Nathan Lee Pushes Nationwide 911 Reform After Murder of His Abducted Wife

aOscar H. Chavez
Nathan said, "she was the best mom" and that "she was the most selfless, caring, amazing person ... the kids were her whole life and she was so happy."

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.

VIDEO: Nathan Lee says a botched 911 call led to his wifes murder.Play

"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."

Two Emergency Calls, No Rescue

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.

The driver of the car, a man, looked Kowalski in the eye and made pushing motions onto the back seat of his car. All the while, Kowalski could hear King's captive screaming, crying and banging.

Kowalski called 911 immediately and told the Charlotte County 911 call center what she had seen, remaining on the phone for almost nine minutes.

'Missed Opportunity' in Tragic End

But the information never made it to police patrolling the highway near where King's car was spotted because a 911 call taker did not follow procedure and immediately log the call into the dispatch center's computer system.

The police who were nearby never knew they were so close to the kidnapped woman until days after Lee was murdered.

Lee was shot and killed less than three miles away from where Kowalski had spotted her. The young mother had begged for her life, and left clues for police in King's car, even calling police herself from her kidnapper's phone.

In 2008, the sheriff at the time, John Davenport of Charlotte County, described the breakdown of procedure as a "missed opportunity" and a tragedy.

"One dispatcher thought the other had sent it out," Davenport said. "The other thought she, the other had sent it out. And they didn't send it out."

The dispatchers who failed to relay the call were suspended and ordered to undergo remedial training.

Nathan Lee is seeking more than the $200,000 jury award in his wrongful death suit, an amount that's capped by state law. Although he acknowledged that he needs to care for his family, he also said the court action is about making sure that the system never fails another person again the way it failed his wife.

Through the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, Nathan Lee is advocating for better training for 911 personnel across the nation.

The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office had no comment on Lee's lawsuit when contacted by ABC News.

A jury has sentenced King to death for the killing, but he is appealing the conviction.

ABC's Jim Avila, Rena Furuya, Andrew Paparella and Lee Ferran contributed to this story.

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