Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It's been a long time

It's been a very long time and I've been meaning to write but times are very busy. There's so much news I've no idea where to start with all the updates. The Denise Amber Lee Foundation has come a very long way in the past few years. They've become a major player in the 9-1-1 industry. Mostly, I believe, because we have a very unique perspective. 9-1-1 call centers are mostly independent agencies they are all run differently, with different training processes, different equipment, different protocols, different staffing, different everything. As Nathan travels across the country he's had the opportunity to visit different PSAPs in different states, different counties, townships, cities etc... What may work in one, may not work in another. While some states are working on legislation others have already been thru the process. He's able to inform industry peeps on problems and successes and what's working and what's not working. So, it's all very interesting. Nathan left his full time job early last year and started doing all this full time. He's now giving keynotes, inspirational speeches and teaching two classes. The 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers seem to welcome him everywhere he goes. He truly wants to help them. Through this journey we've come to realize that they are truly guardian angels and many are woefully underappreciated, underfunded and underpaid. He's become a champion for them. And we've all been very humbled through the process. So many tragedies... The things these people listen to on a daily basis. Most of it is very mundane but much of it is horrific. Suicides, murders, drug deals gone bad, domestic abuse, people being shot, people being stabbed, drive by shootings, school massacres, the wife who's sobbing as her husband is dying in her arms, etc... I truly don't know how they do it. And, they listen to Nathan relate Denise's story and somehow they find inspiration. I'm humbled by all this everyday. It's good to see so much positive energy come out of Denise's tragedy.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Great article

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kudos Arkansas!!!!!!

Home Legislation Makes Telecommunicator Training Available in Arkansas
Natasha Yetman on March 24, 2011

Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock

“9-1-1 dispatchers are the first link from citizens to authorities to report emergencies,” says Gary “Bud” Gray, RPL, deputy coordinator and operations manager for the city of North Little Rock’s Emergency Services, in a release from the APCO Arkansas Chapter. “We simply want to have training available for the dispatchers so when an event is reported, the dispatcher has the knowledge to properly handle the incident.”

On Wednesday, March 23, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe signed a bill into law that makes minimum training available for public safety telecommunicators across the state. The bill, HB 1741 — now Act 640 — which was filed on Feb. 28, passed through the state House and Senate with no opposition.

The training will be facilitated by the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA) and will not be mandatory. Although the curriculum has yet to be established, it will be based on APCO International’s Minimum Training Standards for Telecommunicators and Project 33 (P33) standards. According to Gray, the course will have a train-the-trainer structure, allowing individuals who complete the course to take their knowledge back to their PSAP to share it with their colleagues.

Key players in getting the bill introduced and lobbying for the bill include Gray; Shannon McCuin, RPL, dispatch manager for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office; and Tammie Shipp, 9-1-1 administrator for Conway County 9-1-1. Supporters of the legislation include the Association of Arkansas Counties, the Municipal League, Fire Chief’s Association and the Sheriff’s Association.

The Process & Compromise

This bill became state law in six weeks, but the process really began two years ago as part of a course project. According to APCO Arkansas President Matt Garrity, “Bud and Shannon had [this legislation] as a project for their RPL class. Now they can officially graduate — even though they graduated last year. It’s a credit to them because they are the ones that made this happen.”

The work McCuin and Gray did in their RPL class (the APCO Institute’s Leadership Certificate Program — Registered Public-Safety Leader) served as the foundation for the final legislation.

Their resolve was reinforced and felt throughout the Arkansas public safety communications community in spring 2010. At the 2010 Arkansas state conference, Nate and Mark Lee from the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, which lobbied for the legislation passed in Florida last year, were keynote speakers at the banquet. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” says Garrity. “That’s what really got us fired up about this. Bud talked to them, and they are proud that we got something done.”

“When we started working on this in the fall, we found that everyone agreed that we needed some kind of effective training,” says McCuin. “We found universal support from everybody in the 9-1-1 community. There were only a couple of questions: what level of training and who would pay for it.”

Working with the Association of Arkansas Counties, county judges and representatives from police, sheriff, fire and EMS, the bill’s first draft was being fine-tuned by late 2010. The Denise Amber Lee Foundation also provided the group with advice throughout the process. In January 2011, an ad hoc committee of stakeholders was formed to resolve final issues.

To fund the training, a percentage of the 9-1-1 fees currently collected from wireless phone bills was reallocated to ALETA. But ALETA receives its funding through different channels than the 9-1-1 fee is collected, which meant a separate Senate appropriations bill to be filed to place this money in a special fund for ALETA was necessary.

Although the 9-1-1 officials working on the bill initially wanted mandatory training, it was made clear that a mandate would kill the bill and its support. “We did have to make compromises,” says McCuin. “With the committee, we were able to discuss issues they had and we had. We actually came out with a very good bill that meets everyone’s needs.”

McCuin continues, “They weren’t concerned about the funding as much as what type of training, something that would not be tailored to their needs. They had read Project 33 standards. [The training structure is] what your agency does. We decided to do some tiers to accommodate rural dispatch centers. That way, the training would reflect on what your agency did, not just a catchall for everybody. P33 does that as well.”

Garrity says, “We would have liked to have for it to be mandatory. But when you look back at ALETA, their training was available and recommended when they first started and now it’s mandatory. We are hoping to take that step later — as we get the curriculum in and people start seeing the value of this training. This is just minimum training and should help the smaller PSAPs [that] don’t get anything”

After the bill was filed on Feb. 28, Gray, McCuin and Shipp spent six weeks in Little Rock, meeting with state senators and representatives and gaining support for the legislation.

Next Steps

The work is not over yet. According to McCuin, the ad hoc committee will convene to determine the details of the curriculum. They intend to forward the training to APCO International, to ensure it complies with Project 33 standards. It will then go to the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training, which will credential the final training, to approve and certify the curriculum. ALETA will hire someone to teach the course and will provide regional training sites across Arkansas.

McCuin is determined not to lose her momentum. “In two years, when the legislative session convenes again, we might be able to go to them and say, ‘We’ve spent two years perfecting this program. Here’s where we want to go next.’ We need to have goals in mind.”

“I have been getting e-mails from dispatchers and people I don’t know to say ‘thank you,’” says McCuin. “It’s kind of humbling. We did this for the citizens of the state. Our goal is to be proactive instead of reactive, like they were in Florida. That is another important piece of this — even though we were behind, we were trying to be proactive before something bad happens.”


About the Author
Natasha Yetman is associate editor of APCO International’s Public Safety Communications magazine. Contact her via e-mail at

Friday, January 21, 2011

Impact Case Study - 911 Reform

Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice
601 Tamiami Trail South, Venice, Florida 34285

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make a community ask, Is this the best we can do for our citizens?

The January 2008 abduction, rape, and murder of 21-year-old North Port wife and mother Denise Amber Lee was one such tragedy. Though calls to 911 were placed by eyewitnesses, no patrol cars were dispatched because of inefficiencies in a 911 call center.

In the aftermath of Denise Lee’s murder, Gulf Coastcommissioned an independent study of the 911 system in Florida.
“Florida 911: The State of Emergency” analyzed all components of emergency response that are activated when a person in need of assistance tries to call 911 in Florida. This marked the first time that 911 in Florida had been analyzed from the placement of a call to the arrival of the first responder on the scene.

Gulf Coast’s study found that Florida’s 911 system was not a “system” at all, but rather a patchwork of state and local agencies, protocols, and technologies cobbled together to respond to 911 calls. It provided policymakers and advocates like the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, which was created by Denise’s husband Nathan, with objective analysis to support their impassioned efforts to reform the 911 system.

Thanks to the work of state Senator Nancy Detert, state Representative Ken Roberson, Nathan Lee, and others, a new law was signed in May 2010 that will require uniform training and certification of 911 operators statewide. The new standards will help close a major gap in Florida’s emergency 911 system—one of many that are identified in Gulf Coast’s study.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My heart is crying on the inside.....

Grandmother bled to death after Comcast mishandled emergency calls, suit alleges

Posted October 27, 2010 at 10:09 a.m..

BOYNTON BEACH — The 81-year-old grandmother screamed for the emergency phone dispatcher to send an ambulance. Blood gushed from her left foot after a freak accident in her suburban Boynton Beach home.

"Help me! Help me, please! Help me! Help me!" Sidell Reiner pleaded in recordings obtained by the Sun Sentinel.

She never got that help. More than an hour after that phone call, her husband of 62 years came home to find her lifeless on their bedroom floor, and blood throughout the house. Sidell Reiner had died with the phone next to her, her family's attorney said.

Reiner's widower now wants answers to how phone operators heard her cries for help, yet she ended up bleeding to death last Thanksgiving. Seymour Reiner filed a lawsuit last week against Comcast, the couple's phone provider, and has filed notices of intent to sue the city of Boynton Beach and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue as well.

Reiner cut herself when a piece of crystal glassware fell on her foot as she was preparing the holiday dinner for her family. Her husband had left to pick up a grandson at the airport. The Reiners' three children hadn't arrived yet. She was home alone.

In a panic, Reiner dialed "0" and reached a Comcast operator. The operator transferred the call to a Boynton Beach police dispatcher, but Comcast was unable to find Reiner's address and give it to the emergency dispatcher, according to the suit filed in Palm Beach Circuit Court.

It took 16 minutes to pinpoint Reiner's address, to establish she lived in unincorporated Palm Beach County and for county paramedics to arrive, according to the lawsuit. When paramedics did get there, they found the doors and windows locked, and attempted to look inside, according to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue records.

When no one answered the door, the paramedics left, deeming the call "unfounded," the records show.

"Nobody took responsibility in saving her," said Gary Cohen, the family's attorney. "No one went that extra mile and did what they needed to do."

The negligence lawsuit filed against Comcast seeks an unspecified amount in monetary damages.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Don DeLucia said it appears paramedics followed procedure, and that there has been no inquiry into the Nov. 26 response to Reiner's calls for help. He declined to answer further questions because of the litigation.

Boynton Beach Risk Manager Chuck Magazine said his city's dispatchers did what they were supposed to do — take the call and then transfer it to county fire-rescue once it was determined Reiner lived in unincorporated Palm Beach County.

Comcast spokeswoman Marta Casas-Celaya said her company does not comment about pending court cases and declined to answer general questions about services provided when a caller dials "0."

Someone who presses "0" on a Comcast phone line is greeted by an automated recording offering services in English and Spanish. After making a selection, the recording says: "If your call is a 911 emergency, please press '0.'"

Cohen said he doesn't understand why Comcast was unable to track down Reiner's address.

"They have her address when it comes to a bill, but when it comes to saving her life, they can't find her address?" Cohen asked.

Recordings of some of Reiner's calls that were transferred to police dispatch capture the words of a panicked woman. Cohen said she appears to have dialed "0" at least 10 times, but sometimes hung up without saying anything.

She repeatedly tried to give her address, but operators could not understand her because she was in such apparent agony.

"Sorry but, I … I can't speak!" she screams when asked her address at one point. "I can't!" The phone is then disconnected again.

At another point, the Boynton Beach dispatcher asks the Comcast operator if she has the caller's address.

"Her phone number, when we put in her phone number, it is showing that there is no information available on that number," the Comcast operator says.

"Oh, goodness," the Boynton Beach operator responds.

Cohen said he doesn't know how anyone could hear Reiner's desperate appeals and not communicate the evident seriousness of her condition to paramedics.

"This was a life-deciding call and there doesn't seem to be a lot of communication that this is a desperate situation," Cohen said.

The paramedics left at 9:47 a.m. Seymour Reiner and his grandson walked into the house more than an hour later, and discovered the body.

For more than six decades, the Reiners were at each other's side. They were married after Seymour served in the Navy during World War II. He owned a Manhattan dry cleaner, while she stayed home with their children and later did bookkeeping for the family business.

They retired to suburban Boynton Beach in 1996.

Reiner, 85, said in an interview that he wants to ensure that what happened to his wife doesn't happen to anyone else.

"It was a tragedy and it shouldn't have happened, but it did and nothing is going to bring her back," he said.

Jon Burstein can be reached at or (954) 356-4491.

© 2010 TCPalm. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Friday, October 1, 2010

APCO president: Training certification programs are a must

Sep 14, 2010 6:01 PM
By Glenn Bischoff

A couple of weeks ago, Urgent Communications spoke with Dick Mirgon about his year as president of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials. This week we catch up with Bill Carrow, the communications section chief for the Delaware State Police, who last month began his term as APCO’s president. Carrow spoke extensively about one of his pet projects — training certification for 911 telecommunicators — and the progress that has been made to date.

Statewide training certification is sorely lacking nationwide. What is APCO doing about it?
The Professional Human Resources Taskforce (ProCHRT) was unveiled during National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week in 2009. The first step was to establish some very specific goals, first and foremost, to study what each state is doing, or what they’re mandating, in the way of training certification for telecommunicators. We knew that this was a nationwide problem. We knew that we had bits and pieces of training going on, some more elaborate than others — and that’s no way to run an airline, much less a public-safety answering point. You see in the media all the time stories about 911 calls that went awry.

The Denise Amber Lee tragedy has become the poster child for such events, has it not?
That’s what I was leading up to. You see these events on a weekly basis, but the Denise Amber Lee Foundation really hit home. We started studying the Denise Amber Lee case to understand what had happened. Two years prior to that event happening, APCO’s Florida chapter had been pushing for training certification across the state, but wasn’t successful.

What were the hurdles?
The hurdles basically were funding, number one, and, number two, getting the various entities down there — the sheriffs, the police and fire — to fully understand that this not only should be a requirement, but that it also is a necessity.

What has been accomplished so far regarding ProCHRT?
Where we really started gaining some ground is when we realized just how few states have any kind of mandated training. When you consider that the person who runs a tanning booth is required to have more training than our telecommunicators who are handling life-and-death decisions every day, that’s wrong. We now have an interim report that provides a report card for the country up to this point. It delineates the training that is going on state by state, and lists any agencies that are Project 33-compliant within a given state. There are 17 of those right now.

After reviewing this report card, what grade would you give in terms of the level of training certification across the country?
It would be a grade of “F.” There’s a lot of room for improvement.

What needs to be done? What’s the first step?
Basically, we wanted to gather information via ProCHRT that would let us create a tool kit that our members could use to go back to their home states and push for training certification. We never had this kind of information before. The next step is to use the success we’ve had in the state of Florida as a starting point for success in other states. Arkansas is one of those states — it has proposed legislation that was based on what they saw in Florida. I think this is going to be a groundswell. It’s not insurmountable anymore.

What else would you like to see accomplished in the coming year?
Right along those lines is promoting our Project 33, which has just been revised for 2010. It has been beefed up by adding the fire and EMS pieces to the dispatch function and by increasing the minimum requirements for all positions. My agency just went through it. That was one of the goals I set for myself — I wanted my agency not only Project 33–compliant, but also fully accredited.

Why was that so important to you?
When you do those things, you’re showing people that you’re trying to meet the best-of-the-best standards. So, what we want to do is promote that to every chapter, to show the importance of getting individual training programs P33-compliant.

Ed: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law in June a bill that requires 911 telecommunicators in the state to become certified and compile 232 hours of training before handling an emergency call.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bill Cameron article yesterday's paper (please do not elect this man again)

Area numbers reflect fewer restrictions


Projects Editor

Palm Beach County became too “helter-skelter” for Shepard Yarger.

“It was too violent,” said the registered sex offender.

Yarger, 69, grew up in Sarasota County. His parents owned property in Charlotte County, and Yarger eventually settled in Rotonda West.

Yarger committed a sex offense on a minor, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and he isn’t the only registered offender to relocate to Charlotte County.

In fact, 60.8 percent of the offenders living in Charlotte County committed their crimes elsewhere, according to data provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It’s a different story in neighboring Sarasota and DeSoto counties, where 45 percent and 46.2 percent of offenders’ crimes were committed outside their respective communities.

“This is one of those statistics any community is not going to be proud to wear,” said Charlotte County Commissioner Robert Skidmore.

While calling laws that regulate residency for sex offenders “silly laws (made) out of emotion,” Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Cameron said he isn’t concerned.

“That’s not an alarming number for me,” Cameron said of the 60.8 percent of out-of-town offenders living in Charlotte.

Only 39.7 percent of Charlotte’s offenders are home-based criminals. Once again, it’s different in Sarasota and DeSoto, where the majority of their registered offenders are locals.

Stephen J. Waughn is another one of the transplanted sex offenders living in Charlotte.

Waughn, 46, moved to Punta Gorda after being released from the Idaho Department of Correction in 2003.

“My folks — they’re really old,” Waughn said of the reason for relocating.

Aging parents long has been a reason for relocations to Charlotte County, where the average age of its residents often makes it one of the grayest communities in the country. The median age in Charlotte is 50.9, according to 2009 Census figures. Nationally, it’s 36.7. DeSoto’s is even younger at 36.3. Sarasota’s isn’t much younger than Charlotte’s, at 50.

Charlotte boasts beautiful waterways, affordable housing (compared to other coastal communities), good weather — all the ingredients necessary for an ideal retirement. It’s been the place where the average, to slightly above-average, still can retire near the water.

There are tools Charlotte could use to make the community less hospitable to sex offenders.

The state mandates that sex offenders/predators cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school, park, playground or day-care facility. This is applicable to offenses committed on a child younger than 16 and after the date of Oct. 1, 2004.

Some communities have extended that offender-free zone.

Glades and Hendry counties, along with the city of Cape Coral, have local ordinances preventing offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, day-care centers, parks, etc. Lee County’s ordinance expanded its zone to include pools, YMCAs, libraries, etc.

Charlotte, Sarasota and DeSoto have no local ordinances beyond state law providing additional or extended buffer zones, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

“The more you restrict, obviously it is more difficult for offenders to find places to live,” said Gretyl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections.

Skidmore, Commissioner Tricia Duffy and Commission Chairman Bob Starr independently said they plan to talk to County Attorney Janette Knowlton about considering a local ordinance for Charlotte County.

“I would be in favor of doing anything to add a layer of protection,” Starr said. “We don’t want to be the sex offender capital of Florida.”

Opposing an ordinance

Charlotte’s top law enforcement official won’t support an ordinance further limiting places where sex offenders can live.

“I think the existing laws are fine,” Cameron said. “I’m not in favor of anything more restrictive. You’re going to force them somewhere else.”

Miami-Dade County created problems when it expanded the state’s 1,000-foot offender-free zone to 2,500 feet. That restriction in a much more congested community led to lawsuits, homelessness, noncompliance and recidivism.

Imposing Miami-Dade’s restriction locally would affect fewer than a handful around each elementary school. Deep Creek and East elementary schools have no sex offenders currently living within a half-mile. Kingsway has two; Liberty has four; Myakka River has three, including one who is a predator; Neil Armstrong has three; Peace River has three; Sallie Jones has two, including one who is a predator; and Vineland has one.

Defense attorney Mark De Sisto said his sex-offender clients haven’t had difficulty finding places to live in Charlotte County.

Even if the county were to expand that buffer to 2,500 feet, De Sisto said he still doesn’t see it leading to homelessness.

“I think there still would not be a problem (finding housing),” De Sisto said. “The more temptations you keep away from them, the better for society and for them. It’s like putting a beer in front of an alcoholic.”

Cameron, however, feels sex offenders already have it tough by being labeled, listed on a registry and limited as to where they can live. He also used an example of a teacher having a sexual relationship with a student. The teacher goes to prison, loses his ability to teach and can’t get a job “for the rest of his life,” Cameron said.

He referred to sex offender status as a scarlet letter.

“It’s the one crime you can never pay the price for,” Cameron said.

Expanding the buffer

Punta Gorda Police Chief Albert “Butch” Arenal essentially has driven out more than a dozen sex offenders from the city through his sexual offender monitoring program.

“I can’t think of a more important or critical responsibility,” Arenal said. He “absolutely,” would support a city ordinance expanding the state’s buffer zones.

Punta Gorda has worked hard to develop a more sophisticated image after Hurricane Charley.

“One thousand feet is not that far,” Arenal said.

John Wright, president of the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce, was surprised to hear about the large percentage of out-of-town sex offenders living in Charlotte.

“I do find that alarming and something that needs to be investigated,” Wright said. “It’s not good PR for Punta Gorda or Charlotte County.”

Skidmore has spent a lot of time working to bring tourists and jobs to Charlotte County. He, too, doesn’t want to attract sex offenders to what has been regarded as one of the best places to live and retire in America.

“I definitely don’t want any laws that appear weak or inviting (to offenders),” Skidmore said.

Recently, Charlotte County was tested when someone reported a possible child abduction near Neil Armstrong Elementary School in Port Charlotte.

Who was investigated first? The nearby registered sex offenders. And there are 53 of them living within a 2-mile radius of the school. Of those, 48 committed crimes against minors.

“It was a very good drill for us,” Cameron said. “I’d rather be accused of doing too much.”

But, he said, not all of those offenders should be bothered.

“Nothing says that a sex offender is dangerous,” Cameron said.

A sex offender could be a “Romeo and Juliet” type, meaning an 18-year-old boyfriend with a 15-year-old girl. “It does not fall into the same category as the wicked uncle (with a toddler),” Cameron said.

He also cited adults molesting relatives as another less-dangerous threat to the community.

“Does that person pose a danger to a stranger?” Cameron asked.

His counterpart in Punta Gorda has a slightly different outlook.

“I can’t think of a greater threat to the community than those type of offenders,” Arenal said.

Skidmore, Starr and Duffy all plan to investigate whether imposing a local ordinance would make Charlotte less hospitable to sex offenders.

I think we need to do all we can to protect our children,” Skidmore said.


Where Charlotte County’s sex offenders are from

• 60.8 percent committed crimes outside Charlotte County.

• 39.7 percent committed offenses in Charlotte County.

• 33.3 percent committed offenses outside Florida.

• 16.9 percent committed crimes in other Southwest Florida counties.

• 10.6 percent committed offenses in another part of the state.

• 1 percent were federal offenses.

Where Sarasota County’s sex offenders are from

• 45 percent committed crimes outside Sarasota County.

• 58.3 percent committed offenses in Sarasota County.

• 22.4 percent committed offenses outside Florida.

• 4.5 percent committed crimes in other Southwest Florida counties.

• 17.3 percent committed offenses in another part of the state.

• 0.7 percent were federal offenses.

Where DeSoto County’s sex offenders are from

• 46.2 percent committed crimes outside DeSoto County.

• 56.9 percent committed offenses in DeSoto County.

• 15.4 percent committed crimes outside Florida.

• 13.8 percent committed crimes in other Southwest Florida counties.

• 16.9 percent committed crimes in another part of the state.

— These statistics are compiled from the registered sex offenders’ information provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Some offenders committed crimes in numerous locations.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010



Between now and August 31st, we need your votes to help Nathan win a chance for a scholarship to participate in a high level, business leadership conference this fall. The contest is open to all small businesses and non-profit organizations. The conference is called EntreLeadership and presented by national radio, TV, and newspaper personality, Dave Ramsey. This is an intense 7 day course designed to teach the skills needed to take a small business or non-profit organization to the next level. This would help our foundation greatly! You can help by voting early , often and by contacting as many of your friends and asking them to vote. You and your friends can vote until noon on August 31st. The top four entries will go on to be eligible for the scholarship. But we have to be in the top four. You can vote once per landing on the page but can vote multiple times and we urge you to vote often. As you all know Nathan is determined to turn Denise’s tragedy into something positive that will help 9-1-1 call centers everywhere. We do not want Denise to have died in vain. Help him get the skills needed to maximize his passion and impact. Go to:

Friday, June 4, 2010

Crist signed the bill

I know I should be ecstatic and happy but why do I feel so bereft?

I guess it is because I feel Denise's life was too high of a price to have paid to see that 9-1-1 dispatchers and call takers get mandatory training.

It just makes no sense. I guess true change and great change only comes after a tragedy.


I just want to cry.

I still miss Denise everyday. My hurt and heartache has not gotten any easier to bear.

I cannot imagine how Denise's own parents feel or even Nathan.

But, thank goodness Charlie Crist signed it. Thank goodness several politicians took action.

When the bill was passed unaminously through the house, a 9-1-1 coordinator came up to Mark and I angry. Angry! Angry because he did not know how he was going to pay for it. Angry that he has to come up with $150,000.

$150,000????????? That is what he was worried about. Mark had to hold me back. All I said was "it had to be done" and then the man quietly agreed but had no idea how insensitive he had been. My heart broke. $150,000? That is nothing compared to Denise's life and the fact that Nate and the boys have to go on without her. The boys do not have their "mommy" tucking them in at nights, rocking them and kissing their booboos. They will never know her infectious smile. They will never remember her laugh. I could have smacked the man.


I should be happy I know.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

yes, I was right

the media has been kind. This was printed in today's Sun. Also read an article by Nathan's former little league coach Eric Ernst printed in the Herald Tribune this past week:


Lee's legacy now assured in E-911 bill

OUR POSITION: A deep bow to the people from our communities who worked to pass an E-911 bill that will make everyone safer in the future.

It took two sessions for the Florida Legislature to muster enough political will to pass a no-brainer of a bill improving the state's emergency 911 call operations, but that sorry fact was low on the list of concerns this week at a press conference acknowledging those whose hard work finally resulted in the bill's passage.

The bill came about primarily through the efforts of the family of Denise Amber Lee, whose 2008 murder in North Port after a botched 911 call provided the strongest possible example of the need for improvements in state emergency response standards. As noted in a report conducted by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, emergency call centers in the state may handle as many as 15 million 911 calls in a year, but a mistake in one or two highlighted the enormous, tragic consequences that come when the system fails.

The Lee case is exactly why the public needed to be assured that call centers were being operating with a high level of professionalism. Clearly, there was room for improvement.
Denise Lee's husband, Nathan Lee, took the lead role in the drive for higher standards in Florida, and has continued his outreach throughout the nation. Other family members have joined in. Many in the community have worked for reform through the Denise Amber Lee Foundation.
The result here has been a bill that will require all 911 call-takers and dispatchers in Florida to take a set level of training and pass a certification test in order to do their jobs. It also calls for training updates and renewal every two years. The full law will not take effect until 2012, giving all police agencies time to come into compliance.

As Nathan Lee said during during a press conference at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, the bill is far from perfect, but it is an important step. It does focus attention and begin to plug a critical hole in the public safety system. For the future, Nathan Lee and the Lee Foundation will aim at moving official oversight of dispatch training into the Department of Law Enforcement. They also will work at developing one statewide curriculum for training.
Both are extremely worthy goals.

For now, however, congratulations are extended to the Lee family and the Lee Foundation. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation also helped drive the process. And our local legislators deserve a nod for their efforts to push the bill through, despite opposition from legislators who thought additional costs outweighed public safety considerations.

Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, took up the bill last year. But Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, and Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, managed to complete the job this session. A no-brainer from our perspective, but, amazingly, it took some heavy lifting, as well as a bit of compromise, to get it done.

A long time coming, yes. And a proper legacy for Denise Amber Lee. The improved training that will come as a result of this law just may help ensure another family and other communities will not see a repeat of this type of tragedy in the future.

Widower took his pain and made a difference

By Eric Ernst

Published: Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 1:00 a.m. Last Modified: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 9:18 p.m.

In most ways, Nathan Lee is an ordinary person. He's a salesman at Best Buy in Sarasota. He represents no special interest group. But this year he accomplished something unusual; he got a bill passed through the state Legislature.

The bill, awaiting the governor's signature, will elevate the first link of emergency response by requiring 911 operators at all of the state's 258 emergency call centers to undergo standardized training to earn certification.

It comes too late to help the woman who served as its catalyst. Lee's wife, Denise, was kidnapped, raped and killed in January 2008 in North Port. She might have been saved if a witness' call to 911 had been handled properly.

As Lee and others analyzed what went wrong, they realized the 911 system had deep flaws, starting with operator training.

Those shortcomings became Lee's cause. He set out to save others by pushing for mandatory, uniform 911 training statewide.

The heroic way he chose to deal with the pain speaks to his character and should be a point of pride for the two young boys he is raising on his own, state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said Wednesday. Detert joined the cause, with state Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, to push companion bills through the Legislature.

It took three legislative sessions and a lot of behind-the-scenes backing.

Englewood businessman David Dignam advised Lee, helped him set up the Denise Amber Lee Foundation and used his Republican Party contacts to open doors.

Lee and his parents, Mark and Peggy, started traveling to Tallahassee to testify or visit with lawmakers.

The Herald-Tribune published a series that exposed breakdowns in 911 responses statewide. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice commissioned a $43,000 study of 911 responses that found a system fundamentally failing the public in key respects.
The articles and study became exhibits in legislative committee testimony.

People helped in other, unexpected ways, too. Bill Stiver, who runs an automotive shop in Englewood and is a pilot, flew local contingents to Tallahassee.

North Port City Commissioner David Garofalo and his peers sent 411 letters to other cities, encouraging them to support 911 reform.

Garofalo also pushed legislators. One day he left home at 3 a.m. to attend a 10-minute meeting in the state capital, then returned home for a meeting. "That's a day I drank a lot of coffee," he says.

Supporters organized phone banks to call lawmakers and anyone who could influence the process to keep the legislation on track.

Lee had a compelling story to illustrate a legitimate public safety shortcoming. The story also resonates nationally. Lee has traveled coast to coast -- sometimes at his own expense -- addressing many of the same problems exhibited in Florida.

On Wednesday, as the bill's backers gathered at a news conference in Venice, it was evident Lee has not found closure.

Maybe he never will. There are still others to save.

Eric Ernst's column regularly runs Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Contact him at or (941) 486-3073.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Today I was searching google. I do this almost on a daily basis. I really shouldn't do it, but I do. Why? I do not know. I search Denise's name usually just to see if anything new has been written.

But today I am sorry I did it. I searched Denise's name and audio. For some reason I wanted to see if it was possible to get access to her call. I really did not want to listen to it but I wanted to see if it was out there to be found.

There have been so many news stories that I have missed. Hence my previous post. As I came across the newstories I came across some of the stories I had missed. Stories that were aired during King's trial. Remember I was a zombie during her trial and fairly traumatized already. Anyhow, I did indeed find her call. It was played on FoxNews. I was appalled.

I started to listen to it and got through about 60 seconds of it.

Oh sweet beautiful baby....... I am still horrified thinking of how you suffered. Oh sweetheart.....

People really do no not understand "drama". There are so many people out there that create their own "drama" for whatever reasons. I despise those people. They look for "drama" and have no clue as to what true "drama" is.

In any case, no matter how I suffer listening to Denise's call it does not compare one iota to what Denise suffered.

I feel sick.

We have taken "alot of arrows" in the past several weeks. The foundation and my family have been criticized for whatever reasons. Would I like to shoot arrows back? Damn right I would. But I will not.

So many people just do not understand what it is like watching our son struggle, suffer and try to salvage his own shattered life. People criticize him. And all he is doing is trying to survive. Also, I realize these people truly do not understand and hopefully NEVER will. Because if they do come to understand that will mean they will have suffered a loss in truly horrifying fashion. Some members of our own family have shot arrows. And if our own family sometimes does not get it, how can we expect others to?

People say "move on"...... well, it is not so easy. We have been given an opportunity to help the world become a better place. We have met some truly wonderful, amazing and inspirationally truly good people. We truly do not ever want to see a family suffer in this way again.

We cannot bring Denise back. But the way she fought, the way she loved and the way she lived is all the reason we need to keep her memory and spirit alive.

I will live every day of my life remembering Denise and what a selfless person she was. She IMO is a saint.

Dear Denise, please, help Nathan in anyway you can. Talk to some people up there. Talk to God if he exists. Guide him, give him strength and courage, and please, show him the way.


Friday, May 7, 2010

The things we miss

The past two years have seemed to go by in a blur. The things we miss. We just received a very supportive email that was full of condolences and heartwarming thoughts and support. The man was from Texas and had seen Denise's story on 20/20 last night. I searched for the story on the internet having not remembered it featured on 20/20. I found this:

I guess I had watched it when it was aired but I truly do not remember.

My sister sent me a couple of books via mail that I received yesterday. Last night when I thanked her on the phone, I mentioned that I would have to send her a book I had read recently and I thought she would enjoy it. She said "Peggy! I already read it! I sent it to you!!!"


I remember while reading it thinking "Gosh, I wish could remember who sent me this book." Sometimes I wonder if I am going crazy.

We have received so much heart felt support over these past two years. I cannot count the hugs, letters, notes and emails etc... Not to mention all the other support would be just wrong. We had a gentleman in Britain (York, England) work on Denise's Widipedia page and he spent countless hours sourcing her article to bring it up to Wiki standards. That could not have been easy. Poring over the articles.... ugh! Awful job. So depressing. He was not even aware of her existance until I wrote Wiki asking if someone could clean up her article. You can see it here:

What an awesome job he did.

Anyhow, last night I was thinking about all the hugs etc..... all the kindness and support.... thinking how wonderful it was. People tell us we need to move on and many do not understand why we keep this us. It truly is as Nathan said in the above interview "how can we not?"

No matter how much we suffer by reliving and retelling the story over and over again, it is NOTHING compared to how she suffered.

Also, evil entered our family in the most horrific way imaginable. All this will NEVER bring Denise back. We cannot let the evil win. Look at all the good people who have stepped up through the challenges we have been facing. Think of all the goodness. Surely, that has helped us in realizing that good does trump evil.

I met the supervisor who was on duty in the Sarasota County 9-1-1 center the night Denise was taken. What a wonderful young woman. I think of how this has effected her. I think of all the call takers and dispatchers and trainers from across the country and I just breathe in their goodness.

Sure, there are people out there like the call taker who took Jane's call. Hopefully our foundation will help weed those out. They have no business being call takers.

I think of the media who has also been kind.


Anyhow, just wanted to get some thoughts out there.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I think I am going to be sick. Read on:

Officer logs show why aid came too late in slayings
Records in slaying of four conflict with claim that deputies were too busy
Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle
March 14, 2010, 7:28AM

Four months ago, San Jacinto Sheriff's Capt. Carl Jones offered a simple reason why his deputies couldn't respond to a mother's plea for help with her mentally ill son who was having bizarre hallucinations. His deputies were too busy with high-priority calls.
“We were busier than a cat covered in Meow Mix,” Jones stated then.
Gloria Bills, a 71-year-old widow, would be among those killed by the time a deputy was finally dispatched to the family's home near Coldspring on Nov. 7, seven hours after her first desperate phone call to the sheriff's department.
Oliver “Bubba” Bills Jr. shot and killed his mother, his girlfriend, Shara Torres, 27, and her 4-year-old child before shooting and killing himself.
But dispatch records and audio recordings recently released to the Houston Chronicle conflict with how the sheriff's department initially portrayed its handling of the incident. The records disclose that Jones prohibited his deputies from making a welfare check at the home.
The logs also raise questions as to whether the four deputies on duty that Saturday were as busy as Jones had contended.
Records show Gloria Bills called for help at 1:45 p.m. — four hours before a wreck that deputies worked on U.S. 59. The logs do not list deputies being dispatched to any other major crime scenes during those four hours, other than one deputy assigned to a harassment call.
In the initial recorded request for a deputy, Gloria Bills firmly declared, “I need some help, and I need it now.”
She stressed she had heart trouble and was unable to corral Bubba Bills, who she believed needed to be transported to a mental facility.
Her 42-year-old son was hearing voices, she stated, and hallucinating about things being implanted in his head, the entrance to hell lying under his bed and people in the trees trying to kill him.
Told to seek a warrant
While sometimes suicidal, she said, he had not hurt anybody but was showing signs of aggression.
At 1:51 p.m., the dispatcher promised to send a deputy for a welfare check to assess the situation.
“So far he's not (been violent),” Gloria Bills acknowledged. “But in his condition if he gets angry. I'm not sure what he would do.”
The dispatcher then contacted Jones for advice on how to handle the call. In the recorded conversation, the dispatcher stated his intention to have a deputy make a welfare check.
To which, Jones responded, “Ohhh, no! We don't want to do that!”
Jones objected to sending an officer because: “All you going to do is wind up creating a issue … that may hurt us in the long run.”
The dispatcher then informed Gloria Bills that a deputy won't be coming, and advised her to ask a judge on Monday for a mental health warrant to transport her son.
Jones declined to comment on the recorded conversation because the department faces a possible lawsuit from Torres' family.
San Jacinto Sheriff James Walters, who conducted an internal investigation, said none of his employees was disciplined. He said he could not release his report because of the possible lawsuit.
“Nobody knows how terrible we feel. Our dispatchers and officers made a judgment call and have to live with it,” he said, noting that none of the calls about Bubba Bills were to 911, and that dispatchers called several times to check on the Bills' family.
Bubba was ‘freaking out'
After Jones stopped the welfare check, records show that a family friend, Mark Campbell, placed three calls to urge deputies to go out there. The calls came a few minutes after the major wreck occurred on U.S. 59 about 6 p.m.
Campbell reported Bubba Bills was “scaring his girlfriend to death” by growing more aggressive — kicking over barbecue grills and throwing things.
The dispatcher then called Torres, who said Bubba Bills was “freaking out” and that she feared for her daughter because he had guns.
For the second time, a dispatcher promised to send a deputy
Thirty minutes later, a mental health representative from the Burke Center's hotline called the dispatcher to make yet another plea for a welfare check. The dispatcher again replied that deputies were “swamped” but one would be out “soon.”
An hour later at 7:22 p.m., a dispatcher called to check on Torres. The wreck had just been cleared, and deputies would spend another 20 minutes working on a reported “assault in progress,” but no other major crime would be listed during that time.
At this point, Bubba Bills' mental state had deteriorated. He was outside talking to himself and saying “he's fixing to take all Jesus' children to heaven,” records showed.
Torres told the dispatcher that this remark, combined with his other hallucinations, terrified her: “In his right mind, he would never hurt me … but the way he's looking at me … Looks like he's going to hurt me. I've never seen him look like that. Never.”
Similar call a year before
For a third time, a dispatcher said a deputy was on his way, but one did not arrive for more than two hours.
During this interlude, a Liberty County 911 dispatcher called San Jacinto's dispatch to make sure an officer was on his way.
Torres' sister, Rachael Clark, had alerted Liberty County that she had been talking to Torres on the telephone and then suddenly heard her say, “Oh, no! Not my baby!”
A deputy would not pull up at the small white wooden house on Outlaw Lane until about 9 p.m., and then found only bodies.
Records show dispatchers had to search for about an hour and a half before finding the short dirt road on a map. Walters said dispatchers were confused by another road with the same name.
A year earlier, deputies needed only 10 minutes to respond to a similar call for help from the Bills' family that ended with Bubba Bills being transported to a mental facility in Spring, records showed.
Surviving members of the Bills and Torres families, incensed by the delayed response, believe they've been stonewalled.
“We've been kept in the dark,” said Bubba Bill's daughter, Cassie Daniels. “It's made me feel like the sheriff's department has something to hide.”
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Friday, April 30, 2010

from Ugent Communications

911 training legislation is a labor of love

Apr 29, 2010 2:29 PM, By Glenn Bischoff
Would require Florida call-takers and dispatchers to become certified

The state of Florida House of Representatives yesterday unanimously approved a Senate bill that would require newly hired 911 call-takers and dispatchers to compile 232 hours of training before they are allowed to handle an emergency call. The requirement takes effect in October 2012. Personnel hired before then would be required to take a competency exam. Those who fail that exam would be required to undergo the training regimen. The bill also authorizes the use of funds generated by the state’s 911 tax for the training.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ken Roberson, said an investigation revealed that although the majority of 911 calls are handled properly by Florida’s telecommunicators, “hundreds of critical errors that endanger lives” occur every year. He was critical of Florida’s lack of uniform training standards and alleged that some telecommunicators in the state start processing 911 calls within a couple of days of being hired. “This situation is unacceptable and must be rectified,” he said.
The Denise Amber Lee Foundation was a driving force behind the passage of this legislation. The 21-year-old Lee, the mother of two young children, was abducted from her Florida home in January 2008 and murdered. Allegedly, 911 personnel made mistakes on the night of her abduction that hindered search efforts. She was found in a shallow grave two days after her abduction. Her assailant was convicted and received the death penalty.
Mark and Peggy Lee, the in-laws of Denise Amber Lee who are the driving force behind the foundation, said that they were pleased with the bill’s passage and that Gov. Charlie Crist has indicated that he will sign it into law. However, the Lee’s have some concerns. They wonder where the money will be found to conduct the training throughout the state. They say that the state’s 911 fees only cover about two-thirds of the costs associated with operating its public-safety answering points.
They also say that the state is going to have to find a way.
“The call-taker is the first link in the chain, and it’s a pretty important link. If they don’t get it right, you’re not going to get firefighters to fires, EMTs to medical emergencies, or police to an abducted woman who’s in the back of a moving car,” Peggy Lee said. “So, they might have to put off that new CAD system for a year. The best technology in the world is no good if the call-taker isn’t following protocol.”
Compliance is another area of concern. “How do we know that each PSAP is going to comply with the law? We don’t want to see 253 cowboys out there doing this on their own,” Mark Lee said. “We need a stronger state 911 office for oversight.”
The Lees hope that the Florida legislation is but a stepping stone to the foundation’s much bigger goal, which is federal legislation that would standardize training and require certification for 911 telecommunicators nationwide. They said that they have had productive discussions about such a bill with the leaders of the major public-safety communications associations. “There’s a lot more that needs to be done,” Mark Lee said.
Patrick Halley, government affairs director for the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), said that a joint effort with the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials should produce standards that address 911 telecommunicator training and quality assurance, which in turn could provide a framework for the federal legislation that the Lees seek. But he said that such a bill would be a tricky proposition.
“It’s a state-sovereignty issue,” Halley said. “It would be tough for the federal government to tell the states that they have to train, and in a specific way. If anything occurs on the national level, it’s going to have to be creatively done.”
But Halley agrees with the Lees that it needs to be done.“In Illinois, for example, you have to be certified to work in a tanning center or barber shop, but not in a 911 center,” he said. “That has to be resolved. A lot of states do a great job [regarding training], but only a handful of them are required by law to do so.”
The lobbying effort to achieve such legislation has taken a toll on the Lees. Not only have they devoted much time, they also have gone into their own pockets at times. They also have had to endure numerous arrows that have been tossed in their direction. “We’ve been called ‘media whores.’ We’ve been accused of using this as an excuse to take vacations,” Peggy Lee said.
“Believe me, telling this story over and over again hasn’t been fun. We’re spent.”
Despite this, both Mark and Peggy Lee were emphatic that the effort has been worthwhile and that they have plenty of fight still left in them to reach the ultimate goal. The motivation is as simple as it is pure.
“This keeps Denise from dying in vain,” Peggy Lee said. “We’ve often asked the question, ‘Why Denise.’ This is the only thing that we can think of. In doing this, we know that she’s saving lives.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's been a while

since I have blogged. We certainly have had a lot going on. I personally have been working a lot more hours than I had been. I work two part-time jobs that pretty much amount to a full-time job without the benefits. So, I have not had a lot of time to keep up with blogging all the news.

It looks as if the 9-1-1 legislation we have been supporting is going to pass. It has passed through the Senate and will be going before the House on Monday or Tuesday. It will be watered down due to compromises that had to be made with sheriff's and police chief associations. Apparently they were "covertly" not supporting the bill for mandatory training due to budget issues. So, the House Representative compromised with them and changed the date of the bill from Oct 2011 to Oct 2012. Ugh! I find that disgusting. That's another year of more tragedies in our state. Why? Because the sheriffs and police chiefs do not know how to prioritize their monies. Two House Representatives voted against the bill! Said it was a unfunded mandate! Hahahahaha! That's ridiculous. We are already paying 50 cents on our cell phone and landline bills. If Senator Bennett's bill passes they'll get even more money from prepaid wireless phones! It disgusts me that their non-support of the bill is behind closed doors. It disgusts me because they are elected officials (the sheriffs and police chiefs) and they don't have the you know what's to man up and do what is right.

Anyhow, I guess we should feel good that we even got it this far. It is better than no bill and no mandatory training.

I do want to thank all the people who worked so hard in doing their best to get something passed. I guess I just do not like politics. I am not a confrontational person. But I am not afraid to speak up when it is something this important. I wish they had left the date alone but... I am trying to understand my best to understand why our legislators felt the need to cave in on the date. I personally do not think it was necessary and the bill would have passed without it. But, I am not a politician and what do I know? sigh

Dear Denise,

It has been a strange and surreal journey losing you. I will never be able to explain to people what your death has meant to our family. What impact it has had. Wednesday night we went to a Victim's memorial for crime victims in Charlotte County. I was wearing your Fix 911 button and Noah's TBall picture button. Noah was curious about the buttons and wanted to wear his. Then he played with your's and his and he had the buttons kiss each other. I said "would you like them to kiss" and he was all excited. All the time this was happening they showed all the crime victims in Charlotte County since 1970 on a large screen. So many murders. Young women, young kids, young men... our future on a screen. Your mom and dad and Nate were there. Adam was a little rascal and would not sit still. Noah was a really good boy through it all and looked forward to placing his rose for you on the wreath with the other roses. I think of those other families all the time. I think of you 24/7. Sometimes I wish I didn't. But I do. I cannot help it. I wish I had gotten to know you better while you were here but honestly, I thought we had years ahead together watching the boys grow. It is just not right that you are gone. And that we had to lose you in order for this much needed legislation to pass. All I know is, that even in Heaven, you are making a difference. I just hope and pray we do our best by your babies. I do love them so much. Noah is a spitting image of you.

Well... I am crying now. I love you and always will. Again tell God we need more people like you down here.



Sunday, April 11, 2010

He was not going to let another tragedy happen

By Todd Ruger

Published: Friday, April 2, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 9:20 p.m.

SARASOTA - Tim Roe had stopped his work pickup at a red light on U.S. 41, windows rolled down, when he made eye contact with the woman in the passenger seat in the car next to him.

"Please help me, help me," the woman said to him. She tried to get out of the car, but the man behind the wheel elbowed her in the face and held her back.

The man saw Roe grab a cell phone. Then the Dodge Shadow sped off through the red light.

With memories of the Carlie Brucia and Denise Lee murders on his mind, as well as other abductions in the news, Roe decided he had to act.

So he took off after them.

"I've heard so many of these ending in tragedy," Roe said, including when a man abducted 11-year-old Carlie from the car wash he frequently drove past. "I thought to myself, 'If I ever see that myself, I'll deal with it.'"

The Bradenton landscaper floored the accelerator in his Chevy Cheyenne to keep up as the two vehicles sped south on U.S. 41 from University Parkway. He dialed 911.

Traffic was light at 8 a.m. on that Saturday in March of 2009. Even going 80 mph and blowing through red lights, Roe, 49, did not think about stopping.

"If I had seen on the news he had killed her, I don't think I could have slept, knowing I could have stopped it," Roe said in his native British accent. "You have to go on the theory he's going to hurt her."

The suspect car suddenly turned left on Myrtle Street; Roe missed the turn, but cut through a Winn-Dixie parking lot and somehow ended up behind the car on Myrtle. Soon, a Sarasota police car pulled behind Roe's truck.

Roe told the 911 dispatcher that if the officer tried to stop him, he was not going to pull over. The dispatcher said the officer was aware of the situation and was just following to help.

When the Dodge reached U.S. 301, it lost control, and Roe pulled his truck in front, while the officer trapped the Dodge from behind.

The driver of the Dodge, Sergio Ocampos, 25, was then arrested on a false imprisonment charge.

The woman got out of the car and ran over to Roe and gave him a hug.

"She wouldn't let go, and just said, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you,'" Roe said. He was shaking himself from the adrenaline.

Ocampos was upset because the woman, his then-27-year-old girlfriend, had just told him she was pregnant and he was the father, said Assistant State Attorney Jason Miller.

It turned to be a false positive on a home pregnancy test.

Ocampos spent a year in jail before pleading guilty to the imprisonment charge this week, Miller said.

He will be deported to Honduras because of the conviction.

Roe's actions and his willingness to testify -- another witness could not be found -- basically made him a hero in this case, Miller said.

"If it wasn't for him, it might not have been a case and could have had a much more tragic ending," Miller said.

Roe, revisiting the spot of the arrest Thursday, said the police did a great job. And he said he just did what he would want anyone to do if his daughters were in trouble.

"I just did what you're supposed to do," Roe said. "You can replace a truck, but you can't replace a woman's life."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Life on the Line by: Andrew Douglas

Special Report: Life on the Line

Posted: Mar 09, 2010 4:37 PM EST
Updated: Mar 09, 2010 11:00 PM EST

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - When you dial 911, you expect a well-trained operator to help you get through an emergency. But where you live could mean the difference between immediate help, and help on the way.

911 operators have one of the most important jobs during emergencies, serving as a link to life when an injured person is waiting for help to arrive.

C. J. Walker is manager of communications for the Memphis Fire Department's 911 service. Her department is certified and accredited to give anyone on the other end of the line life-saving instructions immediately in any emergency situation.

"They do have a script that they have to go by with CPR to make sure those instructions are given properly," she said. "A drowning, cuts, people who are wounded, people who are shot - they can tell people how to stop the bleeding."

In fact, all 911 operators in Shelby County are certified to give this information. The same goes for 911 operators in DeSoto County, and the entire state of Mississippi.

"To me it's essential," said DeeAnna Davis, who works in communications for DeSoto County. "We're their lifeline...their link. Without it, I've seen many that wouldn't make it."

But the Action News 5 Investigators uncovered many Mid-South cities, as well as smaller communities, that do not train their operators to give out medical information.

Zane Boyd, the supervisor of Crittenden County, Arkansas' 911 service, said his operators are not trained to offer medical instruction immediately.

"We get their information regarding medical, get their information of where they live, their phone number and what kind of problem they have, and then we connect them to the appropriate ambulance service," Boyd said.

Crittenden County medics are then dispatched, but the person on the phone must wait for medical help until those medics arrive.

We asked Boyd how fast their average response time is.

"Average? It's probably eight to ten minutes," he said.

To some, that is too much time.

"Someone choking only has so long with air, and if your ambulance response time is eight minutes, it's too long," Davis said.

Boyd agreed that if a dispatcher is not able to give instructions over the phone, that could lead to death, whereas if there was some instruction in place, they could be save.

"Possibly," he said. "Yes sir, that is possible."

911 operators in Crittenden County are not the only ones who do not give out medical instruction over the phone. Action News 5 contacted 18 emergency 911 services in West Tennessee, and we found more agencies that do not train their operators to offer medical instruction than those that do.

Instead, many agencies pass on the call to another emergency service. And like in Crittenden County, Arkansas, they do it because there is not enough money to do things differently."

"At this point it's kind of unreasonable because of the personnel that we have," Boyd said. "We don't have enough personnel to focus on that type of deal."

Pay is a major issue.

"It's not very practical because the salaries are not enough to be competitive," Boyd said. "It's kind of like you get what you pay for."

The starting pay for a 911 operator in Crittenden County is $9.50 an hour. Across the state line in Memphis, it's almost $16.00 per hour, and in DeSoto County, operators are paid nearly $18.00 per hour.

"There is a wide gap between some," Walker said. "It just depends on the agency and municipality."

Emergency personnel say until that gap is closed, and more states start requiring 911 operators to offer medical instruction, you may find help is on the way, instead of on the line.

It has been a while

since I have blogged. We have had a lot going on in the past few weeks. As you probably realize with all the articles I have been posting, the Florida legislators are in session. I finally had to stop posting articles because I was becoming emotionally ill. Sometimes I wonder when it all will stop. I guess we could step away at anytime but even so, I do not believe the pain will end. I do know that by going to Tallahassee, being involved, no matter how sick I feel about it all and the constant reliving of Denise's tragedy, it is the right thing to do. These pieces of legislation are so important if we are ever to see the 9-1-1 system improve. I keep thinking of Brian Wood who laid dead beside a remote road for 18 hours because a call taker dismissed a teenager's call to her. Ugh! Then I go through a litany of other victims and well..... I cannot walk away. The suffering and pain sometimes is unbearable and I feel as if I will breakdown if I go on. But, then who is stepping up? Who is speaking out? Who else is outraged? i guess I am obssessed.

Today's Sun Herald by Elaine Allen-Emrich:

Denise Amber Lee's story captured in 911 training video

The video camera rolled as Peggy Lee fought tears. Talking about the horrific 911 call her daughter-in-law, Denise Amber Lee, made on the day she was brutally murdered is always traumatic for Peggy.

More than two years after Denise's death, Peggy still can hardly bear to hear the call. Rather, she holds on to the positive exchange the two shared the night before Denise was abducted from her North Port home on Jan. 17, 2008.

"Denise's last words were that she loved me," said Peggy, adding that the next and final time she would hear Denise's voice was in the 911 call as she cried and begged for her life. Denise, 21, had been kidnapped at gunpoint and was trapped in the back of Michael King's Camaro.

But now, Peggy says it's time for others to hear the call and hopefully learn from Denise's careful clues to the 911 operator.

Without King knowing, Denise got a hold of his prepaid cell phone and dialed 911. She gave the call taker valuable information about who she was, her address and her family before the call abruptly ended six minutes later. The call made jurors in King's trial understand her helplessness and suffering just hours before she died.

"Everyone needs to listen to the call because it has so many teaching moments," Peggy said. "If it means helping someone else, then it is worth it."

Before sentencing King to death, 12th Circuit Judge Deno Economou said it is "rare that one can actually hear such emotion in the voice of an innocent victim who is doomed to be murdered. The 911 recording of the victim tragically reveals her fear, mental state, terror and her emotional strain."

Peggy was recently interviewed for a training video and documentary about Denise by Kevin Willet, the founder of 911 Cares, which offers emotional support and financial assistance for communicators in crisis. It is part of Public Safety Training Consultants, America's largest in-service training provider, according to its Web site.

After meeting Denise's widower, Nathan Lee, who served as the keynote speaker at an out-of-state 911 conference, Willet asked if he could recreate Denise's last day alive for a training video for telecommunications operators.

Also interviewed were Denise's father, Rick Goff, a longtime Charlotte County Sheriff's Office sergeant, King trial jurors and witness Jane Kowalski who also called 911 to report details of a suspicious Camaro with someone screaming and banging on the car window for help. The 911 call taker Kowalski spoke with didn't send law enforcement despite a massive manhunt for Denise hours after she disappeared.

"I'm going to give copies of the DVD to the Denise Amber Lee Foundation (for 911 reform)," Willet said. "I expect to have the video complete next month."

Peggy said the video can be used to give to politicians and others possibly interested in supporting laws to make 911 training standards universal throughout the country.

"Every time we speak about fixing the problems with the 911 system, we have to relive Denise's story," Peggy said. "It's emotionally draining. I know before I speak in public, I reread my statement 20 or 30 times ahead of time. I relive it over and over again."

Peggy said if she had the video she would have used it Thursday after being allowed less than one minute to testify before the state House Energy and Utilities Committee. Peggy and her husband Mark traveled six hours to attend the hearing in Tallahassee. They support a House bill that would charge a small fee (1 percent) from prepaid cell phones and calling cards to pay for universal 911 training standards. The measure could generate about $11 million annually. A 50 cent-per-month fee is already applied to home and cell phones.

Due to time constraints, House members decided to delay the vote on HB 163 bill until this week.

"If I had the DVD, I could have given it to the House representatives and asked them to watch it when they had a chance," Peggy said. "We will be able to do that at conferences, conventions and dinners. We know this DVD will be shown in Canada and as far away as Samoa."

Peggy said her son Nathan could have also given U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, a copy of the DVD after the two met in Washington, D.C., last week. Buchanan helped present the E-911 Institute's 911 Advocacy Award for 2010 to Nathan for creating the Denise Amber Lee Foundation and lobbying Florida legislators to raise standards for its 235 emergency call systems.

"The fact that it (Denise's murder) may have been prevented makes it all the more tragic," Buchanan said in a statement. "I applaud Nathan for working to turn a tragedy into something positive that could help save lives in the future."

The E-911 Institute is a Washington advocacy group that promotes public education on 911 and emergency communications issues.



North Port Community News Editor

Monday, March 15, 2010

St Petersburg Times

A Times Editorial
Keep recordings of 911 calls public
In Print: Monday, March 15, 2010

Florida's accidental House speaker, Larry Cretul, has not left much of an imprint since taking over last year in the wake of the Ray Sansom scandal. Now the Ocala Republican is manipulating the legislative process on behalf of a powerful constituent — at the expense of sound public policy. Cretul is fast-tracking a bill that would exempt recordings of 911 calls from public records laws, which would make it more difficult to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for the way they respond to emergencies. It is an effort driven more by emotion than clear-headed reason, and lawmakers who embrace open government should reject this effort to keep these recordings secret.

Proposed House Government Affairs Policy Committee Bill 10-03a would allow only public safety officials — and no one else — access to 911 recordings, including recordings made before the bill became law. The measure might as well be called the Relieve Police Officers, Firefighters and 911 Operators From Accountability Act. Exposing the failures of ill-trained, bungling or malicious police, fire and emergency personnel would become infinitely harder.

The bill would silence the voices of victims like Denise Amber Lee, whose horrific abduction in Sarasota County at the hands of a murderer was captured in a series of 911 calls that revealed a dispatcher's mistakes that likely cost Lee her life. Lee's husband, Nathan, courageously opposes the bill and notes that "911 issues need more transparency and not less if we are ever to learn from past mistakes."

Cretul's sudden interest in secrecy stems from the drug overdose death last year of the 16-year-old son of the president of the Florida Farm Bureau, a powerful advocacy group of growers and ranchers headquartered in Cretul's district. The father, John Hoblick, told Cretul his family was traumatized when local television stations played the 911 recording of his older son's call after he found his younger brother unresponsive. No one enjoys hearing tapes of their relatives' anguished calls for help in a crisis. But as Nathan Lee notes, there is a greater public issue at stake.

For example, after recordings from Lee's murder became public, the Legislature passed the Denise Amber Lee act two years ago, establishing voluntary statewide certification for emergency dispatchers. If lawmakers embrace this latest bill, citizens would only be allowed written transcripts of 911 calls. Those transcripts would be available 60 days later, with the individual seeking the record paying for the transcription.

A belated, written transcription is not enough. Transcripts can be ambiguous, and they lack tone and context. As Lee's father, Mark Lee, said about recordings: "It's like a song. . . . Hearing a song is a lot more powerful than reading the lyrics." He also opposes Cretul's bill.

Cretul stacked the House committee last week to make sure the bill passed, 8-5. But two-thirds of both the House and Senate are required to approve a public record exemption, and the speaker is still trying to recruit an influential Senate sponsor. It is never easy for many lawmakers to stand up to a House speaker who has control over the fate of their own bills and budget issues — particularly when initial public sentiment may be on his side. But emotional responses to specific incidents often make bad law. Making recordings of 911 tapes secret would cloud Florida's legacy of government-in-the-sunshine and make it more difficult to hold emergency personnel accountable for their actions in the minutes when residents need them most.

[Last modified: Mar 15, 2010 08:33 AM]

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stay in the Sunshine

And editorial on today's

Openness can be messy, but it's essential

House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, no doubt is a man of character. Keeping his promise to a friend and constituent who was horrified to hear a 911 call linked to his son's death broadcast on TV, Mr. Cretul is working to exempt 911 calls from Florida's public records laws.

We are sympathetic to his friend. This had to be horrifying. It provides yet another example of how open government and freedom can be messy. It is that freedom, as messy as it might be, and our history of government transparency that we celebrate today on Sunshine Sunday in America, an event created and popularized in the Sunshine State.

The proposed bill would be a blow to open government and to citizen efforts to watch over the actions of government.

The House might actually pass the bill, if Mr. Cretul decides to force it through, as he did in earning an 8-5 passage in a House committee. We urge that it die there, that the House not approve it. While there is currently no Senate version of the bill, that could change in the blink of a political deal come budget crunch time.

If the bill somehow works its way through the full Legislature, as unlikely as it might seem, we would urge Gov. Charlie Crist, who says he opposes it, to use his veto.

While this is a kind and sympathetic gesture on Mr. Cretul's part, it would be awful public policy.

Already under current law, personal identifying information about callers is redacted when 911 tapes are released. That's what exemptions do: They protect inappropriate intrusions into the privacy expectations of individuals in order to allow citizens to know what their government is doing.

But exempting all 911 tapes is not like most other exemptions. This one would remove from citizen review one of the most crucial interactions of the public and its government. Lives and property are at stake when the call is made to emergency dispatchers. How well they and other public safety workers respond might not be the only time a citizen interacts with government, but it might be the only one that ultimately matters.

Ask the family of Denise Amber Lee, a 21-year-old mother of two who was kidnapped from her North Port home, raped and murdered. Her call to 911 was not forwarded to police. The dispatchers were eventually disciplined.

Her family opposes the exemption.
Mrs. Lee's father-in-law, Mark Lee, called it "a bad, bad bill." Her family has worked to provide training to emergency dispatchers across the country, and to hold them accountable. This bill would work against everything his family is trying to accomplish, Mr. Lee said.
We are equally sympathetic to this father.
In our region, local emergency radio traffic already has been taken off the air waves and encrypted, blocking immediate public access and review; now comes this bill, which would exempt review after the fact as well.
The legislative leadership has talked about wanting to make government more efficient. If that is just code for smaller, that is one thing. But if it truly wants government to work smarter and better, it must understand that this must occur in the open, in full public view with provisions that allow the public to identify failures and to fix them.
We are sympathetic to those who want to block nosy neighbors from intruding in family matters. It should not, however, be the job of government to help with problematic neighbors or to compromise all of our rights to access and watch our government.

It is, as we said earlier, another example of the messiness of free and open government. Government in the Sunshine is less than perfect, but as Florida has long known, better than any alternative.