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Florida Mom Denise Lee Dead Because of 911 Incompetence

By April 11, 2008

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Don't bother to call 911 for help in North Port, Florida, because nobody will respond, even if you're being kidnapped.

Denise Lee, the young mother of two little boys, was seen screaming for help - tied up in the back of a Camaro - by not one but two witnesses. They (and Denise herself) called 911 four times. One witness even told a 911 operator what road the vehicle was driving on.

What happened to Denise? Investigators found her body two days later, naked and tossed into a shallow grave. She had been raped and killed, all because 911 dispatchers never bothered to forward the information to the police.

Related article: Denise Lee's Murder and the Stories That Need to Be Told


April 11, 2008 at 12:13 pm
(1) Portland mother says:

And then he shot her…these 911 operators need more than remedial training and a few days of suspension from work. Denise herself called them while she was being taken. 911 needs to wise up to their crucial role as the Channel to provide life-saving rescues. And who gave this guy a gun?!

April 16, 2008 at 7:42 am
(2) Sandy says:

Those 911 operators need to be prosecuted and end up in prison. Her murder is on them.

April 16, 2008 at 3:59 pm
(3) Mary says:

This happens so often, 911 doesn’t respond, the police don’t come, they don’t take their jobs seriously and yes, they should be prosecuted. If some of these people were actually prosecuted and punished maybe the system would be a little better?

April 18, 2008 at 6:53 pm
(4) Miss Sheilla Burton says:

Hi my name is sheilla, from England
I can’t understand why they did not reconize the tone, or panic in this womans voice!!! how do they expect a women in that situation to answer stupid questons, and why did the supposed witnesses not try to help more.. I think you should sue them for wasting time in an emergency, and wilfully ignoring the severity of the situation and death by neglect.. ( I am totaly Disgusted) From Sheilla+++

April 22, 2008 at 10:23 am
(5) Todd says:

This case is a three ring circus. The sad and ironic thing is that the only truly intelligent person involved with this case lost her life. She fell victim to the fact that most of the people involved with the case had the common sense of a pack mule.

If my cousin had come to me with a woman tied up in his car, attempting to escape, begging me to call the police, then I think I would have taken the shovel he requested and given him several disabling whacks to his shins. It is at that point that I would have asked my cousin to sit quietly while I call the police to handle the matter.

Then again, I suppose my standards are too high for the white trash that lives in Florida.

Oh and speaking of white trash, I think King should NOT receive the death penalty. I believe we are giving the criminals that commit such crimes the easy way out. Instead, King should have to spend the rest of his life in prison. Three hours of each day he spends in prison should be filled with merciless caning. This will guarantee that he dies painfully and slowly. If you don’t understand how painful and damaging caning is, then just ask the people of Singapore. Singapore has a very low crime rate, and it’s no coincidence.

I am not so sure his cousin doesn’t deserve the same.

May 13, 2008 at 7:50 pm
(6) TF - 911 dispatch supervisor says:

I have been a 911 operator and/or supervisor for around 19 years. I find it sad when Mary comments “This happens so often, 911 doesnít respond, the police donít come, they donít take their jobs seriously and yes, they should be prosecuted.”

Well, Mary, as in most cases, you only hear those that a dispatcher (also known as a human being) mishandled in some way. I can truthfully say 911 dispatchers do care and they do respond, correctly and professionally. They take their jobs VERY seriously. As in all jobs, you have the few that don’t quite meet up to “standards”, and those are the ones you hear about.
Consider the MILLIONS and I do mean MILLIONS of calls to 911 each year that are handled perfectly but never mentioned in the news. Also understand that fully 80% of those calls are NOT emergencies.

I won’t comment on what was handled correctly or not as I haven’t heard all sides of the story and listened to all tapes. I will leave the final “judgement” to the dispatch supervisors, police chief and, if necessary, a jury. Until someone hear’s all sides, one should put off passing judgement. We only hear what the news wants us to hear.

Mary, I have had a hard time not making generalizations about you from your comments. Please, do not make generalizations about any group of people from one or even a few person’s actions.

May I suggest getting actively involved in community policing. See if your police department has a citizen’s academy or perhaps they will allow you to sit along with a 911 operator to see what challenges they meet up with on a daily basis. Find out how well dispatchers perform their job day-to-day! I think your negative thoughts about 911 will do a 180-degree turn around. Take that as a challenge…..see if you don’t see what I see every day.

June 7, 2008 at 12:30 am
(7) Shawn says:

My prayers go out to the Lee family. This is the ultimate betrayal. Her father spent his life protecting the public and the law can’t bother to do the same for his child.

July 23, 2008 at 10:32 pm
(8) angel says:

Due to commercial breaks during a Prime Time special on ABC I had to get up, search the internet to find out what the outcome was for this poor woman who faught tooth and nail to get SOMEONE’S attention…but failed because people are selfish idiots!

July 23, 2008 at 10:41 pm
(9) Megan says:

I just saw a special on this on TV. I had never heard this story before. Having now seen the story I have to say how disgusted I am with the 911 oporators and the witnesses. People need to speak up when they see these things happen. This woman was in terror and in pain and on three seperate ocassions had witnesses in a position to help. She fought hard and did everything right and still she died, when help was only feet away at times. My heart goes out to her two young sons and her husband. God bless!

July 23, 2008 at 11:23 pm
(10) Sandee Dee Dee says:

I agree with the guy who said Fla. has a lot of dumb people ….white trash! The cousin who ignored the helpless woman should be SHOT and his murdering cousin, King, should have his BALLS removed…he should be castrated & then paraded naked thru the town. Unfortunately most of america is filled with dumb white trash such as King’s cousin

July 23, 2008 at 11:47 pm
(11) monica says:

I could not help but cry when I saw this story on tv. I can’t believe all the chances she had to live & nobody did anything to help, except the last woman who did call 911, but the ignorant 911 dispatchers didn’t do their job right. They should not be working there anymore. My heart goes out to her family. May God bless them & may Denise rest in peace.

July 24, 2008 at 2:02 am
(12) Tara says:

I am just as outraged by this any everyone else here, but since when did this turn into an opportunity to attack Floridians and “most of America”?

July 24, 2008 at 2:22 am
(13) Suzanne says:

I unfortunately used to live in Florida at one time…..and I think it is SIMPLY OUTRAGEOUS all the STUPID…REPEATED…questions that 911 operators ask…….I myself have had to call them for an emergency and while someone was trying to break into my home and I am hysterical they want to know….they ask repeated STUPID questions…..I think they hire morons to work for 911 dispatch….and I think it is OUTRAGEOUS that Denise Lee’s father would EVER in this lifetime work for a department that was partly responsible for his daughters death…..I am SORRY but he has absolutely NO “b___s”…I feel so sorry for Denise Lee’s husband and children and my heart goes out to them….

July 24, 2008 at 12:25 pm
(14) mary says:

People just don’t want to get involved. This is not a new phenomenon. I don’t think putting the blame on 911 totally is fair. I do agree that they dropped the ball completely by assuming the other operator had dispatched the police. They should be held accountable for that. But people had opportunities to call 911 who didn’t and if they had, the outcome may have been different. We don’t know. Read about the murder of Kitty Genovese. People heard screams and saw things from their windows, but did not call the police.

July 24, 2008 at 3:49 pm
(15) Bernadette-Marie says:

I saw the program last night and was upset and very angry that such a terrible tragedy happened – the sheer incompetence and lack of moral fibre of every person involved in the case – bar one; and I don’t understand why she couldn’t have honked and honked and honked to alert everyone on the road, especially in view of the fact she thought it was a child – I don’t understand why she didn’t follow them – I know, I know, I shouldn’t blame the only one person who did try to help – I’m just so sorry that there was no one there to help her.

The despatchers should all be fired – I’d never trust them with another emergency and as for the Floridian Police that lot are more like Keystone cops but not as funny – a chocolate fireman would have been more use in a crisis! How the Head of Police can justify their cavalier actions is beyond me – he should resign out of sheer decency.

I pray for Denise and her little family and to her husband I would say I’m so sorry no-one was there to help her (she’s with the greatest of them of all now and he’ll never let her down) and I hope your boys grow up to be wonderful, happy and healthy men who are very proud of their mother who did everything she could to stay alive for them.
RIP Denise

July 24, 2008 at 5:38 pm
(16) Gina says:

I just saw the special on TV, my heart goes out to the family. I agree that the dispatchers totally dropped the ball. However I lived in Florida for 29 years. My husband worked for a Sheriff Office for 20 and it is not fair to attack everybody. There are good and bad in all professions. That said, I hope her husband sues the Sheriff’s Office for all he can, the only way they will learn is when it hits the pocketbook. Now maybe they will train people that can handle the job. It is certainlt not a job I would want because of all the responsibility that goes along with it.

God Bless Denises family!

July 24, 2008 at 6:51 pm
(17) David says:

This was a sad story in every respect. There is absolutely no excuse for the incompetence of the 911 operators. In other occupations when an employee fails to that extent they are fired and replaced (or sent to prison) but, what angered me as much as anything was the fact that the head of the Sheriff’s department wasn’t man enough to admit they utterly blew it! He even went so far as to suggest the woman who called in was at fault for not getting all the facts straight. He kept spinning their mistakes as “a missed opportunity” He should be ashamed of himself!

July 24, 2008 at 11:46 pm
(18) Regina says:

I am appalled! I do not understand how you can see someone in obvious trouble and do nothing. This young girl was fighting for her life. She did all the right things. Please people if you see something going on don’t assume that it is nothing serious and that you shouldn’t get involved. If I had seen that I would have followed him. I would have hung up on the first 911 operator and kept calling until help was sent. It is so very wrong that this young woman died. My prayers go out to her heart broken family! The murderer should die!!!!

July 25, 2008 at 8:02 am
(19) shannon says:

just watched the program and it was very disturbing. The cousin who gave King the tools, and seen the poor woman tied up in the back seat screaming “call the police”, should be put in jail, or given the death penalty with King. I blame not only 911, but the cousin who not only ignored the situation, but helped King murder.

August 5, 2008 at 8:22 am
(20) L says:

Please do not lump all 911 operators into one group. You need to understand that some agencies do not provide major training as do others. The pay very minimal wages, for the stress endured with the job and demands. Everyone forgets that your 911 operator is just like you, a working mom, wife, single mom, husband etc. There is NO excuse for that call not being sent up, and yes, I too believe there should of been harsher punishment. But before you assume 911 and medical/police personnel are more than human, pay them more, show more respect and remember that when you are home on the holidays? these folks are working, when you are sleeping? they are doing all they can to stay awake and alert, when you are getting paid for national holidays? they are not, yet they are working them. Go sit in a center, ask questions, find out how much training “your” operators get, watch, learn then make a judgement.
Then go and fight to get more money for them and better benefits.

Thank you

August 8, 2008 at 4:32 pm
(21) David says:

Let’s get out the violins! Please L, nobody is forcing these people to become 911 operators. They have chosen that job because they care for people and want to serve the public. More people work on holidays and weekends than 911 operators, and guess what, when I’m hard at work (doing all I can to stay awake and alert) half of them are sleeping. Don’t use lame arguments to cover for some of their mistakes. As for the pay, today the city of Denver is looking for people to become 911 operators.
“Currently, our 911 Operators earn $2,593 – $3,785 a month, great benefits, vacation and promotion opportunities! For further information, please call 720-913-2002″

Doesn’t sound like such a bad job for someone with a high school diploma or GED.

What will “paying them more” do? Will they have a nicer car sitting in the parking lot? Will they never make mistakes?

As for the stress, a hamburger flipper experiences stress. Now I’m going out on a limb here…I don’t really know but I’m guessing that the vast majority of calls the 911 operators receive do not produce any stress at all.

Let’s not pretend their jobs require anything more than the rest of us mere humans can endure!

September 16, 2008 at 8:37 am
(22) Jeanine says:

For more information please visit http://www.deniseamberlee.org
Lets unite and improve 911 for all.

March 2, 2009 at 2:14 am
(23) Jonathan says:

It seems that 911 operators ask a lot of dumb questions. I was watching a show about cougar attacks tonight and it showed the 911 call from a witness, a segment of which went;

Operator: Is she conscious?
Caller: Yes
Operator: Is she breathing?

WTF? Oh, no she’s conscious but not breathing, the’s an undead zombie and it’s the apocalypse! Idiot . . .

August 25, 2009 at 2:24 pm
(24) jll says:

i really really would not want to be one of those 911 operaters, that i feel carries some responsability for that poor girls death i would not want to be mike king,when he meets our maker, JESUS, i would not want to represent him on his defense team either,his lawyers have a long road ahead of them, unless i am missing something, i don’t know how they can prove this man had nothing to do with denise lee’s death. to her family,may GOD be with you all, my prayer’s are with you,i hope no other family has to ever experience what you all had to,i am so sorry you did.

August 28, 2009 at 1:31 pm
(25) David, New orleans, LA says:

The 911 operators are so stupid. What? Did they think it was a joke? Stuff like this makes me so sick. I have young kids myself and I don’t know how the husband and father of the girl were able to sit and listen to this poor girl begging for her life. These operators need to have the crap beat out of them. Not metaphorically but literally. If I were her husband they all would be in a world of hurt. The cops, the murderer and the dumbasses answering the phones at 911 dispatch.

August 31, 2009 at 9:19 pm
(26) Michael says:

I have read this story and have listened to at least one of the 911 calls that were made. Reading these comments are just discusting to me. I fond it amazing that nearly all the blame on this womans death is blamed on the 911 dispatchers, the police and the citizens of Florida. Not much is said about the guy who actually killed this woman. 911 did do a poor job and that matter needs to be taken up with their supervisors. The police did nothing wrong that I have seen and the florida citizens did nothing wrong here, other than the people directly involved. Some are promoting some odd idea of prosecuting the 911 operators and asking the police chief to resign.

No, I dont live in Florida and no I am not a 911 dispatcher so i have no dog in the fight here. Just making observations. God bless Denise Lee and her family, and to hell with the guy that killed her.

September 4, 2009 at 9:31 pm
(27) Sodi Levin says:

Things like this will continue to happen until the criminals are actually punished for their crimes. Living in a cell, getting fed, watching TV…sorry that’s a country club. Make that bastards break rocks, then put them back together. Oh I forgot – that’s not humane. Kiss off humane, mamby pamby ACLU pieces of SH*T. They didn’t treat the victim humanely, why should the get any better?

Let the victims family come in once a week to just give the bastard a smash with a baseball bat, but not on the head. He / She should feel the pain. And do it again and again and again.

Caning is for other countries. In America we should use a Louisville Slugger.

June 19, 2012 at 8:34 pm
(28) Ponder says:

No matter that one person didnt tell the other person/ operator ” wouldn’t the damn person who received the call WANT TO MAKE SURE IT WAS FOLLOWED THROUGH TO COMPLETION?” geez Louise are people so immune to a sense of urgency???? Is there ever a sense of urgency on the part if 911? You hear them from all over every day on the news and they NEVER MOVE QUICKLY ENOUGJ !! In the case above I do believe the people who dropped that ball need to be fired, fined, and never allowed to be in an emergency position again. They speak like they are taking an order for burger king!

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