Dispatchers Charged After Boy's 911 Call Ignored, Mom Dies

Two 911 dispatchers who authorities say wrongly assumed it was a prank when a 5-year-old boy called to report that his mother had collapsed have been charged with neglect of duty.

By the time an officer arrived, the boy's 46-year-old mother was dead.

"I understand they get a quite a few crank calls, but you have to take it seriously when someone calls 911," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Wednesday in announcing charges against Sharon Nichols, 43, and Terri Sutton, 47.

They could get a year in jail if convicted of the misdemeanor.

Worthy said the mother, Sherrill Turner, might be alive today had the dispatchers done their jobs correctly.

The president of the dispatchers' union did not immediately return a call for comment.

Robert Turner, now 6, called 911 twice on Feb. 20 to report that his mother had collapsed and needed medical care, but "neither operator treated this as an emergency," the prosecutor said.

No police car was sent after Nichols took the first call. The boy called again three hours later, and Sutton reacted by sending police out to discipline the child and inform the parent that the youngster was dialing 911, Worthy said.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who defended assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city on behalf of the family. Fieger said Robert's mother, who had an enlarged heart, would have survived if help had been sent immediately.

After police investigated, Nichols received a five-day suspension, and Sutton received three days. Both have returned to work, Worthy said.

The prosecutor refused to say if the two should have been fired, but added, "They should not be taking 911 calls."