Chris Butler wanted to be a media celebrity and a badass, until he made what turned out to be a big mistake. He asked Diablo to write about him.
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You may have heard the name Christopher Butler in the news lately but certainly not for reasons that the 49-year-old Concord resident would want you to know about. I’ve been following Butler’s mysterious story since last August, when he invited me to write a Diablo feature about his business. It unexpectedly turned out to be the most interesting—and frightening—story in my 14 years of being a journalist.
It’s probably best to start at the beginning.
[ chapter one ]
Have We Got a Story for You
It all started on August 24, 2010, when I received a call from a Los Angeles–based publicist representing Butler and Associates Private Investigations, Inc. The pitch went like this: Butler’s business was a great story for Diablo. Not only did his firm hire moms to run surveillance on cheating husbands, but it had recently been featured in People magazine and on the Today Show and Dr. Phil—and Butler had just signed a deal for a new reality show on Lifetime Television.
Later that day, I got a call from Chris Butler, who filled me in on his backstory. A former Antioch police officer, Butler acquired his Concord-based private investigation firm sometime around Y2K. He told me he discovered, through trial and error, that moms and gumshoes shared a lot of the same skills.
“At first, I hired former and off-duty law enforcement officers, all men, to work on assignments. They were too often competitive, impatient, and difficult to deal with,” said Butler. “Then, I hired a mom, and she was the best investigator I had worked with. She was patient and a good team player, and she could multitask.”
Butler invited me to come on a ride-along on one of his cases to watch his P.I. Moms in action. He described an upcoming case, in which he and the P.I. Moms would “sting” a philandering husband by sending a young, attractive decoy to flirt with him—maybe at a fitness club or via a dating website—and then try to make a date. If the husband bit, his wife had the goods on him and would be able call the shots in a divorce settlement.
“I’m not crazy about that angle,” I said. “I’d feel better about the ride-along if you were following a guy who was already cheating, not some guy you baited with a hottie.”
The next day, Butler offered to show me precisely what I asked for—the investigation of an active philanderer. Butler had been hired by a wealthy woman, he said, who was suspicious of her much younger fiancé’s activities. The next time that the fiancé was expected to have an opportunity to cheat was September 11, and I was welcome to observe the P.I. Moms’ surveillance techniques. If they saw the guy having an affair, I could even interview The Client afterward, as long as I did not reveal her identity or the identity of her fiancé.
[ chapter two ]
Previews of Coming Attractions
On September 9, I sat down with Chris Butler and several P.I. Moms at the offices of Butler and Associates. The offices were located in a warehouse building on Detroit Avenue in Concord, and the first things I noticed upon entering were the framed 8-by-10 photos of detective shows from the 1970s and ’80s, including Charlie’s Angels, Moonlighting, and Magnum, P.I.
To my surprise, The Client, a woman in her early fifties, showed up at the meeting a few minutes after I arrived. She told me she had been in a relationship with The Subject for three years and that she needed to address her suspicions of his infidelity if she was going to spend the rest of her life with him.
“I just want to be sure, to know one way or the other, if something is going on,” said The Client, tearing up. One of the P.I. Moms, Charmagne Peters, jumped up with a box of tissues, and another, Denise Antoon, gave The Client a hug.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Chris Butler told The Client, in a cool, confident tone. “We’re here to observe his behavior and provide you with information. So if there is something going on, you’ll have all your ducks in a row.”
“I just need to be sure,” repeated The Client, crying into the tissue. She turned to me. “I’m just so glad they’re moms,” she said. “They understand what I’m dealing with. They really get it.”