On Jan. 17, 2008, a young mother named Denise Amber Lee was abducted from her home in Florida, driven down busy roads, winding through residential neighborhoods, in broad daylight, screaming for her life. On that fateful night in January, several calls came into the 911 centers, even from Denise Amber Lee herself.
Denise Lee, the young mother of two little boys, was seen screaming for help – tied up in the back of a green Camaro – by not one but two witnesses. They (and Denise herself) called 911 four times. One witness even told a 911 operator what road the vehicle was driving on.
Jane Kowalski, a witness that follows the Camaro and gives 911 directions as to where the car is going and gives details like Denise is banging on the car window and screaming. Yet somehow the cops never hear of this call. This call came into the 911 center in the county where Denise's father has been a detective for over 20 years.
Did all these 911 calls save Denise? Investigators found her body two days later, naked and tossed into a shallow grave. She had been raped and killed, all because 911 dispatchers never bothered to forward the information to the police.
This is a disturbing story. We rely on 911 to be there to help us and when they drop the ball like this, it is worrisome to say the least.
The real sad thing is that Denise Lee did everything right. She made a raucous in the car to draw attention to the Camaro, leaves her ring in the car as evidence and she was able to call 911 herself. Unfortunately, 911 showed such inadequacies that her valiant efforts were wasted.
Tonight on Primetime: Crime on ABC, they're airing the story of the events that took place on January 17th including the 911 calls and the interrogation of Michael King, who has been charged for Lee's murder. You can also read the full story and transcripts at Dateline.msnbc.com.
My heart goes out to Denise Amber Lee's family. Hopefully they can find some peace.
Please check out DeniseAmberLee.org. This is the site for the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, started by her husband, Nathan. They're working towards making changes in the training standards for 911 dispatchers, in the hopes that what happened to Denise will not happen again.