Heather Bird photography

Heather Bird photography

While most of us watch crime shows eagerly, some people get to live that adventure. Whether it is figuring out unknown plane crashes in Alaska or locating  a missing person, it’s all in a day’s work for Jax. We all know Jax Menez Atwell as the private investigator on the hit show, Missing In Alaska, but Jax is also a Dad to three wonderful boys. We sat down with Jax to find out how he balances fatherhood with his successful Private Investigating Firm and his hit show, Missing In Alaska on the History Network.

How did you become a private investigator?

I’m sure there are many people out there that become investigators or detectives in the civilian and government realms because it is a job and maybe they are good at it but for me I’ve been who I am since I was a young boy. I have always been very inquisitive and there was no greater thrill as a young boy than solving a mystery. I grew up reading “Hardy Boy” books and yes I will admit an occasional “Nancy Drew” novel that I would sneak from the library without my friends seeing. To me being an investigator isn’t something you do but it’s something that you are. When you get a case in order to truly understand it you have to immerse yourself in it and become it in order to solve it.

I became a private investigator after finding it much more rewarding than working in law enforcement. I wouldn’t trade my time in government because it gave me many necessary tools, training, and experience that you just can’t get by immediately becoming a private investigator. I took all that made me great in that world and made myself that much better in the private sector.

Jax, tell us about Atwell Investigations.

Quite simply Atwell Investigations is me. I’ve had other names to my company but what I finally landed on is that my company name needed my face. I couldn’t be represented by a figure, a verb, or a term. I wanted my clients to know me and my company pure and simply by the integrity and foundation that I had laid from years of hard work. In my business you don’t really advertise it is all about the foundation you laid in yourself and those that work for you doing your case work.

How can private investigators help in Family Law?

I look at it this way there are four parts to Family Law: law enforcement, your family law attorney, the court system, and finally your investigator. When I define those in the list as “in case of emergency”, “legal guidance”, “a just or unjust system” depending on how you look at it, and the person in your corner. The investigator is the buffer. The investigator is there to walk with you and be your hands, turn the stones over, look in the hard places to look, help develop a case, etc. The investigator in family law is so very important to help bridge the gap between the other three. An investigator will give you knowledge of the law and what the cops can and can’t do. An investigator will work with you and your attorney to lay out the best possible scenarios in your case. The attorneys just do not have the time to do everything you think should be done…it just won’t happen. Finally, the court system which brings such a varying degree of issues for everyone involved that having an investigator can buffer this and take the time to work through it. Time you probably don’t need to be spending on an attorney to explain or walk you through. The family law process is frustrating beyond reason due to all the emotion, all the legal issues, costs, etc…get someone on your side to help, get a private investigator!

Tell our audience all about your hit show, “Missing in Alaska” on the History Channel and H2.

“Missing in Alaska” was a life time experience. The experiences I had in Alaska were nothing short of amazing. It was like extreme vacationing and getting paid to do it. The opportunity presented itself to me rather quickly and in life some things come about that you just have to grab the bull by the horns and go with it.

The show in itself has basically three parts that make it unique: Alaska’s grandeur, good investigations, and an educational platform. The point of the show isn’t to convince you to believe in something but truly was created with objective of getting two people sitting on a couch, watching the program, to talk about the possibilities of the investigation. I think the show grasped that firmly and I do believe two opposing viewers can watch the show and get a lot from it. The cool part, about the show, was that I got to be myself in the show. We investigate some pretty wild things as we look into thirteen different cases of missing people in Alaska and the twist of looking at Alaskan folklore and paranormal potential as to why people go missing in Alaska. Alaska has 2% of the United States population but has three times the national average of missing people.

The show consists of three investigators: Tommy Joseph, who is a famed Tlingit totem carver and Alaskan Native folklore expert, Ken Gerhard a world renowned crypto-zoologist, and myself…the pragmatic, show me the evidence investigator. I was lucky in getting to be myself and my job in the investigations was to keep the team on task and true to our investigative task. I learned very quickly with paranormal events, legends, and folklore that it is very easy to be carried off your investigative goals and follow emotion, especially when you’re close to making a big break through.

The three of us created a very unique team and I think as far as the paranormal world we were wildly accepted for our work. I personally don’t have a lot of belief in a lot of it and going in that direction would be a whole different interview but it was an amazing experience. To me no matter what you are investigating, from the theft of a candy bar to the investigation of a homicide, your investigative process will always be the same.

How many children do you have?

I am the happy father of two twin boys that are ten years old and a two year old that might as well be my clone. I have joint custody of my twins and a full time parent to my two year old. One thing that makes me really understand what people go through in family law cases is that I have been there. I have lived the frustration and misery that goes with living in those situations. Empathy for your clients is a huge tool and helps you own their issue on your sleeve. I find that helps make the job more passionate and solvable.

How do you balance being a dedicated private investigator and a great Dad?

Oh isn’t this the age old question? Like any parent the daily juggle or grind of taking care of your child and not just treading water but doing a good job of it is every day’s battle. My profession presents unique challenges as no day is ever really the same. I rarely have a set schedule and travel is usually a big part of my case work. Balancing is really just a give and take to make it happen. As all parents know sometimes your best work is done when your back is against the wall! I don’t have very many people to rely on when it comes to my children. I don’t have family that live close or that are active in my son’s lives so that makes your “inner circle” even more important but let us be honest, this is all on you! Somehow you find a way to make it work. You do it for them. It isn’t easy but you only have them at this age once and then it’s gone. We only have that blink of an eye with our children as any parent with grown children would attest. Make every moment count for them because what you put into them is not measurable by any accounts.

Sometimes you have to travel with your work, do you have any advice for our parents how to keep in contact with your children while traveling for work?

There are many things out in this world that are very scary as parents of kids. Our children face so much that children didn’t have to in prior decades. Our children are bombarded by things I’m sure our grandparents could never have even dreamt up. That being said we do live in an incredible age of technology where science fiction has met reality. I can remember dreaming of Jules Verne’s world and all the cool inventions we would enjoy. A Las there are no flying cars on our highways but we do have amazing access to video and audio for all kinds of devices!
I will never forget using facetime, as I stood on a glacier on top of a mountain in Alaska. My sons got to experience something with me without them being there physically. I also try and take little video clips of something cool I’m doing or seeing. You send them that and it is just another sign that you were there mentally with them during your day. Use this tool as a parent when you travel. Sure it isn’t how we grew up and yes it doesn’t replace your presence but you know what it is the best you can do with that moment for your child. In the end that is all that you have to stand before God with is that you did the very best you could with what you had.

How do you keep yourself safe in a sometimes dangerous field of work?

I will surprise some people with this answer but it is truth. Sure the simple answer some speaker might give you is that they use their knowledge and training to keep themselves safe and successful. There is nothing wrong with that answer but it doesn’t go deep enough. You have to go deeper to explain what keeps you safe and I keep myself safe with the use of fear. Fear is a powerful sword that has gotten such a negative connotation in our society. Fear can be a horrible thing and it can completely immobilize and paralyze you if it isn’t kept in check. That being said fear is the basis for many of our human actions such as “fight or flight”, adrenaline, and quick response reactions.
If you keep fear in check it can make all the other things that you have inside you such as your experiences, training, knowledge, reaction and responses, and just pure instinct work at such a higher level you will be shocked.

When it comes to parenting you can use this to make decisions that are smart, instinctive and successful as opposed to locking your child in a bubble out of fear. Sure the safest thing to do not let your child play out front of your house for fear they may get hit by a car and that is paralyzing but using fear of what might happen can help you create a safer situation. This allows your child to still have a good moment while you have the ability to keep them safe. I call this theory “if/then” and it works in many facets of life.  For what I’m talking about it’s taking the variables that create you’re immobilizing fear and making successful steps to by thinking things through.

If this were to happen then this might be the reaction or solution. Take it step by step as you deal with any given situation and I think you will be surprised at how confident you can be in your decisions that you would normally just have said “NO” out of fear.

The greatest thing about being a Dad is (to you)

Is there truly any greater thing that we can have on this earth than our children? There is no precious metal, real estate, or treasure that can take the place of your own child. When you own that thought about your child you realize how very precious they are and how priceless they are to your life.
The best part about being a dad is truly getting to be a child again in their eyes. Do you remember wrestling your uncle, or playing at the park, or dreaming of being a home run hitting baseball player? A child is a blank slate with tons of hopes and dreams and as their parent you get to re-live your child hood through their eyes!
Lastly the best part of being a father to three sons is molding the next generation of men. Sadly this art form has become lost in our society. As a father it isn’t just my desire to raise a good man it is what I believe is demanded of us as parents to give our children every resource to be the very best they can be.

What are your projects and plans for 2016?

2015 was pretty amazing which makes 2016 having a lot to live up too! After “Missing in Alaska” I was talking to myself one day just wondering what the follow up to being part of such an awesome project would be. I don’t know quite know what the answer is to that just yet but there are some amazing things on the horizon. Just like being here and able to pass on a little about myself to your audience! I have a lot of hopes and dreams for my future. Like a child has hopes and dreams I don’t think we should completely lose that as adults. There is plenty of life to be lived and adventures to be had. My goal for 2016 is to make the most of everyday because you never know when it is your last. There is an adventure around every corner you just have to see it, do it, believe it!

We know that even with this huge task, he will complete it with ease, because, for a huge private investigator and Dad to three boys, it’s just another fulfilling day for  Jax Menez Atwell.