Since we are on the subject of stories out of Florida.


Sato Ord
April 14, 2008, 05:12 PM
Today show

By Mike Celizic contributor

updated 10:00 a.m. ET, Fri., April. 11, 2008

Nathan Lee knows a day will come when he will have to tell his two young sons what happened to their mother. He’ll tell them about how she was kidnapped, tied up and thrown in the back of a car, managed to call police and got another motorist to call 911 with the exact location of the car transporting her to a brutal death.

And then Lee will have to tell the boys, 2 and 8 months, that the 911 operators didn’t pass on vital information to patrol officers, possibly erasing their mom’s last hope at being rescued. It’s a heartrending task he doesn’t want anybody else to have to face.

“Someday I’m going to have to tell our little boys, who have very few memories, if any, of their amazingly courageous and brave mommy. I will have to tell them that she died needlessly,” Lee told NBC News.

“I want to make sure that somebody else doesn’t have to tell their kids that their mom could have been saved if the proper training was put in place. That’s what my goal is,” Lee told TODAY’s Matt Lauer from Venice, Fla., on Friday.

Lee and his attorney, Thomas Marryott, have announced their intention to file a lawsuit against the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department in Florida claiming that the 911 call center’s alleged negligence contributed to his wife’s death. The aim isn’t to get money, he said, but to mandate standardized training for all 911 operators.

“The ultimate goal is that some changes need to be made and light has to be brought to this issue, not just on a local level but I think on a national level,” he told Lauer.

Denise Amber Lee was kidnapped at about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17, from her home in North Port, Fla. At 6:14, she managed to use her kidnapper’s cell phone to call 911 and leave an open connection that allowed the Charlotte County Sheriff to know about the kidnapping. At 6:23 another 911 call from a witness reported a woman who might have been kidnapped in a dark green Camaro.

With police on the lookout for the car, another motorist saw a woman screaming and kicking and beating on the windows of a dark-colored Camaro on I-75. She called 911 at 6:30 and gave dispatchers an exact location of the vehicle and its direction of travel, but for a critical half-hour they “forgot” to pass the information along.

Image: Denise Lee


Denise Lee

By 9 p.m., the driver of the Camaro, 36-year-old unemployed plumber Michael King, was in custody and a ring and hair that Denise Lee had left in the back seat connected him to the kidnapping. But by then, the 21-year-old wife and mother of two was lying in a shallow grave, stripped of her clothes and dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Her body was recovered two days later.

Lee blames the 911 operators for not passing along the information about a woman in distress in the back of a Camaro. Two operators were suspended for the way they mishandled the information, one for two days, the other for a month. Lee says that’s not long enough.

“It’s a deeper issue than just somebody forgetting. There’s a lot of issues in that call center,” he said. “The fact is, Denise did everything she possibly could to save her life and the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office did not do everything it could to save her life. I think that’s what the deepest issue is.”

Victim dialed 911
The thought that her life could have been saved continues to gnaw at him.

“It’s extremely frustrating, knowing we were so close to being able to see her again,” Lee said. “It’s already hard enough dealing with what happened to her, but knowing that we were so close is just extremely difficult.”

A classical musician, Lee has not been able to go back to his day job with Florida Power and Light, but he has continued to play the trumpet with the Venice Symphony orchestra. He has described Denise Lee as his soul mate. Family pictures show a slight young woman with a big smile playing with the two boys she devoted her life to as a stay-at-home mom.

Coincidentally, Denise Lee’s father is Charlotte County Sheriff’s Lt. Richard Goff, and it was he who identified his daughter’s voice on the call she managed to make to 911. Goff has joined Lee in lobbying for a mandatory standardized training law for 911 operators in Florida.

Lee is also fighting to prevent the release of the call his wife made from the Camaro. He had talked to her earlier in the day.

“My last words to her were, ‘I love you,’ ” he said. He said he has not listened to her 911 call and doesn’t want to.

“I have not listened to that call. I never, ever want to have to listen to that call. Nobody should have to listen to that,” he said.

When seconds count 911 is just minutes away, if the operator remembers to dispatch the police.

I hope this man finds some peace.

At least he's blaming 911 for the death of his wife and not the gun that the bullet came from.

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April 14, 2008, 05:29 PM
Yet... we're supposed to believe that she'd have been perfectly fine just as long as she was completely disarmed and defenseless just like people in schools or airplanes. We're supposed to believe police are infallible guardians of society. That phonecalls will save your life. According to an article that was recently posted on this forum she should have been able to quickly defeat her abducter by laughing at his genitals. Pacifism is supposed to somehow be more civilized than self defense. The truth is it's blind luck if the system ever even works right and our society is completely insane.

April 14, 2008, 05:46 PM
Sadly, given the precedent of the (lack of) duty police have to protect individual citizens, his case may not get very far.

May she rest in peace and her death not be in vain.

April 14, 2008, 06:06 PM
This is why we are all here. Why we are trying to help people like her, who were lulled into false security by the erroneous idea that police and 911 is an instant response.
The only thing left to say is simply:
"If only"

An armed population is a safer population.

April 14, 2008, 06:59 PM
Wow, that's probably one of the biggest downers I've read in a while.
I do hope he does find some peace, though I'm afraid it's going to be an age before that happens.

April 14, 2008, 07:06 PM
Can't remember ever reading anything more frustrating.

April 14, 2008, 07:23 PM
That is a downer. However, I don't think he'll have much luck in a mass civil suit against the 911 dispatchers, the cops, etc. Read my sig line.

If the 911 dispatcher was held liable, such a ruling would open the flood gates to all types of law suits. Suppose the court said 30 minutes is too long and the 911 dispatcher is therefore liable. Is 15 minutes too long? How about 8 minutes?

I say the answers are yes and yes. However, I’m also a lawyer. Such a ruling would help keep me employed as an attorney. It turns out that I'm more interested in what’s practical for society.

Think about how such law suits would bog down the whole 911 system - deposing dispatchers, the manager, etc., for every single law suit. They’d be spending more time in court than on the phones, thereby going in the opposite direction from solving the problem.

A better proposition is to spend our energy elsewhere. For example, help to educate the public that safety is a personal responsibility. Slowly but surely we should receive more traction simply by having more pro-gun people around.

Sato Ord
April 14, 2008, 07:50 PM
jakemccoy, I agree with you. Nothing good will come of this, unfortunately.

If that young woman had had a nice German Shepherd and a pistol when she answered the door things would be a lot different.

Of course the press would then make the poor unfortunate out-of-work plumber the victim of the homicidal homeowner.

There is no win in this. Even if they could sue the dispatchers successfully it won't bring that young woman back, and it won't change the fact that you can't depend on the police when your life is in immediate danger.

I made this post more to illustrate that the police can't protect us, regardless of how hard some of them try, than to say that 911 should be overhauled.

I hope that this country gets sane soon, otherwise I have a feeling that the antis will get our guns and we will all be trouble. When are people going to learn that disarming law abiding citizens gives us a society made up of predators and prey.

April 14, 2008, 07:51 PM
Jake I can see your point, but at the same time I do feel that people who are charged with a job who's services directly relates to the health and well being of that services users do have a responsibility to act according to a set of 'reasonable' expectations.

'Forgetting' to give responding officers the exact location of a potential kidnapping victim for over 30 minutes does not fall in the scope of those reasonable expectations as far as I'm concerned.

Creating a standardized set of training standards and forming some metric that can be used to measure performance only seems logical.

Mistakes are going to happen, in any profession, but determining if it was a foreseeable consequence is much a-kin to malpractice rulings in the medical profession. There is a checklist that must be met before an action can even be considered malpractice, from there the offending actions are looked into further.

April 14, 2008, 07:55 PM
Billy, I agree. What you said does not contradict what I said. Forcing standards may be better accomplished through state/federal lobbying rather than through a lawsuit. Unfortunately, I don't see a lawsuit going anywhere, and perhaps a loss in court would be detrimental to the cause.

April 14, 2008, 08:00 PM
Agreed as well...but it does seem the fastest/flashiest route for the husband and father. Which, if I were in their shoes I'm sure I'd want to get the ball rolling as soon as possible and get the information out to the most people as fast as possible.

As far as your last sentence...they may, at least have the exposure needed to push the lobbying over the edge and get the backing needed in that respect.

Who knows? I wouldn't be surprised to see them attack this from multiple angles, I know I would. Lawsuit, lobbying, televison spots, radio, billboards, whatever it takes.

April 14, 2008, 09:06 PM
Sorry, but there's no gun content in the original story.

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