DIXON – An inspection of 911 calls shows that at least three – not two – motorists alerted police the night of Nov. 12 to the presence of a man on the ground and waving to drivers alongside Interstate 88.
The calls were made almost 12 hours before the body of Lee Catlin, 65, was found in a ditch near the road.
The autopsy showed that Catlin had died of hypothermia. A longtime retired teacher from Bettendorf, Iowa, Catlin was clothed in one shoe, socks, sweatpants, a shirt and a jacket. The temperature in Dixon the night he died dipped into the mid-teens.
At the time of his autopsy, Catlin had a blood-alcohol content of 0.105, higher than the legal limit. He also was found to have severe cirrhosis of the liver.
The 911 recordings, obtained through a public records request, show that at 8:46 p.m. Nov. 12, 20 minutes after the first 911 call was placed, another motorist made a 911 call describing a man lying on the road, gesturing near mile marker 51.5.
Motorist: “OK, I’m driving eastbound, and right before that mile marker there was somebody laying on the side of the road. His feet toward the side of the road and his head is actually over the white line. His hands were forward, and he was gesturing. He was conscious and awake, but he was laying half in the road.”
State police dispatcher: And that was 51.5 eastbound I-88?
“Yes, it was.”
And was that just before 51.5 or, like, exactly there? Because we just had maintenance arrive on scene with a vehicle there.
“All I know was that he was lying on the road, and I didn’t see him until I was almost on top of him. I wouldn’t have noticed him if the car in front of me hadn’t swerved around him.”
All right, well we’ll check on him. Thank you.
He hangs up; his call brings the total number placed up to three, but it’s not clear in state police documents whether one of those three was ever relayed to state police. Another man, Bob Brouch, made a 911 call at 8:40 p.m. to report Catlin on the highway, but in listening to the recording released by state police, it isn’t clear that that information was relayed.
The motorist’s conversation with a Lee County 911 dispatcher was brief – lasting 44 seconds.
Brouch and his wife were driving home to Aurora from the Quad Cities when they saw Catlin in their headlights.
“All of a sudden, there’s this person lying on the side of the road waving his arms, and I’m shocked. Startled,” Brouch said in an earlier interview with Sauk Valley Media. “I pull over, and I had to back up just maybe 10 yards so I could read a mile marker.”
911 dispatch: Lee County 911 where’s your emergency?
Brouch: “Um ... on 88 east at mile mark 51.5.”
“There is a man lying on the shoulder, waving his arms. No car around.”
We’ve already got that call, sir. We’ve got somebody en route.
“It’s immediately west of the 51.5 mile sign.”
OK. That’s what the other people said, too.
“OK, thank you.”
At 8:48 p.m., 8 minutes after Brouch’s call, a dispatcher for the *999 tollway assistance line does radio in a call to the state police dispatcher to relay an assistance call – it’s not clear from whom – that reported a man at mile marker 55, near Chicago Avenue, on eastbound I-88, lying on the right shoulder. That would be 3.5 miles from mile marker 51.5.
This could mean a fourth call was made that night.
999: “He is actually on the pavement. He’s wearing blue jeans and a blue jacket.”
State police dispatcher: 55?
“By mile marker 55, yes.”
At this point, the dispatcher has definitely already received two other calls about a man in a blue jacket and jeans lying on the side of the highway near mile marker 51.5, the first from Ray Specht, placed at 8:24 p.m., the second from another motorist, placed at 8:46.
The state police dispatcher radios in: We’re receiving multiple reports on this person. Again at 51.5. Also being reported at mile post 55 for a subject.
Maintenance: “So far, all I’ve located is an abandoned vehicle, and where was that at?”
Abandoned was at 51.5 eastbound.
No 911 calls were made to report Catlin’s presence after 8:48 p.m.
The abandoned car found was Catlin’s. Investigators later discovered that he had run out of gas.
Just 4 days before his body was found, Catlin had been charged with drunken driving.