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Emergency 9-1-1 Call Audio Released in Homicide Case of George Nellessen

Sat April 30 2011 7:04 pm
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911 Audio citizen caller after the discovery of the homicide of George Nellessen.

About two weeks after the discovery of a violent homicide in Arlington Heights at 1031 North Wilshire Lane, the third-party 9-1-1 call has been released. The victim, George Nellessen, was discovered in what has been described as a basement location by a female friend of George Nellessen named Nancy. George Nellessen was found tied in a chair. The audio reveals discussion that he was beheaded, but in fact he was stabbed several times in the neck. One of the alleged offenders of the homicide, the victim’s now arrested son Mathew Nellessen, was still on the scene and fled when Nancy arrived. Mathew Nellessen was captured by police after a police pursuit that ended in East Dundee, Illinois about two-and-one-half hours after the 9-1-1 call.

On Thursday morning George Nellessen’s girlfriend Nancy was asked by his employer to check on him, since he had missed work on Wednesday and had not showed up at work on Thursday morning.

The audio, which starts about 8:40 a.m. Thursday April 14, 2011, shows the difficulty of third-party calls that are received at 9-1-1 centers. George Nellessen’s girlfriend called Nellessen’s brother’s house in Mount Prospect, where Nellessen’s sister-inlaw spoke on the phone to the 9-1-1 calltaker. Because of the third-party situation and trouble confirming the correct address, the 9-1-1 call taker is not made aware that there is a death until two minutes, five seconds into the call. Additionally, the 9-1-1 calltaker is not made aware that there is a homicide victim and a suspected offender still on the scene until two minutes and 40 seconds into the call. Remember that first-person calls from a cell phone or landline usually indicate instantly the location where the emergency call is originating.

No criticism is meant to the people involved in this difficult situation and certainly unexpected situation, but there are a few things to be learned from the 9-1-1 audio in the name of ‘preparedness’ for citizens who may have to make a 9-1-1 call someday.

1. If you are going to check on someone who has been impossible to contact, expect at the very least that you might discover a medical emergency. Be prepared to be able to give the correct address, and be prepared to call 9-1-1.

2. Better yet — Don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 and request the police initially check on a person that has been impossible to contact. The nature of this type of a request is routine for police departments and is known as a ‘check for well-being’ call. In most cases the police will get to the ‘check for well-being’ location faster than a citizen. Of course, if police discover a medical emergency or a crime, they are trained to respond. In the Nellessen case, it is frightening to consider how risky Nancy’s contact was with Mathew Nellessen. Could a change in scenario or change in timing have resulted in Mathew Nellessen or one of the other offenders harming the girlfriend?

3. When an emergency call is received at a 9-1-1 center, call takers and dispatchers want to know the title or header of the call and the location of the call as soon as possible. They don’t want to have to listen to the caller unfold a story like a book. Often other personnel at 9-1-1 centers start alerting police and fire/EMS resources while the call taker continues to pick up the details. The first details that take priority are the location of the emergency, the nature of the emergency and the awareness of whether a threat still exists. Call takers have the responsibility of advising callers to escape the threat if necessary, while getting the appropriate emergency resources to the scene and informing emergency personnel of any threats and safety issues. Then other details, such as fleeing offender descriptions, vehicle descriptions, etc. are sought.

4. Third-party calls are difficult. It is usually best to call 9-1-1 yourself. You can hear how much confusion and difficulty in communications occurred on this call. No harm was done, but the extra minutes that were involved in participating in a three-way conversation could have been the difference between life and death. What if Mathew Nellessen decided to come back and harm Nancy and the delay gave him enough time to carry out another crime?

5. Special advice for travelers. Mount Prospect police and fire departments happen to use the same 9-1-1 center as Arlington Heights, so when George Nellessen’s sister-inlaw called police, she was directed to the right 9-1-1 center. But what if you are a good distance out of town — say New York City or Miami? As well as knowing the EMERGENCY 9-1-1 number, it is a good idea to know the emergency long number for the police dispatch center, which is 847-253-2131 for Arlington Heights. If you need to have the police check the well-being of a person while you are out of town, a 9-1-1 call will connect you to the 9-1-1 center of the community you are visiting (e.g., New York City or Miami). By dialing 847-253-2131, you will be connected directly to the 9-1-1 center in Arlington Heights, known as Northwest Central Dispatch System. If you don’t know the emergency long number for your police department, you can call the non-emergency police number for your community and find out ahead of time, so you’re prepared.

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