A man whose wife was abducted, raped and murdered in Florida last year is suing authorities for negligence, claiming that their mishandling of a 911 call from a witness to his wife's abduction contributed to her death.
Nathan Lee's wife, Denise, was killed hours after 911 dispatchers received a frantic call from a woman who heard screaming and saw suspicious behavior in a car next to her. But because of confusion at the dispatcher center, the information was never relayed to police in the area.
"[We're] making sure this doesn't happen to another family," the father of two told "Good Morning America" today. The witness, Jane Kowalski, who'd called 911, "had found Denise," said Lee. "Crucial information was relayed to a 911 center, and they didn't do anything with that information.
"There's not a doubt in my mind that Denise would still be here today if that call had been dispatched."
Kowalski, who appeared on "Good Morning America" today alongside Lee, recalled her frustration as she spoke with the 911 operator that day.
"She kept asking me the same questions," Kowalski said. "I just felt that she didn't either understand ... she really just wasn't getting it."
Lee is pushing for reform for emergency call takers, including better training, funding and standards.
"This isn't an isolated incident," he said. "There are many challenges in the 911 industry. I want my kids someday to see how amazing their mom was and the amazing legacy she's going to leave behind."
Michael King was convicted of the kidnapping, rape and murder of 21-year-old Denise Lee, whom he'd abducted from her North Port home Jan. 17, 2008.
When Nathan Lee came home that day, his sons, a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old, were home alone. His wife's keys and phone were on a chair in the house, but she was gone. He suspected something was wrong and called 911.
Denise Lee's father, a sheriff's deputy in Charlotte County, also quickly became involved.
Almost immediately, police began searching for Denise Lee. They received a tip from a neighbor that a suspicious green Camaro had been seen parked in the Lees' driveway.
For several hours, police had few leads. Then came a break in the case. Denise Lee had somehow taken her captor's cell phone and used it to call 911. For six minutes, she answered dispatcher's questions while pleading that King take her home.
Police used the information they gathered from the call to determine that Lee's call was coming from a phone owned by King. Police stormed his house -- which was for sale -- only to discover someone had recently been there. On the floor, officers found a child's blanket and duct tape, covered in long, brown hair.
Around the same time, the daughter of King's cousin reported to 911 that King had visited her father to borrow a gas can and a shovel. Even though King's cousin saw a woman in the car struggling, he did nothing to assist her.
Lee's family said the horror of the story was compounded by the fact that Lee's abduction was witnessed by several people, including one woman who called 911. She was likely the last person to see Lee alive.
Kowalski, a computer consultant from Tampa, Fla., was driving down U.S. 41 in North Port when a car pulled up next to her. She heard horrible screaming coming from the car, and saw a hand come up from the back seat to slap against the window.