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Murder trial begins in case where 911 warning was botched

5:11 PM, Aug 17, 2009   |    comments
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Sarasota, Florida -  Jury selection proceedings took place today in the case of a North Port mother. Denise Amber Lee was found murdered after a 911 caller said she saw someone struggling in the back seat of a car.

Jury selection could take some time in the first degree murder trial of Michael King. 

Click here to read blog updates from Isabel Mascarenas today, who is reporting from the courthouse.

Hundreds of people are in the pool of potential jurors, and because of the attention this case has gotten, many of those people may be dismissed because they already know a lot about it.

Jurors also need to be okay with the idea that they may recommend Michael King be put to death if he's convicted.

It was January 17, 2008, three hours after Denise Amber Lee's husband reported her missing. North Port police were searching her neighborhood. And officers in Sarasota and Charlotte counties were looking for a dark green Camaro that may have been involved.

call came in to 911 from a driver, Jane Kowalski, who was stopped next to a Camaro at a red light on the county line.

Someone in the car next to her "kept banging on the window," she told the dispatcher. She went on to say the person was "screaming... like 'get me out of here' screaming."

Kowalski even followed the Camaro until it turned onto Toledo Blade Boulevard, and told dispatchers its location. At a memorial earlier this year, she told 10 Connects, "I knew something was wrong. You know when you have a gut instinct, make the call. Better to be safe than sorry.

But Kowalski's information never made it to deputies out on the street. An internal affairs report says it was considered urgent, but somehow slipped through the cracks.

Later that night, a state trooper spotted the Camaro on Toledo Blade Boulevard, and stopped Michael King. Police say he was soaking wet from the waist down and a wet shovel was in his car.

Searchers later found Lee's body, buried in a swamp in southern Sarasota County.

The jury will be allowed to see that green Camaro in person during this trial. They'll also be able to learn about the bodily fluids that were found in the car. Defense attorneys did not want that fluid evidence to be permitted.

The defense had also argued against allowing jurors to hear the 911 calls in the case. But the judge has decided to allow them, including a call Denise Lee made while she was missing, where she pleads with someone to let her go.

Connect with 10 Connects multi-media journalist Grayson Kamm on Twitter as @graysonkamm, by e-mail at this link, or on AOL Instant Messenger as screen name GraysonConnects.

Grayson Kamm, 10 Connects

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