Saturday, November 21, 2009

quote from Vern Buchanan

I want to share a quote from Congressman Vern Buchanan:

"The abduction and murder of Denise Amber Lee of North Port was a horrific crime," said Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-13). "The fact that her death could have been prevented makes it all the more tragic.

"Most of Florida's 911 calls are handled correctly, but any mistake can mean the difference between life and death," added Buchanan. "Standardized training and testing for 911 operators and dispatchers is a worthy concept that could help save lives in the future."

There have been several articles this week in the paper and i have not had the time to post them all.

from today's Sun papers. I'm so grateful that Rick spoke up.

Charlotte Sheriff Speaks Out

CHARLOTTE COUNTY -- One week after learning Denise Amber Lee was found dead in the woods, then-Charlotte County Chief Deputy Bill Cameron says he went on TV and apologized to Denise's father, Rick Goff, and her widower, Nathan Lee.

Cameron, who was not the sheriff at the time when Denise was murdered on Jan. 17, 2008, was second in command to then-sheriff John Davenport.

Since becoming sheriff in 2008, Cameron says it's simply "not true" that the Charlotte County Sheriff's top brass has not told the families "countless times" they regret the loss of Denise and admitted mistakes were made leading up to her death.

"We have been painted as heartless monsters by Nathan Lee," Cameron said following the kidnapping, rape and murder of Denise, a 21-year-old North Port mother of two young boys. Her father, Goff, is a 25-year veteran with the Sheriff's Office.

Cameron was with Davenport at a Jan. 24, 2008, press conference that was called because the CCSO said the media kept reporting incorrect details of Denise's murder.

Davenport told the media several reported facts regarding a 911 call from eyewitness Jane Kowalski of Tampa weren't true.

On the night of Denise's death, Kowalski called 911 after seeing a dark Camaro with someone she described as a child in the back seat banging on the window and screaming.

She gave the CCSO call taker details of every cross street the suspicious vehicle passed. She also described the driver -- later identified as Michael King -- and the left turn he took onto Toledo Blade Boulevard back toward North Port. Denise's body was found buried off Toledo Blade two days later.

Following an Internal Affairs investigation, CCSO telecommunications staff members were disciplined for not dispatching the 911 call to North Port police officers already on a massive citywide manhunt for Denise and the Camaro.

Believing CCSO telecommunications didn't follow protocol, Nathan notified the CCSO he intended to sue for negligence and wrongful death on behalf of himself, Denise's estate, her two young sons and Denise's parents, Rick and Susan Goff.

In October, his attorney filed the lawsuit at the Charlotte County Justice Center in Punta Gorda.

Nathan has held several news conferences since Denise's death. After filing the lawsuit, he said he "never" received an apology for the critical information not reaching deputies on the night of his wife's murder.

Cameron said he couldn't speak for Davenport, but said he did apologize to the family and gave Rick and Nathan $100,000 collected by Sheriff's Office employees last year.

"After the press conference we held (on Jan. 24, 2008), we heard Rick Goff was upset because we did not apologize," Cameron said. "That wasn't the reason for the press conference, but I understood Rick was upset. After the press conference ended, I found a reporter from SNN and publicly on television, I said the Sheriff's Office was very sorry for what had happened."

Goff said he saw Cameron on SNN but didn't consider his remarks "real" because he was told the four people from the CCSO who wrote the speech didn't think to include an apology during the press conference.

"I was told by the (then) sheriff that sheriffs don't make a habit of apologizing," Goff said Friday.

Since Jan. 24, 2008, "I've apologized many times," Cameron said. "It was an emotional time for the Sheriff's Office. This is our family. Nate Lee is not our family, but Rick Goff is. This agency was devastated. We love Rick Goff."

Cameron said Nathan has "kicked us in the teeth."

"(Nathan) hired a public relations firm and is trying to win a lawsuit," he said. "Some of what has been done has been calculated by the firm."

Cameron said this week that Davenport apologized to the family in a "Dateline NBC" interview that aired in June 2008.

Davenport was shown twice during the hour-long special, but transcripts indicate he did not apologize to the family. He was asked if the botched 911 call was a missed opportunity, and he answered "certainly it was."

But Davenport said in the interview the handling of the call may not have changed the outcome that night. He said the assumption that Charlotte County "screwed up" and could've saved Denise's life is wrong.

If his department could be accused of anything, the sheriff told "Dateline," it would be trying too hard that night.

"Because it was one of our own (Rick Goff), and we knew it, and all the resources were being sent, it was chaos. It was stressful. I mean, in the course of trying to do too much, frankly, I think they missed the call," he said.

Davenport also told "Dateline" there was "no punishment" he could ever give the operators that they're not already facing themselves and living with every day.

"They feel terrible about this. Terrible," Davenport said to "Dateline." "I have total confidence in people that have been involved in this. I truly do. And they've been under pressure many times before. But they didn't make the mistake. This time they did. We all have."

Nathan said despite Davenport admitting mistakes were made, the CCSO continues to create obstacles for him, even before he filed the lawsuit.

He said the CCSO gave him a heavily redacted Internal Affairs report from the telecommunications employees suspensions. Nathan said he needed the report before filing the lawsuit. He also found out "Dateline" had obtained a "clean," unredacted copy of the document.

After taking the CCSO to court over the issue, the CCSO attorney told him to file a lawsuit to receive a clean copy. A judge agreed.

Cameron said he was "unaware" that "Dateline" ever requested a copy of the investigative report.

"Legally, we have to redact protected information about the case," Cameron said. "(Kowalski's) information has to be protected. At the time of Nathan's request, King was still being tried in court. It was an ongoing investigation. Rick works here. He could come in and see the report whenever he wants."

Nathan claims Kowalski wanted people to know who she is because she has gone on "Dateline" and other national TV shows to tell her story. She also testified in court during King's trial.

"That doesn't matter," Cameron said. "The law says we have to redact that part of the report. We told Nathan's attorneys that if they had any questions about the redacted information, that we would answer them."

Next, Nathan said the CCSO filed a motion last week to have the wrongful death lawsuit thrown out of court. Court records show the CCSO believes the agency didn't have to protect Denise any differently than any other citizen. However, on the day of the murder, the North Port Police Department issued a "be on the look out" for Denise two hours before Kowalski's call came into the CCSO dispatch center.

"I don't want to get into a fighting match with the sheriff," Nathan said. "It's tough for Rick because he works for the Sheriff's Office and he's part of my family. He loves his grandsons and his daughter so much.

"I expected the CCSO would try to block the lawsuit because they don't want to pay for their grievous incompetence," he added. "I just think the taxpayers need to know that their money is going to fight our family. The CCSO's actions speak louder than their words."

Cameron said he couldn't discuss the lawsuit, but the Sheriff's Office is supportive of Goff.

"Rick and I stay in touch all of the time," he said. "After this happened, I was with Rick and Nate the whole weekend. I kept them up to date with everything we knew."

During King's two-week murder trial in September, Cameron showed up for 25 minutes one day to support Goff. That's the last time Goff said he saw or spoke to Cameron.

Cameron maintains his agency "worked hard" to help with the details and police work needed to bring King to justice. A judge will sentence King to either death or life in prison in December.

"We worked closely with the North Port Police Department and other agencies to bring the case to a successful close," Cameron said. "You won't hear about that because our agency has been painted like the bad guy."

The Sheriff's Office recently lent support for proposed legislation by state Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, for a 911 mandatory training bill he is confident will pass next year.

Cameron said he has been working with Roberson for "a long time" in drafting the proposed legislation.

According to CCSO spokesman Bob Carpenter, "the sheriff has been in Tallahassee a few times before, giving input on this legislation."



North Port Community News Editor