Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Letter To Hazel Park Police Department

I wrote to the Hazel Park Police Department to try and obtain some additional details about how my dad might have died:

My dad, Neal Rott, was found dead in his car on August 12, 2014 at 77 W. Bernhard Avenue. 

I put in a FOIA in September and received a copy of the police report. 

In the police report, there is an interview with the person that supposedly spoke with my dad on the evening of August 11, 2014, and found him unresponsive in the car on August 12, 2014. 

This is the last person who spoke with my dad and saw him alive.     

I have several questions I would like to ask this person.  I am happy to vet the questions through the police department.  I dont need to directly communicate with this person, as I dont want their personal information; I would just like to get a better idea of what happened – what he talked to my dad about exactly, how my dad looked when he found him. 

This is the only person that can come close to providing me with answers about my dads last hours of life.  I know that I will never fully understand what happened.  But I would like to really get it from the person who last spoke to him.

I also dont want to traumatize this person.  I myself have never seen a dead body before, so I can only imagine that it was difficult for this person to witness.  If they are too traumatized to reopen this, I understand, but I would be so unbelievably appreciative if I could in some way be put in touch with this person.   

This may sound like an unorthodox request, but I am begging you.  I have been agonizing over the details since it happened.  I know that according to the police report, Officer Jason Pence was the officer dispatched to the scene.  If there is any light he could shed, I would appreciate that, as well.

My dad went missing on August 11, 2014, which was my 29th birthday.  He was found dead in his car on August 12, 2014.  I know I will never have all the answers, but I feel like this is the one link that might be able to provide insight.  

I did receive a very nice call from Jason Pence, who was the detective on scene, and provided some details into how my dad was found and what the scene looked like.  He stated that had he known the Southfield Police Department was going to botch the death notification so badly, he would have delivered the news himself, in person. 

He also stated that he would try and put me in touch with the man I mention in the letter.  That never happened.  But regardless, Jason Pence has been one of the kindest and most supportive that I have encountered on this journey, and for that, I am truly grateful.  

Letter To Members Of Michigan State Government

Due to the profoundly negative response I received from the Southfield Police Department, I was determined to take this situation higher, so I wrote a letter to high ranking members of Michigan State Government, including the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and various senators and representatives that preside over the area where this occurred.  I wrote this letter in late October 2014:

My name is Leslie Rott.  I grew up in Huntington Woods, attended Burton Elementary School, Norup Middle School, and am a 2003 graduate of Berkley High School.  For undergrad, I attended the University of Michigan and majored in sociology and English.  I graduated in 2007.  I then attended the University of Michigan for a graduate degree in sociology, and received my PhD in August 2013.  I made the decision to pursue an additional Masters degree, and am currently a second-year student at Sarah Lawrence College.  I moved to New York from Michigan last August.

On August 11, 2014 (my 29th birthday), as you are well aware, there was terrible flooding in Michigan.  After returning home from celebrating my birthday with my boyfriend, I went on Facebook and saw all of these postings about the flood.  I immediately contacted my mom to see if my family was okay, and she told me that she did not know where my dad, Neal Rott, was.

This was very troubling to hear because it was not like my dad to just disappear.  My dad worked about 45 minutes from home, at Vince & Joes.  Ultimately, my dad was found dead in his car on the afternoon of August 12, 2014.  However, he was not found by the police.  He was found by a man who had noticed the car the night before and was concerned when he still saw it parked on the street the next day. 

The police report states, “Neal was ran on LEIN [Michigan Law Enforcement Information Network], but was not out as a missing person.  I then ran Neal on CLEMIS [Oakland Countys Courts and Law Enforcement Management Information System] which showed Susan Rott made contact with Southfield Police […] to report him missing.”  Its not that my dad hadnt been reported missing.  He had.  Its that he was not entered into the statewide system.  My mom went to every local police department to file a report, and they refused to file it because it had not been 24 to 48 hours that my dad had been missing.

In fact, this 24 to 48 hour waiting period is not enforced in many states.  Why Michigan continues to carry on this almost fictitious requirement is beyond me. 

This blind following of so-called protocol is ridiculous.  Under the circumstances, 1) my dad was never even 15 minutes late, and 2) the severity of the storm, I feel that this warranted an immediate response.

The Southfield Police Department was particularly egregious in this situation.  My mom told me that they lacked compassion or concern.  A Southfield officer came to my parentshouse, knocked on the door, and handed my mom a ripped piece of paper with a phone number on it, and told my mom that she needed to call the Hazel Park Police Department.  The Southfield officer made no effort to stay with my mom or comfort her once the news was delivered.  This is apparently the level of respect that the Southfield Police believe residents of the city deserve.  There is also some concern about why it took nearly five hours between the time my dad was found and the time my mom was notified.

I wrote a letter of complaint to the Southfield Police Department, and Lieutenant Robert Schelide responded to the letter by calling me.  To be honest, I would have rather not received any response at all considering the one I received.

I was told that because my dad was an otherwise healthy 60-something, he did not warrant the departments resources.  To me, it is unconscionable for anyone to tell me that, let alone a law enforcement officer.  And the officer was not referring to the fact that a lot of resources were in use because of the storm, he flat out said that my dad did not warrant the resources because of his age and health status. 

The police are supposed to serve and protect, and on that night they did neither.  We suffered for over 24 hours waiting to hear news about my dad, and ultimately, the news we received was not what we were hoping for.   

Did the lack of response on the part of law enforcement play a role in my dads death?

California has a state law that any missing persons report is filed immediately with no waiting period enforced.  Now tell me, how is it possible that a state as large as California, with 38,332,521 people and 155,779.22 square miles of land, has such a law when Michigan, which has a quarter of the amount of people and a third of land per square mile as California (9,895,622 people and 56,538.90 square miles), does not?

According to the Office of the Attorney General for the State of California, “There is NO waiting period for reporting a person missing. All California police and sheriffs' departments must accept any report, including a report by telephone, of a missing person, including runaways, without delay and will give priority to the handling of the report” ( .

At least five other states, including; Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota, specify that there is no waiting period, delay, or refusal to take a missing persons report on any grounds.  Kansas passed a law in 2013 removing the 24-hour waiting period to enter a person into the missing persons database. 

First, I want justice for my dad.  He deserved so much better.  He was an extremely hard worker and a productive member of society.  To be told that he did not merit the resources of law enforcement is devastating.  Second, I do not want another family in Michigan to have to go through the experience of having to sit idly by or take matters into their own hands because of the failure to act on the part of law enforcement.  

My mom, sister, and my aunt, unbeknownst to me at the time, went out three separate times late on the night of 11th and in the early morning of the 12th, looking for my dad, despite putting their own health and safety at risk.  My dad had reported his last location to my mom as being 14 Mile and Dequindre as of about 7:30 p.m. on the 11th, when he told my mom he was trying to get off the freeway and move to higher ground to wait out the storm.  Ultimately, he did drive further.  My mom believed my dad to be in the parking lot of a school directly off of the main road, but ultimately, he was found several blocks in on a residential area in Hazel Park.   

Along with looking for my dad and attempting to file a report at every local police station, they tracked his credit cards, and they called every local hospital.  They did everything they possibly could, and they received no help in return.

The police also told my mom that between his home in Southfield and his work was too large of a radius to search, and it needed to be narrowed down.  I think 14 Mile Road and Dequindre is rather specific, and law enforcement in those cities know the area better than my mom.   

I am grateful, that despite the fact that my dad died, we did not have to endure additional time of him being missing.  The 24 hours we waited were excruciating, and I cannot imagine how we would have coped with him being missing for a greater length of time or if he had never been found at all. 

It is difficult to put into words what it is like for a family to endure their family member being missing.

This was not a situation where my dad voluntarily went missing. There were extenuating circumstances that made it clear that was not the case.  And it is offensive that the first thought from law enforcement is not how they can help, but that the person is not really missing. 

Some of the states that do not have waiting periods do not discriminate based on whether the person is voluntarily missing or not.  Law enforcement does all they can to locate the missing person.   

I am proposing Neals Law, a law that would remove the 24 to 48 hour waiting period before filing a police report in the state-wide system in Michigan, and that reporting happens immediately. 

Ill never really know if the situation would have turned out differently if the waiting period had not been enforced, but I have to believe that it would have.  And while I will never truly know the exact circumstances surrounding my dads death, one thing is abundantly clear: He deserved better. 

I am counting on you and others with power to please help me speak for my dad now, when no one in any authority would speak for him before. 

To tell a family that their husband, father, son, and brother is not a person who merits finding is really beyond my comprehension.

My parents lived in Huntington Woods for 26 years, then they spent two years in Berkley, and are now living in Southfield.  My grandmother and my aunt live in Oak Park, so I am sending this letter to all of the house and senate representatives from those areas, along with several politicians that I am familiar with and feel would be sympathetic to this cause.  I also lived in Ann Arbor for 10 years, before moving to New York last year, so I am sending it to those representatives, as well. 

So far, State Representative Robert Wittenberg has thrown the most support at this issue, although we have gone backwards and forwards, and I want to make sure that this does not end up dead in the water, which is a really sick phrase when it comes to all of this. 

Letter To The Southfield Police Department

I wrote the following letter to the Southfield Police Department a few weeks after my dad died:

I am writing in regard to the way a case was handled on August 11th and 12th, 2014. 

On August 11, my dad went missing on his way home from work.  He worked at Vince and Joes in Clinton Township and was attempting to get home to his house on Addison Street in Southfield.  As you are well aware, there was massive and widespread flooding that occurred on August 11th 

My mom and sister turned to the Southfield Police for help and were deeply hurt by the lack of care and concern that they received.  They also contacted many other area police departments and felt that the Southfield Police Department was especially rude and unhelpful. 

As my mom described to officers, even though protocol calls for waiting 24 to 48 hours to consider a person “missing,” my dad was never late.  Given this, and the fact that there was severe weather impacting people trying to navigate the roads, it would seem proper that you would have used discretion and not have followed the guidelines so much to the book, in this case.

Worse than this, however, is the fact that my dad ended up dead, in his car, and was found in Hazel Park. 

A Southfield Police Officer came to my parentshouse around 9 p.m. on August 12th, and curtly handed my mom a ripped piece of paper.  She was instructed to call the Hazel Park police.  When she asked what it was about, the Southfield Police officer would not tell her.  Ultimately, she found out that my dad was dead.

But why wasnt more care and concern used in delivering this news?  Why wasnt a Hazel Park police officer escorted to my parentshouse by a Southfield police officer to deliver the news?  Or why wasnt my mom brought to a police station in Southfield to receive the call there?

When we lived in Huntington Woods, and someone punched a hole through a window in our front door, the Huntington Woods police treated it like it was a big deal.  The Southfield Police, in a situation that was a big deal, showed no regard for their own residents.

It is sincerely disappointing that Southfield police officers are not trained to be more sensitive in dealing with people in extreme situations.  This situation was incredibly harrowing for my family, and was made worse by the actions on the part of the Southfield Police Department.

At the very least, I would like a formal, written apology to my mom for the way she and my sister were treated during such a difficult time.

This is the letter that started it all.  I wrote to the Southfield Police Department, upset over the treatment that my family received during all of this.  I never would have imagined that this letter would start a chain of events almost far worse than the experience we had in the 24 hours that my dad was missing.

The lieutenant that called me basically went point by point in my letter and refuted everything.

Worse, he told me that my dad was an otherwise healthy 60-something and didn't warrant the police department's resources.  It was also suggested that, as far as the police were concerned, my dad could have been hanging out in a hotel or at McDonalds, despite the fact that there was a terrible storm and it was totally out of character for him to just disappear.  

So should my mom have lied and told police that my dad was sick or mentally ill?  It shouldn't have mattered what he was other than a person.

For me, it doesn't hold up.  If a person is reported missing and is then found dead in their car, didn't the situation warrant some resources which may have been able to prevent death from actually happening?

I will never forget this conversation as long as I live, and I wish I would have had the presence of mind to record it.  It was an impromptu phone call that I was not expecting to get, and to be honest, would rather not have gotten, considering the tenor of it.  It was so demoralizing.  The person had the gull to say that he looked me up and I seemed very educated.  And the point is?

The point is that an innocent man died because the police refused to look for him.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How We Got Here?

This description was taken from the text of the petition.  It's a pretty good synopsis of how we got here:

On August 11, 2014, there was severe flooding in Michigan.  My dad was driving home from work, and never made it home.  My mom attempted to report him missing, but every local department refused because it hadn't been 24- to 48-hours since my dad had gone missing.  

My dad was found dead in his car the next day.  I believe that the situation may have turned out differently if law enforcement would have started looking for him immediately.  My dad was not found by the police.  He was found by someone living on the street where he ended up.   

Ultimately, I was told that my dad was an otherwise healthy 60-something and didn't merit departmental resources.  This is unconscionable to me.  Who gets to decide who is worth looking for and who is not?  Left to the discretion of local police departments, this same thing will continue to happen to other families.  

This is especially frustrating since:

1)      My mom told authorities that my dad was never 15 minutes late, let alone hours, so this was contrary to his typical behavior


2)      There was this severe storm, which suggested that my dad was in danger

Despite these two things, nothing was done on the part of law enforcement.  While he was eventually entered into the county system, he was not entered into the statewide system, and therefore, nothing was being done to look for him.   

I am asking that Michigan pass a law which specifies that there will be no waiting period to file a missing person's report, and that all persons reported missing will be entered into the state database immediately.

I have been told that stipulating this will put a strain on resources, however, laws such as this exist in California, Florida, Minnesota, and elsewhere.  As the law - written in 1968 - says, people may be entered immediately, but there is no requirement that, that be done. 

I have already written to a variety of people in Michigan state government, and several had pledged to see Neal's Law get passed, but it appears that their commitment has wavered.  I want to make sure that Michigan state government understands how important this is, not just for my family, but for any other Michigan family that has had a loved one go missing.  

I have been told that nothing legislatively can be done, however, I have begun talking to other families in other states who have had relatives go missing, and they firmly believe that what I am doing needs to be done. 

I have stopped and started writing this blog, even deleted the whole thing.  But I am sick of living in a culture of silence.  

The next majority of posts are going to go backward in time to chronicle what has been done so far, and then what is being done in the present, and hopefully the future.

It must be said that all of this is done in memory of my dad, because he deserved so much better, and he wouldn't want any families in the future to go through what we went through.  Neither do we. 

Neal Barry Rott
December 17, 1951 - August 12, 2014