But by the time the police had this crucial piece of information and rushed to King's home, it was too late. Neither King nor Lee was there. Police found the house empty except for disturbing traces in the bedroom: a child's blanket and duct tape with long brown hair stuck to it.
Family members believe there was a second and perhaps better opportunity to save Denise Lee, when the alleged kidnapper stopped at his cousin's house to borrow a shovel and a can of gas. Harold Muxlow, King's cousin, later told North Port police that King told him he needed those items because, "his lawnmower was stuck in a ditch and out of gas."
Muxlow said he even witnessed a tied up Lee screaming, "call the cops" and struggling to get out of the back seat of his cousin's car. In the end, he failed to call the police and, instead, called his 17-year-old daughter, Sabrina Muxlow, to tell her what he'd seen. She, in turn, immediately called 911.
At 6:23 p.m., Sabrina's call reached the Sarasota County, Fla., 911 Call Center. Muxlow told operators that her father saw a girl tied up and that she "came out of the ... car and my dad's cousin went and put her back in the car when she got out." She also described the car as "a green Camaro."
In her first media interview, Sabrina Muxlow told ABC News that she knew calling 911 was the right thing to do.
"It's common sense. ... She needed help, was yelling 'Help.' If somebody needs help, then you get help, you don't stop and think about it," Muxlow said.
But by the time police got the call, King had already left his cousin's house with the shovel, gas can and a flashlight, and Denise Lee still fighting for her life.
As night began to fall, at least three known motorists, who have spoken to the police, witnessed Lee struggling in the back of King's car. Two of them are speaking publicly for the first time, and asked ABC News not to identify them by name.
One man said that he saw Lee, "slamming on the windows with her palms really hard.
"It just looked like she was trying to break them out ... and shaking her head back really violently, back and forth," he said.
Both eyewitnesses said they had second thoughts about calling 911 because they didn't want to get involved in what they thought was a domestic dispute.
The first man admitted that he "actually dialed the number but didn't hit send on it."
The final images of Lee stuck in the back seat of the car haunt him every day. "It made me sick to my stomach that I hadn't done what I should have done, made the phone call," he said.
Jane Kowalski, a computer consultant from Tampa, saw Denise struggling in the back seat of the green Camaro. She was probably among the last people to see her alive.
Kowalski still vividly remembers the night of Jan. 17, when she was driving down U.S. 41 in North Port. She was driving a small car and was talking to her sister on her hands-free device. Her window was cracked open so she could get some fresh air. She stopped at a red light and a car pulled up next to her.
All of a sudden, she heard loud noises. They were so loud that her sister on the other end of the cell phone was able to hear the commotion. At first, Kowalski thought it was a child screaming.