Monday, October 19, 2009

Tomorrow's Sun Paper

Lee, Kowalski slated to appear on 'Good Morning America' Tuesday

North Port Community News Editor

Tuesday, Nathan Lee and Jane Kowalski are scheduled to appear on "Good Morning America" to talk about life after the 2008 kidnapping, rape and murder of Nathan's wife, Denise Amber Lee.

Nathan recently filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, alleging the handling of 911 call made by Kowalski was botched by CCSO dispatchers, leading to Denise's death.

The 21-year-old mother of two was abducted from her North Port home Jan. 17, 2008, by Michael King, who raped and murdered her. The 38-year-old was convicted on Sept. 4. Jurors unanimously recommended the death penalty, which a judge will decide later on this year.

Kowalski, of Tampa, testified during King's trial that she saw him driving a dark-colored Camaro with someone screaming and slapping the window in the back seat on the night Denise was kidnapped. After she called 911 to report the strange incident, call center staff did not dispatch deputies to Toledo Blade Boulevard, where Kowalski saw King turn off.

Denise had been trapped in King's car. Her body was found buried off Toledo Blade two days later.

"They called me to be on the show and tell Denise's story," Nathan said Monday. "I've always said Denise did not die in vain. She would want me to do this to help prevent anyone else from being hurt, and to fix the 911 system."

Following Denise's death, Nathan, his family and friends created the Denise Amber Lee Foundation to strengthen the 911 system and create universal, mandatory training for all call takers. Lee has been to 10 states talking representing the foundation telling Denise's story and lobbying for minimum standards for training, protocol and equipment for all call centers.

"Good Morning America" begins at 7 a.m. on ABC, Comcast channel 7.

This isn't the first time Nathan has been on national TV promoting a "much needed" 911 overhaul. He's also been on the "Dr. Phil" show and "Dateline NBC."

Denise's story is also featured in this month's Reader's Digest. The article, by Michael Crowley, cites several examples of "911 Calls Gone Tragically Wrong," including an Orlando woman who called 911 after she was kidnapped. In that case, the operator lectured the woman for not telling him where she was during the call. Her ex-boyfriend shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself, Crowley wrote.

The article leads off: "One afternoon in January 2008, Nathan Lee returned home from work to find his two little boys crammed into the same crib, crying. Their mother had left behind her cell phone and purse and disappeared."

The article goes on to state: "A spate of recent cases reveal shocking flaws in our national emergency response system -- at a cost measured in lives."