Witness questions Illinois State Police response after man dies
Questions continue over the death of a Quad City teacher found dead along Interstate 88 near Dixon and why police dispatched to the scene didn’t find him.
Lee Catlin, 65, was found dead along the Interstate by a highway worker on November 13, 2013.
Trucker Ray Specht called 9-1-1 with a location of a man in distress 12 hours earlier.
“I’d seen him in the headlights of my semi. I look at the ditches because we’re in the middle of deer season. He was laying on his side, waving his hand. He had on a yellow shirt. I described him to the dispatcher,” said Specht, heard on the 9-1-1 tape telling the operator that he was eastbound along Interstate 88 near the overpass at about the 51.5 mile marker.
“He was laying right on the side of the road, he was kind of off by the grass edge. There’s no way you could have missed him if you physically slowed down and stopped at that location. There’s no way you could have missed him,” he said. “He was still alive and able to move his arms.” It was about 8:24 p.m, cold and dark outside.
Sixteen minutes later, another motorist called 9-1-1 with the same information and location.
“Surely, they didn’t think it was two crank calls. They got two 9-1-1 calls and the other car actually pulled over and they told him to go on, that they actually had the call,” Specht, the mayor of Hooppole, Illinois said.
Illinois State Police spokesperson Monique Bond did not offer specifics about the response of a trooper, but says “when we responded, we didn’t see anyone.”
State police headquarters in Dixon is a little over 2 miles from where Catlin was eventually found dead by a highway worker. The cause of his death or why he was on the roadway have not been released.
“Somebody didn’t do their job. Somebody should be fired,” Specht said. “Somebody should have gone out there and thoroughly checked the area. I don’t believe they stopped because they found the guy twelve hours later in the exact location I told them he was in,” he said.
The next morning, Specht says two investigators were knocking on his door, asking him if he was involved in Catlin’s death.
“They just kept saying, did you hit him, did you feel anything, feel a thump? No, I saw a guy laying in a ditch,” he recounted, saying police went to the Davenport trucking company where he worked to check his truck.
“Do you think I would call the accident in with my name and number if I did something wrong?” he said.
Specht says he feels guilty about not stopping now, but said he was already well past the scene going 65 mph and concerned that it might be a ruse for a carjacking.
“I’ve had guys that have been ‘jacked,’ somebody laying in a ditch with a gun,” he said, adding he thought the man in distress would be in safe hands after relaying the location to police.
“The county dispatcher asked, ‘should I send an ambulance? And the state dispatcher said, ‘No, let us check it out first,’” he said.
“I did what I was supposed to. Their job is to serve and protect. It’s not a service if a guy lays 12 hours along the side of the road and dies,” he said.