. And the U.S. Coast Guard advised us that they did not have any DNA. They didn’t understand where she was getting that information from. There was a hat found on the boat. There was also some other items found…fishing tackle, a wallet which was empty…what was missing were his two passports. So we asked them directly “what about this green hat that was supposedly left behind, was there any DNA on it or did you find any DNA in his apartment when you did the search?” There answer was “no, we did not keep any DNA. There was no reason for us to keep any DNA.” That’s always been a confusing thing for us…that the Coast Guard did not keep any DNA. The Los Angeles Police Department had immediately dropped the case. They felt, number one, that there was no foul play. Number two, it wasn’t there jurisdiction. And number three, they felt that he was probably running due to his issues with Ms. Nipar and the amount of money he owed the state of California for child support.
MS: I just pulled up the book’s web site and I see the letter she wrote Jeff Bezos asking him to pull the book.
PK: We were surprised. If you go through that letter you will see that Ms. Nipar results to name calling…she resorts to intimidation. And if you read the book you will notice that this is the same behavior she showed when we were trying to investigate. You’ll also see that she tried to use the Los Angeles Police Department to shut the investigation down. This is atypical of someone that really wants to know what happened to their loved one. It’s totally the opposite of what we’re used to as investigators. Usually when we come in and investigate the family bends over backwards. They give interviews…they say, “look, this is what we know…this is what we have.” They want to share. She has done completely the opposite. In fact, she has attempted to block the investigation at every turn. And once again, when we start talking about the case in the form of a book she begins to start trying to block it again. So all of the investigators in this office raise our eyebrows, as do some of my friends over at the Los Angeles Police Department. They raise their eyebrows and say she’s acting quite abnormal.
MS: One thing that really struck me in the book was when you relate that your father told you the three important things in life: Truth, Honesty and Faith. You then add that there is a difference between truth and honesty. What is that difference?
PK: Well, if I’m putting my investigator hat on, truth and honesty are two different things. You can say the sky is blue, and that’s the truth. But, honestly, if you’re looking at the sky and the sky has clouds in it, you don’t want to just say the sky is blue. Honesty means the sky is blue with some clouds. And I think that sometimes people, when they are scared or trying to give only the half-truth, they’ll stand up and just say the sky is blue. When they perfectly know that it’s blue and white. It’s blue with white clouds. They hold things back. And I saw a lot of that on this case. I’d get the typical Hollywood “yeah, I knew Pat…this is the way he was.” But they’d hold stuff back. And I think people in Hollywood are so shell shocked by the media…so shell shocked by the press and how hungry the press is to get a story…that they sometimes hold things back. Or, if they have something to hide, they hold things back. I think that’s what I was talking about when I mentioned that with my father. There is a huge difference between truth and honesty. The honesty is that the sky is blue with beautiful white clouds. It’s not just blue.
MS: Now that he’s 19 years old, if Chance (Mr. McDermott’s son)were to come to you and say, “Phil, can you show me what you’ve got,” would you share it with him?
PK: You know, that’s a great question! Not only with this case, which is a missing persons case. I do about 100 missing person cases a year. And I can tell you this. For each of the families I always keep what we call “the Box.” It’s the case box. Sometimes there are five or six boxes and sometimes only one box. And I keep them for the family members. Especially the young people so they can go through them when they turn 18 years old. And if Chance McDermott wants to come to our office and if he wants to sit down and dig through all of the evidence…read everything that we did, all the way back to day one when we started with NBC to when we closed with NBC to the writings of the attorneys down in Mexico City…he is perfectly welcome with open arms. And you’d be surprised. Young people come to us often and say, “you know, our parents didn’t really tell us everything Mr. Klein…would you please sit down with me and tell me what this is and show me the documents?” And we show them. We have seen it as a very emotional event…as a very spiritual event. And a very relieving event for these folks. With this case…and I’m NOT calling Ms. Nipar a liar…I’m simply saying that Ms. Nipar is holding stuff back from her son. There’s a reason and a motive for that. Maybe someday she can look him in the eye and tell him that motive.