North Port woman’s murder leads to changes at 911 centers around the country

Denise Amber Lee Foundation still saving lives nearly 11 years later

SARASOTA (WWSB) - It was the kidnapping, rape and brutal murder that shocked Sarasota County back in January of 2008. Nearly 1 years later, Denise Amber Lee, a North Port mother of two, continues to be on the minds of a lot of people, especially her husband Nathan Lee.

“It’s been a journey but I guess our family really decided early on that we’re going to do what we had to do to honor Denise and make sure her death wasn’t in vain,” said Lee.

Following the 21-year-old’s death, Lee started the Denise Amber Lee Foundation. He speaks to and helps train 911 centers throughout the country using Denise’s story.

When she was kidnapped from her home, there had been at least one 911 call that was mishandled and did not get dispatched properly in Charlotte County. Some believe that may have cost her her life.

Denise had been shot and killed and her body was found in the woods near Toledo Blade Boulevard in North Port two days after she went missing. The family did win a wrongful death civil lawsuit against the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office. Lee just wants to make sure that what happened to his wife, never happens again.

“We’re trying to revolutionize training across the country as far as standards and requirements from different states," said Lee. "There are 23 states still that do not recognize 911 as professionals, they don’t mandate training at all, which is absolutely insane.”

The city of North Port’s 911 center has seen dramatic improvements to their operations over the last 10 years because of Lee’s work. Josh Taylor, the city’s public information officer, was a reporter for ABC7 back in 2008 covering this horrible murder. He tells us their 911 team now receives six months of training. Technology has also helped where they can pinpoint where people are calling from through most cell phones and people can now text 911 as well.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to tell how many lives may have already been saved because of that and how many will be saved moving forward,” said Taylor.

Denise’s killer Michael King was sentenced to death and is awaiting execution. Nathan Lee says he will continue to do the work he’s doing because that’s what Denise would’ve wanted. He has since remarried and the two sons he had with Denise are now 12- and 11-years old. They were just 2-years old and 9-months old at the time of her death.

“She was just a super happy, the thing I remember most especially as her being a young mom was just how selfless she was," said Lee. "She would do anything for anybody, the kids were always 100 percent her priority.”

For more information on Denise’s story and the foundation, you can click on this link http://deniseamberlee.org.

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