Sunday, May 16, 2010

yes, I was right

the media has been kind. This was printed in today's Sun. Also read an article by Nathan's former little league coach Eric Ernst printed in the Herald Tribune this past week:


Lee's legacy now assured in E-911 bill

OUR POSITION: A deep bow to the people from our communities who worked to pass an E-911 bill that will make everyone safer in the future.

It took two sessions for the Florida Legislature to muster enough political will to pass a no-brainer of a bill improving the state's emergency 911 call operations, but that sorry fact was low on the list of concerns this week at a press conference acknowledging those whose hard work finally resulted in the bill's passage.

The bill came about primarily through the efforts of the family of Denise Amber Lee, whose 2008 murder in North Port after a botched 911 call provided the strongest possible example of the need for improvements in state emergency response standards. As noted in a report conducted by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, emergency call centers in the state may handle as many as 15 million 911 calls in a year, but a mistake in one or two highlighted the enormous, tragic consequences that come when the system fails.

The Lee case is exactly why the public needed to be assured that call centers were being operating with a high level of professionalism. Clearly, there was room for improvement.
Denise Lee's husband, Nathan Lee, took the lead role in the drive for higher standards in Florida, and has continued his outreach throughout the nation. Other family members have joined in. Many in the community have worked for reform through the Denise Amber Lee Foundation.
The result here has been a bill that will require all 911 call-takers and dispatchers in Florida to take a set level of training and pass a certification test in order to do their jobs. It also calls for training updates and renewal every two years. The full law will not take effect until 2012, giving all police agencies time to come into compliance.

As Nathan Lee said during during a press conference at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, the bill is far from perfect, but it is an important step. It does focus attention and begin to plug a critical hole in the public safety system. For the future, Nathan Lee and the Lee Foundation will aim at moving official oversight of dispatch training into the Department of Law Enforcement. They also will work at developing one statewide curriculum for training.
Both are extremely worthy goals.

For now, however, congratulations are extended to the Lee family and the Lee Foundation. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation also helped drive the process. And our local legislators deserve a nod for their efforts to push the bill through, despite opposition from legislators who thought additional costs outweighed public safety considerations.

Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, took up the bill last year. But Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, and Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, managed to complete the job this session. A no-brainer from our perspective, but, amazingly, it took some heavy lifting, as well as a bit of compromise, to get it done.

A long time coming, yes. And a proper legacy for Denise Amber Lee. The improved training that will come as a result of this law just may help ensure another family and other communities will not see a repeat of this type of tragedy in the future.

Widower took his pain and made a difference

By Eric Ernst

Published: Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 1:00 a.m. Last Modified: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 9:18 p.m.

In most ways, Nathan Lee is an ordinary person. He's a salesman at Best Buy in Sarasota. He represents no special interest group. But this year he accomplished something unusual; he got a bill passed through the state Legislature.

The bill, awaiting the governor's signature, will elevate the first link of emergency response by requiring 911 operators at all of the state's 258 emergency call centers to undergo standardized training to earn certification.

It comes too late to help the woman who served as its catalyst. Lee's wife, Denise, was kidnapped, raped and killed in January 2008 in North Port. She might have been saved if a witness' call to 911 had been handled properly.

As Lee and others analyzed what went wrong, they realized the 911 system had deep flaws, starting with operator training.

Those shortcomings became Lee's cause. He set out to save others by pushing for mandatory, uniform 911 training statewide.

The heroic way he chose to deal with the pain speaks to his character and should be a point of pride for the two young boys he is raising on his own, state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said Wednesday. Detert joined the cause, with state Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, to push companion bills through the Legislature.

It took three legislative sessions and a lot of behind-the-scenes backing.

Englewood businessman David Dignam advised Lee, helped him set up the Denise Amber Lee Foundation and used his Republican Party contacts to open doors.

Lee and his parents, Mark and Peggy, started traveling to Tallahassee to testify or visit with lawmakers.

The Herald-Tribune published a series that exposed breakdowns in 911 responses statewide. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice commissioned a $43,000 study of 911 responses that found a system fundamentally failing the public in key respects.
The articles and study became exhibits in legislative committee testimony.

People helped in other, unexpected ways, too. Bill Stiver, who runs an automotive shop in Englewood and is a pilot, flew local contingents to Tallahassee.

North Port City Commissioner David Garofalo and his peers sent 411 letters to other cities, encouraging them to support 911 reform.

Garofalo also pushed legislators. One day he left home at 3 a.m. to attend a 10-minute meeting in the state capital, then returned home for a meeting. "That's a day I drank a lot of coffee," he says.

Supporters organized phone banks to call lawmakers and anyone who could influence the process to keep the legislation on track.

Lee had a compelling story to illustrate a legitimate public safety shortcoming. The story also resonates nationally. Lee has traveled coast to coast -- sometimes at his own expense -- addressing many of the same problems exhibited in Florida.

On Wednesday, as the bill's backers gathered at a news conference in Venice, it was evident Lee has not found closure.

Maybe he never will. There are still others to save.

Eric Ernst's column regularly runs Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Contact him at or (941) 486-3073.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Today I was searching google. I do this almost on a daily basis. I really shouldn't do it, but I do. Why? I do not know. I search Denise's name usually just to see if anything new has been written.

But today I am sorry I did it. I searched Denise's name and audio. For some reason I wanted to see if it was possible to get access to her call. I really did not want to listen to it but I wanted to see if it was out there to be found.

There have been so many news stories that I have missed. Hence my previous post. As I came across the newstories I came across some of the stories I had missed. Stories that were aired during King's trial. Remember I was a zombie during her trial and fairly traumatized already. Anyhow, I did indeed find her call. It was played on FoxNews. I was appalled.

I started to listen to it and got through about 60 seconds of it.

Oh sweet beautiful baby....... I am still horrified thinking of how you suffered. Oh sweetheart.....

People really do no not understand "drama". There are so many people out there that create their own "drama" for whatever reasons. I despise those people. They look for "drama" and have no clue as to what true "drama" is.

In any case, no matter how I suffer listening to Denise's call it does not compare one iota to what Denise suffered.

I feel sick.

We have taken "alot of arrows" in the past several weeks. The foundation and my family have been criticized for whatever reasons. Would I like to shoot arrows back? Damn right I would. But I will not.

So many people just do not understand what it is like watching our son struggle, suffer and try to salvage his own shattered life. People criticize him. And all he is doing is trying to survive. Also, I realize these people truly do not understand and hopefully NEVER will. Because if they do come to understand that will mean they will have suffered a loss in truly horrifying fashion. Some members of our own family have shot arrows. And if our own family sometimes does not get it, how can we expect others to?

People say "move on"...... well, it is not so easy. We have been given an opportunity to help the world become a better place. We have met some truly wonderful, amazing and inspirationally truly good people. We truly do not ever want to see a family suffer in this way again.

We cannot bring Denise back. But the way she fought, the way she loved and the way she lived is all the reason we need to keep her memory and spirit alive.

I will live every day of my life remembering Denise and what a selfless person she was. She IMO is a saint.

Dear Denise, please, help Nathan in anyway you can. Talk to some people up there. Talk to God if he exists. Guide him, give him strength and courage, and please, show him the way.


Friday, May 7, 2010

The things we miss

The past two years have seemed to go by in a blur. The things we miss. We just received a very supportive email that was full of condolences and heartwarming thoughts and support. The man was from Texas and had seen Denise's story on 20/20 last night. I searched for the story on the internet having not remembered it featured on 20/20. I found this:

I guess I had watched it when it was aired but I truly do not remember.

My sister sent me a couple of books via mail that I received yesterday. Last night when I thanked her on the phone, I mentioned that I would have to send her a book I had read recently and I thought she would enjoy it. She said "Peggy! I already read it! I sent it to you!!!"


I remember while reading it thinking "Gosh, I wish could remember who sent me this book." Sometimes I wonder if I am going crazy.

We have received so much heart felt support over these past two years. I cannot count the hugs, letters, notes and emails etc... Not to mention all the other support would be just wrong. We had a gentleman in Britain (York, England) work on Denise's Widipedia page and he spent countless hours sourcing her article to bring it up to Wiki standards. That could not have been easy. Poring over the articles.... ugh! Awful job. So depressing. He was not even aware of her existance until I wrote Wiki asking if someone could clean up her article. You can see it here:

What an awesome job he did.

Anyhow, last night I was thinking about all the hugs etc..... all the kindness and support.... thinking how wonderful it was. People tell us we need to move on and many do not understand why we keep this us. It truly is as Nathan said in the above interview "how can we not?"

No matter how much we suffer by reliving and retelling the story over and over again, it is NOTHING compared to how she suffered.

Also, evil entered our family in the most horrific way imaginable. All this will NEVER bring Denise back. We cannot let the evil win. Look at all the good people who have stepped up through the challenges we have been facing. Think of all the goodness. Surely, that has helped us in realizing that good does trump evil.

I met the supervisor who was on duty in the Sarasota County 9-1-1 center the night Denise was taken. What a wonderful young woman. I think of how this has effected her. I think of all the call takers and dispatchers and trainers from across the country and I just breathe in their goodness.

Sure, there are people out there like the call taker who took Jane's call. Hopefully our foundation will help weed those out. They have no business being call takers.

I think of the media who has also been kind.


Anyhow, just wanted to get some thoughts out there.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I think I am going to be sick. Read on:

Officer logs show why aid came too late in slayings
Records in slaying of four conflict with claim that deputies were too busy
Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle
March 14, 2010, 7:28AM

Four months ago, San Jacinto Sheriff's Capt. Carl Jones offered a simple reason why his deputies couldn't respond to a mother's plea for help with her mentally ill son who was having bizarre hallucinations. His deputies were too busy with high-priority calls.
“We were busier than a cat covered in Meow Mix,” Jones stated then.
Gloria Bills, a 71-year-old widow, would be among those killed by the time a deputy was finally dispatched to the family's home near Coldspring on Nov. 7, seven hours after her first desperate phone call to the sheriff's department.
Oliver “Bubba” Bills Jr. shot and killed his mother, his girlfriend, Shara Torres, 27, and her 4-year-old child before shooting and killing himself.
But dispatch records and audio recordings recently released to the Houston Chronicle conflict with how the sheriff's department initially portrayed its handling of the incident. The records disclose that Jones prohibited his deputies from making a welfare check at the home.
The logs also raise questions as to whether the four deputies on duty that Saturday were as busy as Jones had contended.
Records show Gloria Bills called for help at 1:45 p.m. — four hours before a wreck that deputies worked on U.S. 59. The logs do not list deputies being dispatched to any other major crime scenes during those four hours, other than one deputy assigned to a harassment call.
In the initial recorded request for a deputy, Gloria Bills firmly declared, “I need some help, and I need it now.”
She stressed she had heart trouble and was unable to corral Bubba Bills, who she believed needed to be transported to a mental facility.
Her 42-year-old son was hearing voices, she stated, and hallucinating about things being implanted in his head, the entrance to hell lying under his bed and people in the trees trying to kill him.
Told to seek a warrant
While sometimes suicidal, she said, he had not hurt anybody but was showing signs of aggression.
At 1:51 p.m., the dispatcher promised to send a deputy for a welfare check to assess the situation.
“So far he's not (been violent),” Gloria Bills acknowledged. “But in his condition if he gets angry. I'm not sure what he would do.”
The dispatcher then contacted Jones for advice on how to handle the call. In the recorded conversation, the dispatcher stated his intention to have a deputy make a welfare check.
To which, Jones responded, “Ohhh, no! We don't want to do that!”
Jones objected to sending an officer because: “All you going to do is wind up creating a issue … that may hurt us in the long run.”
The dispatcher then informed Gloria Bills that a deputy won't be coming, and advised her to ask a judge on Monday for a mental health warrant to transport her son.
Jones declined to comment on the recorded conversation because the department faces a possible lawsuit from Torres' family.
San Jacinto Sheriff James Walters, who conducted an internal investigation, said none of his employees was disciplined. He said he could not release his report because of the possible lawsuit.
“Nobody knows how terrible we feel. Our dispatchers and officers made a judgment call and have to live with it,” he said, noting that none of the calls about Bubba Bills were to 911, and that dispatchers called several times to check on the Bills' family.
Bubba was ‘freaking out'
After Jones stopped the welfare check, records show that a family friend, Mark Campbell, placed three calls to urge deputies to go out there. The calls came a few minutes after the major wreck occurred on U.S. 59 about 6 p.m.
Campbell reported Bubba Bills was “scaring his girlfriend to death” by growing more aggressive — kicking over barbecue grills and throwing things.
The dispatcher then called Torres, who said Bubba Bills was “freaking out” and that she feared for her daughter because he had guns.
For the second time, a dispatcher promised to send a deputy
Thirty minutes later, a mental health representative from the Burke Center's hotline called the dispatcher to make yet another plea for a welfare check. The dispatcher again replied that deputies were “swamped” but one would be out “soon.”
An hour later at 7:22 p.m., a dispatcher called to check on Torres. The wreck had just been cleared, and deputies would spend another 20 minutes working on a reported “assault in progress,” but no other major crime would be listed during that time.
At this point, Bubba Bills' mental state had deteriorated. He was outside talking to himself and saying “he's fixing to take all Jesus' children to heaven,” records showed.
Torres told the dispatcher that this remark, combined with his other hallucinations, terrified her: “In his right mind, he would never hurt me … but the way he's looking at me … Looks like he's going to hurt me. I've never seen him look like that. Never.”
Similar call a year before
For a third time, a dispatcher said a deputy was on his way, but one did not arrive for more than two hours.
During this interlude, a Liberty County 911 dispatcher called San Jacinto's dispatch to make sure an officer was on his way.
Torres' sister, Rachael Clark, had alerted Liberty County that she had been talking to Torres on the telephone and then suddenly heard her say, “Oh, no! Not my baby!”
A deputy would not pull up at the small white wooden house on Outlaw Lane until about 9 p.m., and then found only bodies.
Records show dispatchers had to search for about an hour and a half before finding the short dirt road on a map. Walters said dispatchers were confused by another road with the same name.
A year earlier, deputies needed only 10 minutes to respond to a similar call for help from the Bills' family that ended with Bubba Bills being transported to a mental facility in Spring, records showed.
Surviving members of the Bills and Torres families, incensed by the delayed response, believe they've been stonewalled.
“We've been kept in the dark,” said Bubba Bill's daughter, Cassie Daniels. “It's made me feel like the sheriff's department has something to hide.”
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