By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
As one forensic psychologist who reviewed Dear's findings stated in Dear's book, Jason Simpson was, at the time of the Bundy murders, "a walking time bomb."
Attempts to contact Simpson through his attorney and a former employer were not successful.
The den of the 64-year-old Dear's quiet Midlothian home is a testimony to the fervor he's attached to his lengthy--and expensive--effort to prove that the investigation done by the LAPD and district attorney's office amounted to little more than "a relentless rush to judgment." He estimates he's spent $600,000 on his marathon fact-finding mission. Exercise equipment now shares space with large trunks filled with the files he's accumulated. In a bookcase are copies of 40 other books that have been written on the Simpson case. Photographs and legal documents related to the murders are spread across a pool table on which a game hasn't been played in years.
Still, it is a setting far different from that one would have found the flamboyant P.I. in another time in his career--back when the swimming pool adjacent to his sprawling southern Dallas County mansion had a canal that extended into the master bedroom, when his closet was filled with 200 suits and a like number of custom-made boots and the jet black Corvette he drove had personalized license plates.
In those days, Dear was in Canada one week, Europe the next, working at a breakneck pace to earn the millions people were willing to pay for his expertise. It was a time when he owned a popular steakhouse and a thriving western clothing store; when he watched over his own school for wannabe private eyes and wrote books on his most fascinating cases. Hell yes, he says, he loved it when Playboy was comparing him to Sherlock Holmes at the same time the British tabloids labeled him "the real James Bond."
Dear, it seems, was one of those born to warm in the spotlight. As a 15-year-old growing up in Florida, he says he witnessed a robbery while making his morning paper route deliveries. Following the getaway car on his bicycle, he took down the address it eventually pulled in to and phoned the police. Proclaimed a hero in the next day's paper, he was soon being followed by another car that twice ran him off the road. Assuming someone was attempting to scare the youngster from testifying, police provided him a daily escort on his paper route until the trial was over. By 20, he says he was the youngest sworn police officer in Florida history. One of the first things the young patrolman did was cite legendary Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa for a traffic violation. More headlines. He's been there ever since.
In the mid-'50s, Dear left Florida for Dallas, convinced that a career as a private investigator offered more excitement and considerably better paydays than carrying a badge. Adopting a workaholic routine, he was soon busy investigating homicides, helping clients collect on insurance settlements and locating children who had either run away or been kidnapped. Soon, his reputation began to spread. So did his business.
By 1979, he was on the campus of Michigan State University, delving into the Dungeons and Dragons-playing background of a 16-year-old prodigy named James Dallas Egbert III who had disappeared into a labyrinth of steam tunnels beneath the school. Two months passed before Dear finally located the troubled youngster hiding in Morgan City, Louisiana. From the experience came his first book, The Dungeon Master.
Then there was the Byzantine murder case in Bath, Ohio, where Dear moved into the home of millionaire victim Dean Milo, even wearing his clothing and sleeping in his bed in an attempt to gain some "feel" for the crime. As unorthodox as his practices might have seemed, his investigation resulted in the convictions of 11 conspirators, including the victim's brother, as well as another book, Please...Don't Kill Me.
Later, he was hired by the Tarrant County grandparents of a missing 5-year-old. He managed to track her to a small town in Nebraska where she was being held by her mentally unstable father. The story's happy ending featured Dear and the little girl stepping off a plane in Dallas as the minicams recorded the joyful reunion.
Each round of publicity, he quickly learned, resulted in a new wave of calls from prospective clients.
Those were the days when he was at his self-promoting best, a time when he was lionized by some and labeled more sizzle than steak by others. His detractors were quick to point out that the gushing newspaper and magazine profiles never bothered to mention the cases he didn't solve or that much of the legwork credited to him was actually being done by the sizable staff he employed. At one point, a rumor circulated that his license had been suspended after a dissatisfied client complained to the Texas Board of Private Investigators. Never happened, Dear says.
Says Richard Riddle, a former Dear partner who now has his own agency, "Sure, Bill's got a big ego. Doesn't even try to hide it. But he works his tail off for his clients. I don't know how many missing-kid cases he's worked for a dollar. On top of that, I've seen him spend thousands of dollars of his own money on cases when the client couldn't afford to pay."