Cumberland Times-News

Local News

December 12, 2013

Police not dispatched during murder

Caller told dispatcher to ‘forget it’

CUMBERLAND — A neighbor’s report of “loud banging” and “screaming” at 27 Browning St. the night of Sept. 5 made it to the Allegany County 911 center — but not to the Cumberland Police Department that routinely handles such calls.

Police were requested by the 911 caller to be sent to the South Cumberland home “for a loud banging” noise before the caller finally told the 911 dispatcher to “forget it now” and not to send police.

As a result, Cumberland Police were not made aware of the call and, consequently, did not send an officer — as the department routinely does even if callers indicate there is no longer a need for a law enforcement response.

There was one cell phone call to the 911 center concerning the domestic violence complaint at 27 Browning where Stephen Schleuniger, by his confession, took the life of 43-year-old Lisa Ann Simmons, that very night and wrapped her body in a carpet before placing it in the basement of the residence. He admitted to stomping her and then using a dog leash to strangle her after she returned home from work.

The call, divided into three segments, was made to the Allegany County 911 center at 10:48:13 in a 31-second segment; then transferred to a police dispatcher at 10:48:50 in a segment that lasted 1 minute and 11 seconds; and a final segment of 58 seconds made at 10:50:02.

An audio CD of the calls was provided to the Times-News by Allegany County on Tuesday in response to a Dec. 5 Public Information Act request from the newspaper regarding all information surrounding 911 calls the night of Sept. 5 concerning 27 Browning St.

The 911 caller indicated there was “loud banging” and “screaming” by a couple who “never gets along.”

The information reviewed by the Times-News showed the caller finally told the 911 dispatcher not to send police.

The caller said, “Ma’am, my wife says just to forget it now. I don’t know what’s going on over there.”

The dispatcher replied, “I mean we can still send officers out to check it out. I mean that’s up to you. Do you want us to send officers out?”

The caller then indicated the 911 center might be called “later” about the matter.

“Later?” asked the dispatcher.

“Yeah,” replied the caller.

“OK. Well, what I’ll do is I’ll let them know somebody might be calling back.”

“And the reason that, I guess,” said the caller, “is because they’re going to know who did it (called).” Clearly, the caller did not want his identity revealed.

The call then concluded.

Roger Bennett, Allegany County 911 Division chief, said the matter was reviewed and there was no violation of protocol on the part of the dispatcher who was told not to send police to 27 Browning and to “forget it.”

Simmons’ body, clothed in her McDonald’s restaurant uniform and with the dog leash that Schleuniger used in the killing, was dumped by Schleuniger in a wooded area in Winchester, Va. The body was recovered Nov. 25 after Schleuniger led C3I and other investigators there as part of a plea agreement.

Schleuniger was arrested Sept. 10 in Martinsburg, W.Va., and blood from Simmons was found on his shoe at that time. Her blood was also found at the Browning Street residence when police executed a search warrant after Simmons was reported missing by her family Sept. 9.

Schleuniger, 44, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder recently in Allegany County Circuit Court and is awaiting sentencing Jan. 14. The state is recommending a 30-year sentence with 10 years suspended.

Bennett said Wednesday, “Calls for service like this usually end up in a police officer going out. In this case, one was not sent. Ninety-nine percent of the time a police officer is sent out even if the caller denies service.

“The dispatcher did follow protocol,” said Bennett.

Bennett said the calls were included in a quality improvement review. “We looked really hard at how we handled this call and the protocols, and there was no violation. But next time, we will send police out even if the caller says not to send them,” said Bennett.

Jeffrey Alderton may be contacted at jlalderton@times-news.com.

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