Move over, Magnum, there's a new P.I.
July 13, 2009 at 2:13 a.m.
If Nancy Drew had grown up, had children and moved to Round Rock, her life would probably resemble Anji Fussell's life.
The former Victoria resident owns her own private investigation business called She Spies Private Eye.
Private investigations is mostly a male-dominated industry, but Fussell, 43, and her mostly female staff are helping lead the way for other women to get in the business.
"When I first got started in this industry, I was one of only a few women. Over the years, more and more women have gotten into it and I'm glad to see it," Fussell said. "Women have the potential to do a better job as a P.I. We can change our looks more easily, we look less suspicious, people open up to us more. And I'm not knocking men, but women really can do a great job as a private investigator."
It's not an easy job, but Fussell loves it, she said. Since starting the business six years ago, Fussell has crawled on her belly through a hayfield in camouflage, dressed to attend a swinger's club and had to hit on an Austin police officer. She's been threatened, had to hang out in bad parts of town and has worked on high profile cases in Austin and other parts of Texas.
"I do love my job. It's stressful at times, but I can't imagine doing anything else. It's all about helping people get answers," she said.
To many, who have heard her story, Fussell's life sounds like a plot straight from a TV show: A single mother raising her family in between late night stakeouts, crawling in hayfields and infiltrating sex clubs.
That's precisely why Hollywood has already come knocking.
Fussell, who was born and raised in Victoria, has already filmed one TV series, which was picked up by CBS, but has never aired. However, another producer has noticed the potential in Fussell's story and is currently working on developing a reality show about her life.
"The show would follow me around on the job and show the every day life of a female P.I. and single mom of four," Fussell said. "I'm very excited. This is something people find fascinating and I've had many people tell me over the years that I need to do a TV show about this."
She added that legal negotiations are under way and she should know more about the show in a month.
Fussell's love of digging to find the truth comes naturally. Her mother, Bettye Pribyl, was a genealogist and constantly researching the past.
"She was that kind of person that would just dig, dig, dig and she instilled that in me," Fussell said. "She definitely inspired me."
Pribyl said she and her husband, David, worry about their daughter and her sometimes-dangerous business.
"I constantly worry, but she loves it so much. You just have to accept it and pray," Pribyl said. "She leads a very interesting life and it makes her happy."
Despite her worries, Pribyl said, she has helped Fussell on a couple of cases in Victoria. To help Fussell gather information on a local businessman, Pribyl and a friend went undercover, asking questions and scouting different locations.
"You should have seen us. We were like Lucy and Ethel on a stakeout," Pribyl said, laughing. "It was so funny. We had to drive by a residence and get a license plate number but when you get old like us, you can't see that well. We drove by that car so many times until we finally had to pull over and my friend got out of the car, walked right up to it and wrote the number down."
Fussell's job is more than busting cheating spouses and tailing subjects.
Fussell cares very strongly about children, she said, and it's one of the reasons she got into the business.
Many of her cases deal with child custody. Fussell has made it her personal mission to ensure children end up with the right parent, she said.
"My passion is child custody. I used to work with kids before starting this business and for a lot of children with problems, many times it stems from family," she said. "Being in the P.I. business, I'm trying to prevent chaos with family so that these kids don't end up in the system."