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Tampa woman called 911 from trunk before she died

Jennifer Johnson, 31, was last seen alive Friday at a Tampa club.

Jennifer Johnson, 31, was last seen alive Friday at a Tampa club.

TAMPA — Before she died, Jennifer Johnson called 911 from the trunk of a car, police say.

It was unclear how Plant City police 911 dispatchers responded.

On Tuesday, the 31-year-old Tampa mother of one was found dead in an abandoned house in Lakeland.

"We can always Monday morning quarterback," Plant City police Capt. Darrell Wilson told WFTS-Ch. 28 on Thursday. "We're fairly comfortable with what took place and how the operator handled the call."

Johnson was last seen alive Friday night. She was arguing with ex-boyfriend Vincent Brown at the Apollo Club on 40th Street, according to Tampa police.

About 3 a.m. Saturday, she went with Brown to his parents' house.

Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy listened to the 911 tape for the first time Thursday.

"It is a very disturbing call, a very chilling call," she said.

Neither Tampa police nor Plant City police would release other details about the call.

Wilson and McElroy said the date and time of the call are essential to establishing a time line and developing clues in the ongoing investigation.

Releasing any more information could jeopardize the case, they said.

Brown has been named a person of interest in Johnson's disappearance and death, though he has not been charged. He is being held without bail at Orient Road Jail on unrelated charges. He has refused to cooperate with detectives, McElroy said.

Had a similar 911 call come into Tampa police, McElroy said, emergency operators would have attempted to locate the cell phone using global positioning or satellite technology, she said.

Assuming they knew the identity of the caller, they would also have tried to make contact with the victim's family or acquaintances, she said.

Other agencies have faced similar cries for help.

In North Carolina last month, Forsyth County sheriff's deputies rescued a kidnapped woman from a car trunk after using GPS data from her cell phone to locate the car.

In Cleveland last week, another woman was rescued when she called 911 from a car trunk. She was able to give an approximate location of where she was abducted. Police found her by sounding their sirens and asking her to tell them when she could hear them.

In Charlotte County in January, a kidnapped woman died despite a 911 call.

A driver called dispatchers after seeing Denise Amber Lee inside another car beating on the windows and asking for help. Though the woman called 911 and tailed the kidnapper's car, word of the abduction never went out to officers on patrol.

Johnson's family could not be reached for comment about her 911 call to Plant City authorities. On Thursday they told a guard at their gated community that they didn't want to speak to the media.

Lakeland police spokesman Jack Gillen, who notified media about the discovery of Johnson's body this week, wouldn't confirm the existence of Johnson's 911 call to Plant City.

"The only 911 call that I have confirmed is the 911 call that came from the witnesses who discovered her body," he said.

Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Colleen Jenkins contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Jennifer Johnson's 911 call was "chilling" Tampa police said.

Tampa woman called 911 from trunk before she died 11/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 24, 2008 8:33pm]
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