Denise Lee: Denise Amber Lee Kidnapping & Murder


Denise Lee murder on primetime crime: 911 calls

Denise Lee was murdered after being kidnapped, and family members blame 911 dispatchers for her death. Watch tonight on ABC Primetime and read Denise Lee’s tragic story here.

Denise was only 17 and in high school, but taking courses in college when she met Nathan, 19, who was attending the college. Nathan Lee says they fell in love at first sight. Nathan said, “I know it sounds cliché, but I mean, we really knew right away. I mean, we were two peas in a pod. We were as happy as you could be.”

Sadly, the couple’s happiness came to an end in January, when Denise was kidnapped and murdered. Her husband, Nathan, believes her death could have been avoided, if only the 911 calls would not have been mishandled. Maybe her death could have been prevented.

Nathan and Denise Lee married and soon had their first son, Noah, in 2006. They had a second son named Adam in July of last year. The couple worked hard to make things work, with Denise staying at home with their children, and Nathan worked to support their family.

“We had two beautiful kids and were just, you know, just livin’ the American Dream,” Nathan said. Then one day their lives were destroyed.

It seemed to just be a normal day, January 17th, and Nathan had gone to work. Nathan spoke to Denise at around 11 a.m. that morning. He tried calling her that afternoon around 3 p.m. on his way home from work, but could never get ahold of her.

Approximately an hour before Nathan would have gotten home, their neighbor, Jennifer Eckert had looked out of her window blinds and saw “a green Camaro going up and down the road”. Eckert saw the car pull into the Lee’s driveway and saw a man sitting in the driver’s seat.

Nathan got home from work at about 3:30, and found his two sons there alone.

“It was within 10 minutes that I really knew that something’s not right,” Nathan said. Nathan just had a bad feeling something was wrong with his 21 year-old wife, Denise. Nathan looked around his home and found her purse and cell phone. He also tried to ask his 2 year-old son about his mother.

Nathan remembered getting extremely nervous and felt about to “lose it.” Nathan then called 911, a call that he believes could have saved Denise’s life. Nathan Lee was just scared to death, feeling paralyzed as police searched their home for clues of Denise’s whereabouts.

There was suddenly a clue in the case, as Denise Lee, herself, called 911.

Somehow Denise had gotten the kidnapper’s cell phone and called 911 at 6:14 p.m. According to a North Port police report, operators listened to her pleading helplessly with her alleged captor for about six and a half minutes.

Denise Lee’s father, Rick Goff, heard the recording of her 911 call, which has not been released to the public. Goff said, “The dispatch is asking questions and she’s like making it sound like she’s talking to him … but she’s really answering dispatch questions. ‘Where do you live’ and things like that,” Goff said.

The call was lost though, before it could be traced. Police were able to learn that the cell phone belonged to a North Port man named Michael King, a 36-year-old unemployed plumber.

Police rushed to King’s home but neither Michael King or Denise Lee were there. The house was empty but there were disturbing evidence in the bedroom. Police found a child’s blanket and duct tape with long brown hair on it.

There may have been an even better chance to save Denise Lee, when the kidnapper stopped by his cousin’s home to borrow a shovel and can of gasoline. 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 saw Denise Lee tied up and screaming, “call the cops” and struggling to get out of the back seat of his cousin’s car. Muxlow did not call the police but did call his 17-year-old daughter, Sabrina Muxlow, to tell her what he’d seen. She 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.”

But by the time police got the call, King had already left the home with Denise Lee. After this point, at least three different people saw Denise Lee struggling, and they neglected to call the police.

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.

Not wanting to get involved in what they thought was a domestic dispute, no one intervened. “It made me sick to my stomach that I hadn’t done what I should have done, made the phone call,” he said

Jane Kowolski probably was the last person to see Denise Lee alive. She had her window down and heard someone screaming and slapping at the back window. Kowolski could see the man driving trying to push something down in the back seat. She called 911 but mistakenly reported the vehicle as a blue Chevrolet camaro.

Sheriff John Davenport of the North Port Police Department described the breakdown of this basic police procedure as a missed opportunity. ” This 911 call, one dispatcher thought the other had sent it out, the other thought the other one had sent it out, and they didn’t send it out,” Davenport said.

Less than 3 miles away from Kowolski’s 911 call, Denise Amber Lee was shot to death. King was arrested the same night by a Florida trooper.

King was booked into the South County jail on one charge of kidnapping. King would not provide any information about Denise Lee, and tried to say he was also a victim. But clues were left in King’s car including hair and a ring that belonged to Denise Lee.

“It was a ring that I gave her on our first Valentine’s Day … It took me less than a second to confirm that it was hers,” Nathan Lee stated.

Denise Lee’s body was found in a shallow grave, and DNA proved King had also sexually assaulted her.

On Jan. 23, Sarasota prosecutors charged King with the abduction and murder of Denise Amber Lee. He pleaded not guilty. It is still unknown why King had chosen Denise Lee, or if there was a connection.

Davenport stands by his dispatch officers, and did not think it would have changed the outcome of the case. The dispatchers who failed to relay the 911 call were disciplined. One was suspended for 60 hours, the other 36 hours, and both were ordered to take 12 hours of remedial training.

This is especially a tragedy as Mr. Goff, Denise Lee’s father, was a detective, and worked in the Charlotte County Sheriff’s office for over 20 years.

Denise’s husband tries to remember the happy moments of their life together saying, “I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with her. And … there wasn’t a doubt in my mind, wasn’t a doubt in hers. The best four years of my life, I’m sure. For my whole life,” Nathan said.

Nathan wants the death penalty for King and intends to sue Charlotte County for mistakes he think could have been avoided in Denise Lee’s death.

“If I was in that situation … I don’t know what I would have done,” he said. “She did everything she could. Denise did everything in her power to save her life.”

This is a tragic story, do you think the fault lies in the 911 dispatchers handling of the calls?

Here’s Dateline’s story on Denise Lee Part I below.

Here’s the other Dateline videos of Denise Lee’s Kidnapping & murder: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

Images: ABC

Source: news


  1. For those passing judgment on people who saw the woman in distress and didn't call 911 (or ram their car into the Camero, as truly that might have been the most effective thing to do, but also risky and perhaps against the law), I ask, "Did you ever see a student being bullied in school and did nothing to stop it – didn't report it to a teacher or step in directly?"

    I attended an upper middle-class public school system where rarely did anyone report the abuse of other students, be it from other students or rumored statutory rape by a teacher. Now I grant that I never reported anyone for rumors, but at the start of 7th grade, a tall, lanky girl was being tossed back and forth in a circle of other girls – it was all a game for the abusers. I saw this and went up to the group and said, "Let's see, there are (I think it was at least 7) of you and one of her. Do you really think this is fair?" As you might guess, that girl was tossed out of the circle and I got a full year of abuse from the bullies. Indeed, I would have likely died had it not been for a large black girl (these bullies were all white and back then, seemed a bit afraid of people of color as we didn't have many such students in 7th grade) whom I had been tutoring that year seeing the group about to toss me off a ledge the last week of school (they were swinging me by my feet and arms, threatening to toss me over, and students have done such things before, so it wouldn't have been a first). She bellowed out "PUT HER DOOOWWWWN!" and they did and I was never bothered by any of them again (thanks, Grace, if you happen to ever read this).

    If you've seen someone abused and laid low, you might understand where these other people were coming from. Not to excuse them, but merely to give an explanation.

  2. I saw this both times it aired and my heart broke. I was so angry with all that didn't help and especially with the cousin of the accused killer and the 911 dispatch!! Everyone who didn't help failed that poor girl that day. And to think that we have faith in the 911 system? Makes me scared to think that I could possibly be in danger someday and nobody will give a damn 🙁 RIP Denise.

  3. There is a whole lot of blame to go around here. This story is so sad, it makes me sick to my stomach. The worst part is, that this young lady could have been saved except for a series of unfortunate events. Yes, Michael King committed the crime, obviously mentally disturbed. But what in the heck is wrong with the cousin who did not help this lady who begged him to call the police??? He is just as guilty in my opinion as the murderer himself. I hope he is also sent to prison as an accessory. And that slap on the wrist to the 911 dispatchers is not sufficient. They ultimately cost Denise her life, which she was so desperately trying to save.

    My heart and sympathy go out to Denise's whole family. I am hoping for the death penalty for Mr. King. Unfortunately, though, even if he gets it he won't suffer as much as she had to.

  4. You're damn right these 911 morons are to blame. It's just too often you hear this snarky, uneducated sounding hoodlum on the other end of the phone with a nasty chip on their shoulder "Uh huh. Where you at. Ain't gonna help without the location."

    If you're tired of the repetitive emergency calls or tired of dealing with people in a panic situation then take your irritated ass over to the local coffee shop and sling coffee for a living. There's PLENTY of people that would love to have a job paying 20 an hour with no education or training. Morons. This woman's death is on YOUR HEADS. YOU live with it. Her kids and husband have to live without her now – forever. DON'T YOU EVER FORGET THAT.

  5. This is really a very sad story. Unfortunately most people live in a dream world thinking that if you call 911 you will actually receive help. There are so many variables, dropped call, human error ect. Any GPS tracking?! Right, Police can only tell what cell phone tower was used…they can't actually track you down. It is really very sad what happen to this poor woman and I agree that King and his inbred cousing should get whats coming to them. In the case of the dispatchers you should understand that they have to live with the fact they did not relay the call FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. Do not call them stupid or they should be fired ect, to er is human…I wouldnt wish that job on ANYONE…. hey guys if you want to be so freaking critical of them go apply for the job, you'll see it is no cake walk PLUS most agencies, ie one police department in one county may not communicate with a police department in another county, there is a huge break in communication when the department changes (highway patrol and sheriff are dispatched by completely different dispatch centers) so there lies the problem! Give those poor dispatchers a break they have to live with this for the rest of their lives and it is hard!

  6. I also watched this on TV. I just wanted to know why he even did that in the first place. Did he even have a reason to do that? How could you rip a woman away from her children like that? She had a good life! Did he even have feelings for her two children?

    But of course not, rapists and murders don’t have any feelings. They do it because of their own shitty lives. It wasn’t her fault his life sucked. So why did he take it out on her?! She didn’t do anything to him!!

    If he needed help, he should have gotten that help. Now, thanks to him, she is dead and her children will only have video tapes and pictures to remember her. They will probably have no mental or physical memory of her.

    I sure hope Micheal King gets the death penalty. He riped the family apart all because of his stupid actions.

  7. Rapists and murderers like this should be cut in pieces with an ax starting with their ASS. It should be done in the street and the victim’s family can dance in these vile devilish inhuman VERMIN’s BLOOD. And air it around the world. If this was done, how many rapists and serial killers, do you think there would be in this country if this was the penalty??

  8. I also watched the TV show last night and was almost going out of my mind watching the interviews with the two morons that didnt call 911. The first idiot doesnt want his name to be announced, yet allows himself to be filmed, showing his face (?). That alone speaks volumes for his smarts. The second a-hole decides not to push send after he dials 911. Why? There is no good explanation for this stupidity. I hope both of both of those losers can live with themselves. I’ve been driving for 32 years and have never seen anyone in distress in a car. I hope I never do also, but I can assure you that the girl would be alive if I saw what they did. Also, that fat loser that killed her would have has his ass beat at the same time. The bumbling cops are another story altogether. It just goes to show you that you better have some sort of plan (gun) to defend yourself as if you think the police or anyone else gives a shit about you, you are kidding yourself.

  9. I also watched this on TV last night. My husband and I were so angry and could not believe all the people that let this poor girl and her family down. How can people not help each other – how can anyone turn their backs on someone in distress. I was horrified and shocked at the incompetence of the 911 dispatchers – They should be fired. I also believe that Harold should be put in jail for being such a ignorant coward and Michael King should get the death penalty. As for the people who just decided not to get involved, well living with the fact they did nothing will haunt them, hopefully, forever. Unfortunately, none of this will bring Denise back but it may help the family gain a bit of closure. My heart aches for Nathan, Rick Goff and the rest of the family. May god be with them.

  10. I watched this on TV and let me tell you how pissed I was.First that fat ugly Michael King should be tied to the back of that shitty camaro and drag his fat naked ass from the Florida gulf coast to the east coast and if that fat f*ck is still alive then just run him over!! Second his cousin Harold should be shot…for being a coward and if this guy can live with being a coward he should also live with the FACT he assisted with the murder by doing what he did.He did nothing but give the killer a shovel to bury the poor girl with!!!!!You stupid ass and then watch the poor girl being pushed into a car Screaming call the cops and he did nothing!! COWARD!!! Live with that!!! Third and not lastly these worthless police dispatchers!!! Both should have been fired!!! No excuses!!!! You do not belong working for police dispatch if you can’t dispatch the police.That would be like a lifegaurd that can’t swim!!!!! This whole thing is sick!!! I just hope we don’t have to support Michael King in jail.He should be killed.Let the punishment fit the crime!!!


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