Monday, March 22, 2010

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