Tuesday, December 29, 2009

North Port Police Chief Terry Lewis

I commend Chief Lewis for having the strength, courage and wisdom to do the right thing.

And thank you, THANK YOU, Chief Lewis, for not hiding behind this with arrogant airs. Thank you for not sweeping this under the rug.

And especially thank you for showing compassion for the family.

My heartfelt condolences go out to the Wood family. It's tragic enough to lose someone but to add this on top of it is....... There's no word for it.

Again, I commend you.

God bless you.

From the Charlotte Sun website

NORTH PORT — North Port Police Chief Terry Lewis has fired the dispatcher who failed to send officers to a crash scene where a man was found dead almost 19 hours later.

Lewis said Nadezhda Kashitskaya, who had been with the NPPD for about a year and a half, violated two city policies.

In a press conference Tuesday at the police department, Lewis apologized to the family of Brian Wood, 55, and said his heart goes out to Kashitskaya, whom he said "made a mistake."

About 11:30 p.m. Dec. 11, teens saw a man slumped over on the ground next to his truck in a dark, remote area of North Port Estates. Mark Mininci Jr., 19, called 911 from a convenience store about six miles away.

When Mininci called 911, he didn't know the exact street name — Lovering Avenue — of where the man and his pickup were located, calling it "Lovesong" or "Lovebird." However, he gave detailed directions on how to get to the area.

Around 6:30 p.m. the next day, a curious Mininci returned to the area and saw the man was still there. Mininci went to a nearby house and asked the residents to call police.

Officers arrived and found Wood, the longtime owner of Suncoast V-Twin motorcycle repair in North Port, dead. On the way to visiting his friend and business partner, Ricky "Railroad" Johnson, Wood had apparently crashed his pickup into a power pole. He managed to get out of the truck after the crash but could not get help before succumbing to his injuries.

In the 911 call, Kashitskaya explained to Mininci the system doesn't work without giving a specific street name.

But Lewis said earlier this month that other techniques could have been used to assist the caller.

"We use maps similar to Google Earth to find streets and locations," he said. "We should have gone to the area where the caller described, despite not having a proper street name."

The Sarasota County Medical Examiner has not yet completed Wood's autopsy report.

link: http://sunnewspapers.net/articles/llnews.aspx?articleID=15232&bnpg=0

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas can be so damn difficult

Not many people think about the stresses and anxieties 9-1-1 call takers face and the tragedies they listen to. I've met hundreds perhaps thousands of telecommunicators and believe me, they do not have it easy. I believe they go through their own form of post traumatic stress. I've listened to many calls now where the outcomes have been tragic. Yet, these call takers have to listen to it and sometimes never know what happened to the person on the other end. I couldn't do it. Yes, I believe there are some out there that are only in it for the paycheck but the majority are compassionate, diligent and dedicated.

Anyhow, I do not know this young man's story. But do, please, keep his family in your prayers and send condolences if possible.

Audrain County (MO) E-911 Joint Communications lost a dispatcher to suicide on Christmas Eve. The 23 year old dispatcher left behind a 1 year old son, family, friends, and co-workers. All of the Joint Communications staff and public safety officials in Audrain County are mourning the loss, especially the dispatchers that handled the frantic 911 call and those who responded to the scene after his
body was discovered. Prayers and support are appreciated. Anyone wishing to send condolences can direct them to the PSAP. Condolences for the family will be passed on to the family.
Daniel G. Barnett
Assistant 911 Director
Audrain County E-911
1854 East Liberty Street
PO Box 415
Mexico, MO 65265

Call For 911 Improvements/ today's Herald Tribune editorial

Calling for 911 improvements

Legislation would help create a seamless system
Published: Monday, December 28, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 1:48 p.m.

In a recent editorial about the latest local breakdown in 911 communications, we posed the question: What must Florida -- and its counties and cities -- do to create a seamless system designed to ensure that all emergency calls receive an appropriate, prompt response?

The first step would be to recognize key findings and implement important recommendations contained in "Florida 911: The State of Emergency." That report, funded by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, was released in August.

"Florida does not have a 911 'system,' but rather a patchwork of agencies, protocols and technologies cobbled together," the report concluded. The report criticized state funding policies that sever "the call-taking function from the inherently linked function of dispatching emergency personnel."

Another report on the 911 "system" is in the works, we recently learned from state Rep. Ken Roberson, a Republican from Port Charlotte. Roberson and Sen. Nancy Detert, a Sarasota County Republican, gained approval for an arm of the Legislature to analyze the 911 process statewide. The study, conducted by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, is scheduled to be completed next month.

If the OPPAGA report reflects the typical depth of its work, the analysis will help Roberson and Detert gain passage of identical bills they've filed (HB 355 and SB 742.)

The bills seek to sensibly authorize the use of an existing 911-access fee for certification, training and oversight of "public safety communicators." The bills would redefine the term "emergency dispatcher" to include anyone who answers, receives or transfers 911 calls -- including those who dispatch law enforcement officers, firefighters or emergency-medical personnel.

The authorization of funding for these efforts will be vital; that may require increasing the fee. As well-publicized incidents in our region have shown, the inclusion of police dispatchers in statewide certification, training and oversight of the 911 system is crucial to the creation of a seamless system.

The proposed legislation, if adopted, won't prevent human error from occurring. But the Detert-Roberson proposal would lower the odds and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency communications in Florida.

This story appeared in print on page A10

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.


my opinion? This needs to be done. I highlighted the word "oversight" because I imagine this is what the sheriff's and police chief's across the state will struggle with.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chief Terry Lewis and the North Port Police Department

Gosh, lots going on in the past week. At the forefront, another 9-1-1 tragedy in Southwest Florida. Sadly, it occurred in North Port. For those of you that do not know North Port is where Denise was kidnapped, raped and murdered. During the abduction the convicted murderer, Michael King, drove over the county line into Charlotte County. After an eye witness spotted Denise and called 9-1-1 the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office failed to dispatch a car and missed several BOLOs (Be On the Look Outs). Their 9-1-1 center (CCSO) failed miserably in several areas on just that one call. Then they were not forthcoming with the information. They tried to cover up. It was not until 2 days AFTER Denise was abducted that North Port found out about the call. Denise was found that same day, 2 days after her abduction, in a 4' hole in a fetal position having been shot in the head. Where? On a side street off Toledo Blade, the last street the eyewitness saw the kidnapping on. It still disgusts me, and most like always will, that the CCSO 9-1-1 center failed, and worse they were not forthcoming. They chose to try a shove it under the rug. To me, that department is being run by politicians and not sheriffs.

Anyhow, now North Port has their own 9-1-1 tragedy. Brian Wood was seen outside his truck last Friday evening. He appeared in distress. A young couple drove to the nearest 7-11 and called 9-1-1 on a payphone. The young man, Mark Macinski Jr, did not get the name of the street properly. He knew it began with "love" but could not remember whether it was Lovebird or Lovesong. But he had directions to the spot. He gave them to the call taker. She said the system does not work that way and she could not find a road beginning with "love". The next day in the early evening, Manisci went back. The road was "Lovering" and the man was still there. 18 hours later and he was now dead.

The similarities of the cases are how tragic they are. The loss of life. The breakdown. Something gone wrong. Another person dead due to 9-1-1 inefficiencies. Who is at fault? Some blame the caller for not going back yet he was uncomfortable going back. He was not sure of the danger. Others blame the call taker. Others blame the supervisors. All I know is we have to do something because people are dying.

The differences? The most glaring difference in my opinion is the leadership. Having worked with Chief Lewis throughout Denise's case, we have great confidence that he will do the right thing by finding out what went wrong and doing something about it unlike Charlotte County who still does not admit doing anything wrong.

God be with you, Chief Lewis, and give you guidance, courage and strength to do the right thing.

What would I do? I would probably not fire the call taker. But, I would remove her from the 9-1-1 center and transfer her to a different job. Having listened to the 9-1-1 call, I really do not think she should be in there accepting calls. Unlike the call taker in our case, Millie Stepp, who had received previous reprimands for not using the CAD appropriately, it appears this call taker has an unblemished record. So, transfer her. Not all people are cut out to be call takers. But that's just my opinion.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

articles in today's paper December 5, 2009

Herald Tribune

It's death for the man who killed Denise Lee


Paying the price

Justice in Denise Lee case, but harsh realities remain

Published: Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 4, 2009 at 8:10 p.m.
There are crimes so heinous, with guilt so certain, that they melt opposition to the death penalty.

The 2008 abduction, rape and murder of North Port mom Denise Lee is one such crime.

Friday, a Sarasota judge sentenced Lee's killer, Michael King, to the ultimate punishment. The sentence followed the unanimous recommendation of the jury that found King guilty of first-degree murder and other horrible offenses.

By most measures, the sentence is just. But any satisfaction that may be taken from it must be weighed against harsh realities.

The first and most tragic of these is that King's execution will not bring back the murdered woman, nor restore the normal life that her husband and two young children once had.

The second is that a death penalty automatically triggers procedures that could delay execution for years, putting the family on an agonizing merry-go-round of appeals.

The third is that this and dozens of other capital cases drain the resources of Florida's criminal justice system.

Because of heightened constitutional requirements, death penalty cases are far more expensive than murder trials in which life with no possibility of parole is sought.

In Florida, the difference between death-penalty and life-without-parole adds up to tens of millions of dollars per year, studies indicate.

It is wrong to put a price tag on justice. But at a time when recession has forced serious budget cuts on law enforcement agencies and the courts, who can feel good about spending so much on a punishment that does so little for crime prevention?

Studies indicate that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to violent crime, especially in comparison with the less expensive life-without-parole option.

The millions spent on death-penalty pursuits could pay for important crime prevention measures. They could fund additional police, probation and corrections officers, investigators and prosecutors.

They could fund additional crime labs to process large backlogs in DNA samples and evidence.

They could fund substance-abuse programs and facilities for handling severe mental illness.

The dollars could even fund better 9-1-1 emergency communications -- a critical lifesaving link that was disastrously mishandled in Lee's case, causing a missed opportunity to save her.

Budgets aside, the trial and conviction of Michael King stand as proof that, even amid cuts and shortages, the justice system worked. Law enforcement found, analyzed and preserved crucial evidence; the killer was caught; and a jury of his peers convicted him.

Jurors, the judge, and probably the vast majority of Southwest Florida residents agree that King deserves the death penalty.

The punishment fits the crime. It's the cost -- not the penalty -- that is out of line.


From the Sun

King sentenced to death

SARASOTA -- Sobs reverberated across the courtroom Friday as family members of Denise Amber Lee reacted to Michael King getting the death penalty for her murder.

An elderly man sitting in front of King's parents at the Sarasota County Courthouse, who wore a button of Denise smiling, raised his fists in the air twice and grinned as 12th Circuit Judge Deno Economou read from his 45-page decision.

A clean-shaven King stared ahead and didn't move.

The 38-year-old also showed no emotion when the judge read how, on Jan. 17, 2008, King kidnapped Lee from her North Port home at gunpoint. He brought her to his home for about three hours, raped her, then drove her to his cousin's house to borrow a shovel, a flashlight and a gas can to dispose of her body. He promised to let the 21-year-old mother of two young sons go, but then shot her and buried her remains in a wooded area off Toledo Blade Boulevard.

Denise's widower, Nathan, was joined by his parents, Mark and Peggy, as well as her parents, Rick and Susan Goff, and other family members. At times they cried as the judge read graphic details of the rape and spoke of her bruising and the fatal gunshot wound above her eyebrow.

Economou's voice cracked several times as he read Denise's words from her desperate 911 call. He said Denise managed to call 911 without King knowing. She gave the operator valuable information, such as her address and that she was bound and could not see where she was. She repeatedly begged for King -- who was a stranger to her -- to let her go.

The judge said King's "words and actions" revealed a crime that was "conscienceless, pitiless and unnecessarily tortuous with an utter indifference to Denise's suffering.

"His telling her that he would let her go as soon as she gave him the cell phone was a lie, knowing full well that he was going to take her to a secluded area and murder her," Economou said.

The judge weighed little consideration for the arguments that King had a low IQ, suffered an alleged brain injury when he was 6, and was paranoid, which may have been contributing factors to him killing Denise.

Assistant State Attorney Lon Arend said Denise's actions helped solve the case.

"She was the best witness we had," Arend said of Denise leaving her heart-shaped ring and strands of her hair in King's Camaro for investigators to link her to her killer.

Arend said he didn't buy King's bizarre, catatonic-like behavior during his three-week trial.

"I think he faked a mental illness," Arend said.

Outside the courthouse, Nathan joined the Goffs to thank everyone who has been supportive. He said he made "lifelong friends" through the process.

"I want to thank Denise," he said. "She was the most awesome person I've ever known. She was a wonderful wife and mother."

Rick Goff, a 26-year veteran with the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, agreed, adding several longtime friends from out of state came to support them in court. For some of them, it was the first time hearing the judge's overview of the murder.

"We wouldn't have found Denise or him (King) if it weren't for Denise leaving behind clues," Goff said. "I could not have done what she did. She was a great detective."

Goff said he understands there will be appeals -- but said he cannot wait until King is executed.

"I will rent the bus for us to go up there and watch that man die," he said. "I may have to go in a wheelchair (following years of appeals), but myself and my family will be there."

Several jurors, who have formed a bond with each other and have met with Nathan and his sons, Noah and Adam, following the trial, were in court Friday.

"I'm so happy that he is going to pay for what he did to that beautiful girl," said Pat O'Quinn, who was one of 12 jurors who recommended the death penalty for King in September.

O'Quinn says she has been following Nathan's fight against the CCSO in a wrongful death lawsuit he filed in October. Nathan contends the CCSO was negligent in not sending any deputies to Toledo Blade Boulevard on the night Denise was kidnapped, despite receiving a 911 call from Jane Kowalski saying there was a person screaming and banging on the window in the back seat of the Camaro next to her.

Reached by phone Friday night, Kowalski, of Tampa, said she was pleased with the judge's decision.

"If there was any case for the death penalty, this was one," she said. "It shouldn't be anything else."

After most left the courthouse Friday, North Port Police Chief Terry Lewis returned to Nathan the ring and necklace -- that was marked as "evidence" for nearly two years -- that Nathan had given to Denise.

Sun staff writers Carol Sakowitz and Anne Klockenkemper contributed to this report.

E-mail: eallen@sun-herald.com


North Port Community News Editor


Case Ends, Appeals Begin

SARASOTA -- Twelfth Circuit Judge Deno Economou handed down the death penalty Friday for convicted killer Michael King in the 2008 murder of young mother of two, Denise Amber Lee.

For those connected to the case, one question remains.

What's next?

* King's death sentence automatically will be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, according to Dennis Menendez, spokesman for the 12th Judicial Circuit. The process could take at least three years, and if upheld, there is a likelihood that it will be 15 years before King is executed.

There are 387 inmates currently on Florida's death row. King makes it 388.

* King himself will wait in a Sarasota County Jail cell until he is transferred to a state penitentiary, according to Maj. Jim Lilly, who oversees county corrections operations. No date has been scheduled for the transfer.

* Denise's younger sister, Amanda Goff, answered, "Yes and no," when asked Friday if the judge's decision puts the case to rest for her.

"(There's an) end in the sense that the trial is completely over," she said. "But it's not over until the day he dies."

For now, she said, "I can put it out of my mind."

Amanda will return to the University of Central Florida, where the school semester will end next week. She also holds two jobs in Orlando.

Friends at school have been great, she said, and added one of them came to the Sarasota County Courthouse to support the family.

She had one final thought before leaving the courthouse: "I want to thank the jury. They were great."

* North Port Police Chief Terry Lewis said his department is starting to prepare for the Coralrose Fullwood murder trial, scheduled to begin in April. Patrick Murphy, 28, is accused in the 6-year-old's 2006 slaying.

"We'll move to the next case and, sadly, the next case is Coralrose," he said.

Preparations will involve up to five detectives, he said, and the department has been given "incredible assistance" almost daily by members of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.

Looking over to where journalists waited for a press conference by the Lee and Goff families, a somber Lewis said they "are now part of the North Port police family."

"That's not a cliché," he added.

* In October, Nathan filed a wrongful death suit against the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office. He contends the CCSO was negligent for not sending any deputies to Toledo Blade Boulevard on the night Denise was kidnapped, despite receiving a 911 call from the area saying a man driving a dark Camaro had a person screaming and banging on the window for help in his back seat. Last month, the CCSO filed a motion to dismiss the suit. A judge will determine if the case will continue.

* David Garofalo, North Port City Commission chair, attended Friday's hearing. Garofalo has been part of the local movement to set standards for 911 operators.

Friday, Garofalo said he has 411 letters ready to send to other Florida municipalities asking them to support legislation making its way to law in Tallahassee.

That legislation, he said, could "pave the way for the rest of the country."

* Bonnie Turgeon of Sarasota is a stranger to the Lee and Goff families but she was in court Friday, just as she had been for King's trial.

Turgeon said she was there to support the man who sold her and her family a TV set at Best Buy in January. When she went home, she saw the salesman -- Nathan Lee -- on that TV.

During the trial, Turgeon said she met Nathan's mother, Peggy, and learned of a cookbook that she and Denise's mother, Susan, were compiling as a fundraiser. Turgeon said she bought one.

Turgeon spoke Friday of Denise's two young sons. She said Peggy told her the 2-year-old, Noah, remembers the last words his mother said to him: "Goodbye ... and I love you."

E-mail: csakowitz@sun-herald.com


North Port Assistant Editor


Friday, December 4, 2009

Michael King Sentencing Order


My heartfelt thanks to Judge Economou for his fairness, diligence, professional and thoroughness. My heartfelt thanks to Lon Arend and his prosecuting team. My heartfelt thanks to all the jurors. My heartfelt thanks to the North Port Police Department.

Job well done.

Oh, sweet Denise, you brave brave girl. The world needs more people like you. Let God know that. Miss you, baby.

the sentencing

was truly hell on earth.

For those of you who have never witnessed something like this, let me tell you, I've had quite a few truly horrific days in my life and this can be counted right up there with the worst.

First the judge was awesome and yes we are very pleased with the judicial system. Justice has not been as swift has KathyK stated. It's been almost two years. But all in all justice was swift with the trial lasting only a week, the verdict coming in less than two hours, the sentencing phase of the trial only lasted a week with the jury's recommendation coming in less than 3 hours.

Today the judge pronounced his sentence. It took probably around 45 minutes. First he listed all the aggravating factors and then stated one by one how these were proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution. To do this he recited the entire story with graphic detail of how Denise was taken, brutally raped, sodomized, terrorized and then shot in the head. He had to state (to keep appeals at bay) how she was terrorized. He read Denise's 9-1-1 call. We had to sit and listen to it all, all over again. It was unbearably painful. Sue, me, Amanda, Nathan and most of the audience was openly sobbing.

Then the judge goes over the mitigating factors presented by the defense one by one and in this case most were given little merit.

Then the sentence.

By this time we are numb. Literally numb with emotion.

A reporter asked me if I was "happy" with the sentence and I just gave him a blank stare. Happy? What's there to be happy about?

Closure? What's closed? Today brought nothing to us but more pain. No joy.

Had he been taken out right then and there and shot, maybe there would be some closure. No happiness but maybe closure.

This man deserves what he got. All you have to do is listen to Denise's 9-1-1 call. The man had ample opportunity to let her go and allow her to live. And he made a choice.

My friends all wanted to celebrate. Celebrate? We just witnessed a man sentenced to die.

So, I told the reporter I was "satisfied" with the justice served. But, happy? I'm too damn numb to be happy.

Also, the state sentenced him to death. Not me or my family.

I have to say after listening to the judge (and he himself got choked up talking about the events) it's going to be a very long while before this man gets any forgiveness from me. He's scum.

Sorry to sound so angry. But it is what it is and I'm sorry you all have to share it. And that I've been so angry.

I posted this in a piano forum earlier this evening. I would like to add that IMHO Denise was the best witness the prosecution had. It's interesting the 9-1-1 could not save Denise but it did give King the death sentence. Judge Economou clearly stated how unusual it is to hear a victim's last words. You, Denise, were so smart and clever. I miss you dearly. Kudos to Lon Arend and the prosecuting team, the North Port Police Department, the jurors and Judge Economou. God bless you all.