TAMPA — The voice of the kidnapped woman was desperate, panicked. "They have me in the trunk of my car," she shouted. "I don't know where I am."
The voice of the 911 dispatcher was dispassionate, almost scolding. "Calm down," the dispatcher replied sharply, "and I will find out where you are."
A jury Wednesday heard that Nov. 15, 2008, plea for help. It was a smear of sound — blaring rap music from the car stereo drowning out the victim's cries. After about a minute, the call was dropped. The victim hardly had a chance to say anything — not what her car looked like, or who was driving.
The dispatcher didn't call back. The victim's body was found three days later in a derelict house in Lakeland, her clothes stripped, her face wrapped in plastic bags.
The failed call was played for jurors in the death penalty murder trial of Vincent George Brown, accused of abducting his girlfriend, Jennifer Johnson, and killing her.
It was both the briefest and most emotional moment of the weeklong trial. As Johnson was heard futilely trying to make herself understood, members of her family wept quietly.
Amanda Hill, the Plant City dispatcher who took the call, listened from the witness stand. Outwardly, she remained unemotional.
Hill testified that she could actually hear Johnson better on the recording than she did that night. Hill said she took the call through an earpiece in one ear as she listened to a police radio with her other ear.
"All I could hear was music," she said, "although I did get the point that she was in the trunk of her vehicle."
She was subsequently fired. Her termination wasn't mentioned at trial Wednesday. Neither was a lawsuit against Plant City brought by an attorney for Johnson's estate. The dispatcher's failure to locate Johnson resulted in her death, the lawsuit said.
Besides Johnson's 911 call, the bulk of Wednesday's testimony involved statements made by the defendant to friends searching for Johnson.
Two days after Johnson's disappearance, a sheriff's deputy listened in as her family members called Brown to ask where she was.
Brown's response to the call was profane.
"I don't give a f- - - about her," the deputy overheard him saying.
Daryn Robinson, a friend of Brown's who is now serving three years in prison on cocaine charges, was brought to court to tell how he also asked Brown where Johnson was.
He said Brown told him, "She's in Lakeland, under a bridge, stinking."
The prosecutor said he would rest his case today. The jury is expected to begin deliberations next week.
Earlier, shouting among witnesses and family members in the hallway could be heard inside the courtroom. Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente warned the family members that they risked causing a mistrial if they let their emotions run over. He promised to permanently bar from the courthouse anyone making a disturbance.
John Barry can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3383.