Friday, July 17, 2009

Denise Amber Lee's husband: Charlotte Co. officials hid information

This is just one of the many stories printed and aired this past week. When Nathan first decided to sue the CCSO, I was appalled. We're not a vindictive family and do not favor frivolous lawsuits. I'm starting to understand that not all lawsuits that I might consider frivolous actually are. Many have purposes that may not be seen on the surface. And, yes, some that I consider frivolous really are frivolous!

Nathan's lawsuit is anything but. It's very serious and has much to do with public safety especially in Charlotte County. I can't express how relieved that this is finally going forward and we're going to get the answers we've been waiting for. Denise will not have died in vain. She fought tooth and nail to live. And we will fight tooth and nail so that more people don't have to die because someone is not doing their job.

Those people who screwed up in such a major way will finally be held accountable. People are constantly asking me how can Denise's dad continue to work there. The question should be how can these people continue to work there? If people only knew the whole story they'd truly understand why this NEEDS to be done. I'll say it again, that no matter how wonderful your training is and no matter how latest the technology you have is, if you FAIL to use them appropriately, they are USELESS. AND, if the people in charge are already aware that their employees ARE not doing their jobs correctly, and that person is in a position that holds someone's life in their hands, and you let them continue to do a shoddy job, tragedy will happen. And it happened to Denise. And you willfully allowed it to happen. Either because you were too lazy or too weak or too stupid to make those individuals step up and do their jobs. . I speak only for myself and not my family when I get into a rant like this. But, I've read that IA report 3 times and all it does is raise even more questions. And it IS a relief to finally be getting some answers.

I'll get off the soapbox.

Denise Amber Lee's husband: Charlotte Co. officials hid information
Laura Kadechka

Englewood, Florida - It's been a year and a half since Denise Amber Lee was abducted from her North Port home, raped and murdered and yet her husband says he still doesn't know exactly what happened.

Nathan Lee tells 10 Connects, he believes the answers lie behind the black redacted lines within hundreds of pages of documents released by the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.

"They're hiding something they don't like," said Lee from the Englewood home he shares with his two young son's Noah and Adam.

He flipped through page after page of an Internal Affairs investigation report released by the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office regarding the botched 911 phone call Lee says could have saved his wife's life.

The call was placed by a Tampa woman, Jane Kowalski, who was driving through Charlotte County when she says she saw Denise fighting for her life in the backseat of her accused killer's car.

"I knew something was wrong. You know when you have a gut instinct, make the call. Better to be safe than sorry. Better be safe than sorry," Kowalski told 10 Connects in January on the one year anniversary of Denise's brutal murder.

For nine minutes Kowalksi followed the green Camero while remaining on the line with 911, but help for Denise never came.

Her body was found two days later, naked and buried in a shallow grave. The 21-year-old mother of two was dead from one gun shot wound.

It was later determined through the Internal Affairs investigation, the information Kowalski provided to 911 was never dispatched to deputies. The call essentially fell through the cracks.

According to the IA investigation, call center workers in Charlotte County knew that a BOLO (be on the look out) for the green Camero had been issued in North Port where dozens of officers were searching Lee's neighborhood. A neighbor reported seeing the car around the same time Lee disappeared.

The IA report states "Call taker Mildred Stepp realizes the importance of this call and stands up to say that the information needs to get out on the radio."

Lee and his attorneys question this statement and believe the answers lie behind redacted portions of the investigation's documents.

"Three people thought someone else sent it out to dispatch, that's the story the state of Florida and indeed the nation now have heard about the Denise Amber Lee case," said attorney Patrick Boyle, "I find it suspicious when they ask everybody who was in that room questions...did the operator actually stand up and say the things the things they said she said when she stood up...the answers and questions around those issues are where we are seeing deletes and blackouts."

Boyle is with the law firm Franfurt, Kurnit, Klein and Selz out of New York. They took on the case this year.

On Tuesday, Lee and his attorneys filed a petition for a pure bill of discovery with the 20th Judicial District Court to let the courts decide whether they should get all of the information...including what's been redacted.

"The nature of the mistakes, who made the mistakes and when and how will be revealed, I believe, if we can get the documents that are in this binder without all of the redactions in it," said Boyle.

They don't just want the information to get answers, they say they need it for a lawsuit they are planning to file against the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office in September.

They filed a notice of intent in March and have to wait six months before filing the lawsuit.

"A big part of the lawsuit will be to get the un-redacted documents, but believe me, not getting the documents won't stop us from filing this lawsuit," said Boyle.

"I'm extremely anxious to know what happened and to have the details on what happened so we can move forward," Lee told 10 Connects.

Lee and Denise's family have been working for the last year and a half to reform Florida's 911 systems. They were able to get the Denise Amber Lee Act passed, but it only makes emergency dispatcher certification voluntary. They plan to introduce new legislation in the upcoming session to make certification mandatory.

"My biggest focus is being a dad and doing the best with my kids and they're amazing and they're happy, but being able to help not making Denise's death be in vain and help turn a negative into a positive is something I'm going to dedicate the rest of my life to. She deserves that," said Lee.

The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office did not want to comment on the allegations they were trying to hide something. Calls were referred to the State Attorney's Office in Sarasota where the sheriff's office says the documents were turned over.

Michael King, the man accused of kidnapping, raping and killing Denise Amber Lee goes to trial next month. He is facing the death penalty.