When she was in seventh grade, Tonya (McCoy) Weimer couldn’t decide if she wanted to be an actress or a police officer. These are very different careers, for sure. After considering the two paths, Tonya picked one and jumped in with both feet.
Today she is described as a kind-hearted, Christian wife and mother of three boys. And what’s she doing? She’s a self-employed licensed private investigator (PI) and process server. It started all those years ago when she decided on the criminal justice path. And she’s followed it ever since.
Some people are surprised to find out that Tonya is a PI – after all, that’s the stuff of Magnum PI, Hercule Poirot and Charlie’s Angels. Career counselors identify key qualities of a good investigator to be professionalism, integrity, persistence, self-motivation, problem solving, reliability, curiosity, top communication skills and courage. And it’s a field that’s well suited to her.
“It’s a niche, for sure,” Tonya says. “Not everyone can or wants to work in this field, but that’s okay. I’m glad there are accountants in this world because I don’t want to be one.”
Her husband Jim has supported her in this direction, even before they were married. They met after she already had her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and he encouraged her to get a job with a private investigation company. She got her license three years later.
“Someone may ask, 'How is justice greater than all the other virtues?' The other virtues gratify the one who possesses them; justice does not give pleasure to the one possessing it, but instead pleases others.”
Generally, the process-serving part of her work is fast. “That’s what I try for, anyway. I strive to enter the situation quickly and, like a hot knife in butter, be in and out. That means identifying the individual, presenting the documents and leaving.” And most times, that’s the way it happens. She has regular clients, such as Allegheny County Children, Youth and Family Services, a few law firms, and even a constable in Philadelphia.
As a PI, she works in many areas, especially in what she calls mini investigations. This includes worker’s compensation cases. There are situations in which the person in question collects compensation for what usually starts as a legitimate problem. They then get comfortable collecting money and end up defrauding the insurance company instead of returning to work when they’re able. Good detective work might mean taking photos, video or otherwise documenting if the individual is capable of work.
Domestic cases, or the situation of a cheating spouse, is particularly challenging for Tonya. “It’s very difficult to tell someone that their spouse is being unfaithful.”
No matter what the activity is, Tonya is devoted to justice as she’s on the job each day. And in everything, she lives out her faith, working to maintain a Christ-centered perspective. “I strive to be very kind to people. I have no idea what their struggle is like or what they’ve been through. This is a fallen world and we’re all close to failing. I show them respect and honesty as I’m dealing with them.”
“I often see my dealing with people as on opportunity for redemption. It’s a privilege to show Christ’s love, especially to people who don’t deserve it.”
Tonya’s husband Jim says that faith plays a role in all she does. “It’s part of who she is. She doesn’t do anything without reflecting how it pertains to God and her faith.”
She is strong and courageous, secure in her identity as a follower of Christ. “She doesn’t take any crap,” Jim explains with a laugh. “That’s what makes her so good at what she does. She’s confident. Persistent. She asks questions and wants to do what’s right for people, especially those who have been wronged. And those who need to come clean. It’s all based on caring for people.”
Some days are routine and some days aren’t. Tonya remembers a particularly dangerous situation that occurred more than a year ago. In late afternoon that day, she drove out to the countryside to deliver legal papers to a woman. Tonya knocked on the storm door but no one answered. After a couple more tries, she was going to walk to the side of the house to look at the electric panel. No electricity running usually means that the house is vacant, but this wasn’t the case. A man, wiping sleep from his eyes, come outside and sat on the front porch glider.
Tonya apologized for bothering him and asked about the woman. He said she wasn’t there and then turned on Tonya. “You beat on my door, now I’m going to beat on you.” Obviously impaired by drugs or alcohol, he pushed her and she knew she needed to leave. Fast.
Fortunately, she had left her car running and started going towards it. He picked up a long piece of wood, raised it above his head and swing it at her. Tonya felt that God delayed the action just long enough for her to get inside and then the stick hit the car. She saw his belly in her window as he was raising his arms again and she drove quickly, with the second swing of the stick hitting the back of her car. She kept driving, but the street was a dead end. She turned around, honking her horn, as the angry man was walking down the center of the street after her.
Things were happening too quickly to consider getting out her gun or calling 911 but she had time to pray to God for a way out. She looked and, beyond the corn field in front of her, saw another house. She took off, maneuvering her little Kia Crossover between two trees and bouncing through the field. She got to the road and kept driving until she was able to call and get a 911 operator on the line. Then she stopped at a trailer and explained the situation to the owner as she waited for the police. When the officers came, their intent was to check into the situation and report back to her. That didn’t happen
because the man was also hostile to the police officers and was arrested.
“God saved me that day,” Tonya knows. “He saved me from being hurt by that man. But he also saved me from having to run him down in my car for my own protection. I didn’t want to kill him or hurt him, I just wanted to escape. God gave me that.”
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
- Romans 8:28
Her priorities are God first, family second. That keeps her busy, with a lively home including three boys, now ages 16 to 21. She’s active at her home church of Orchard Hill, where she has served on the board for six years, secretary for four years, Kidsburgh teacher once a month, Kidsfest volunteer one week a year, and security volunteer on the host team once a month. While being a security volunteer is a quiet role, it’s one that is vital to the large church.
In this world with an increase of violence, social media that can incite it and media that covers it, we know that we can’t assume safety and security at all times.
But people like Tonya spend their lives doing what they can to maintain peace and personal welfare for those around them. Her husband Jim says, “I worry about Tonya to a degree, but I also trust her instincts. She takes the bull by the horns. She has street smarts. She makes the right decisions and knows how to get out of a situation that is too much.”
Through the years of thinking about justice for others, she says that God has blessed her immensely. While she’s been able to work in a career she enjoys while raising her family, she and Jim never had to use childcare. She was able to be with her boys during the infant through preschool ages during the day, and then worked nights or weekends, when Jim could be with them. Once they started school, she worked more during the day, but had flexibility to change her hours as she needed.
As each day begins anew, Tonya knows that crazy things can happen. She says she’s not naïve, but neither is she brave. She is just confident in the Lord she serves, and in the importance of doing right.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
- Proverbs 3:5-6
Information on Tonya's Private Investigation business is at McCoy Enterprises, LLC