*Editor’s note: This report contains details of a murder that readers may find disturbing. Discretion is advised.
SPRING LAKE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The 911 caller sounded calm but resolute.
“Hi, this is Kenneth Boone. I’m not feeling safe with my dad right now,” the caller said. “Come arrest me.”
It was 6:15 on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019.
The deadly events that transpired over the next 72 minutes are the subject of a lawsuit filed on Jan. 5, 2022, in the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.
The family of the man who died is suing the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority and seven of its employees, alleging gross negligence and wrongful death, among other accusations.
“OK, and what’s going on?” asked Nicole Wentworth, the dispatcher who answered the 911 call in December 2019. “You’re not feeling safe with who?”
“With my dad,” Kenneth Boone replied.
“With your dad?” Wentworth responded. “What’s going on there?”
“He’s not acting like himself,” Kenneth Boone said, adding his dad was “threatening” and “scaring” him.
In the background, Kenneth Boone’s dad could be heard denying his son’s claims.
Kenneth Boone persisted.
“He’s scaring the (expletive) out of me right now,” Kenneth Boone told Wentworth.
James Boone, still in the background but speaking louder now, said it was actually the opposite; it was Kenneth Boone, 25, who was intimidating his dad.
“Ma’am, he’s threatening me. Will you hurry up?” James Boone asked the dispatcher, apparently assuming a deputy was heading to the home he shared with his son on Pawnee Drive in Spring Lake Township.
“Ma’am, he’s off his medications because it was messing up his liver,” James Boone, 64, told the dispatcher, after convincing his son to give him the phone.
When Wentworth asked what Kenneth Boone’s medication was for, James Boone responded, “mental illness.”
The dispatcher established there were no weapons in the home, no small children and no one had been drinking or doing drugs.
But when she asked James Boone if anyone had been physically assaulted, his answer was prophetic.
“Not yet, no,” James Boone said.
“HE COULD DO SOMETHING BAD TO ME”
“Sir, I’m going to get an officer out that way for you,” Wentworth assured Kenneth Boone’s dad. “Why would (Kenneth) say he wanted to be arrested?”
“Cause he knows he could do something bad to me,” James Boone explained.
“OK,” Wentworth responded. “And what is he making threats to do right now?”
“Nothing,” James Boone said. “He woke me up in the middle of a sleep to go get him a pack of cigarettes and then he’s starting to get in my face and double fist his fists.”
“OK,” Wentworth responded before reiterating her intention to send a deputy to the Boone home.
“Like I said, we’re going to get some help that way for you, OK?” Wentworth told James Boone. “I just want you to stay safe. If anything changes before they arrive there, I want you to call me back immediately, OK?”
“Yep, thanks,” James Boone said.
Listen to the 911 call audio in the player below.
The call lasted three minutes and 10 seconds.
Wentworth entered it into the dispatch computer as a “Priority 2 ‘Disturbance in progress,’” according to an internal investigation conducted by Peter McWatters, executive director of the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority (OCCDA).
At 6:16 a.m., the OCCDA employee responsible for dispatching deputies — not Wentworth — changed the description to “Priority 2 ‘Mental in progress.’”
“I (EXPLETIVE) KILLED MY DAD… WITH A (EXPLETIVE) HAMMER”
One hour and nine minutes after the original call, dispatcher Ryan Culver had just come on shift when he picked up a 911 line and was greeted with a disturbing declaration.
“Hi, I (expletive) killed my dad,” the man declared.
“Who is this?” asked Culver.
“Kenneth Boone,” the caller responded.
“Kenneth?” Culver repeated. “Kenneth, what’s going on there?”
“Come lock me up,” Kenneth Boone responded, his tone flat but determined.
“You said you killed your dad?” Culver asked.
“Yeah,” Kenneth Boone said.
“How did you do that?” Culver inquired.
“With a (expletive) hammer.”
Despite assuring James Boone a deputy would be en route to the home on Pawnee Drive, dispatchers never notified officers of the call.
Instead, it sat in the computer — undispatched — for more than an hour.
Deputies on patrol had no idea it existed.
“OK, hold on just a moment Kenneth,” Culver said. “I’m going to get some help started that way for you.”
It was too late.
“Listen, I do not want you to hurt anyone else,” Culver told Kenneth Boone. “Are you able to put the hammer down?
“Nope,” Kenneth Boone answered.
Culver again told Kenneth Boone to “hold on just a moment. I’m getting help started that way for you.”
“Alright,” Kenneth Boone said quietly after a brief pause.
At one point over the next 56, largely silent seconds, Kenneth Boone took two heavy breaths and mumbled something brief and unintelligible.
When he next spoke, he sounded angry, agitated and aggressive.
“(Expletive) ready?” he asked.
Ten seconds later, Culver asked Kenneth Boone where he was in the home on Pawnee, to which the 25-year-old responded, “in my (expletive) kitchen.”
“OK, and where is your dad at?” Culver asked.
“He’s on the (expletive) floor,” Kenneth Boone replied.
“Is he in the kitchen as well?” Culver questioned.
“OK… Do you think he’s beyond any help? Is there…Do you think it… Can… ” Culver questioned.
Kenneth Boone responded with another chilling declaration.
“I’m going to finish my (expletive) dad off right now.”
“What’s that?” asked Culver.
“I’m going to kill my (expletive) dad,” Kenneth Boone responded.
“Did you say you are going to kill him, or you did kill him?” questioned Culver.
“I’m going to right now,” Kenneth Boone said quietly.
“I want you to go in another room. I know you’re upset right now. Did you say you hit him with a hammer?”
“OK, I want you to go into another room. Is he still breathing?”
At that point, the audio recording cuts to a tone, obscuring the sounds of a vicious beating.
Listen to the 911 call audio in the player below.
“Can hear him hitting someone or something in the background,” wrote Ryan Culver on the dispatch computer. “A lot of screaming in the background.”
Over the next three minutes, Culver twice repeated what he was hearing.
“Kenneth is continuing to hit someone in the background screaming.”
WALKING ROAD, COVERED IN BLOOD, HAMMER IN HAND
In the lawsuit filed on behalf of James Boone’s other son, Cody Boone, the plaintiff’s attorney described what deputies encountered when they responded to the second call.
“As deputies from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office were rushing toward the scene, Kenneth Boone was found walking down the road, in the neighborhood, covered in blood and carrying the weapon used, a hammer,” wrote attorney David Shafer. “After entering the home, James Boone was found bludgeoned to death on the living room floor, laying in a supine position in a pool of blood with copious amounts of blood spatter, skull fragments and brain matter surrounding his body.”
Shafer wrote James Boone “was bludgeoned so violently that he was unrecognizable.”
According to the lawsuit, James Boone’s autopsy documented at least 32 lacerations of the head and face, 10 stab wounds to the chest and 12 “sharp force injuries of (the) pubic region.”
The forensic exam also noted three “incised wounds” to the right hand that were “consistent with defensive type wounds.”
Kenneth Boone ultimately pleaded guilty but mentally ill to first-degree premeditated murder in September 2021.
On Nov. 21, 2022, Kenneth Boone died of cancer while in state custody.
The lawsuit against Ottawa County Dispatch initially filed on Nov. 29, 2022, in Ottawa County Circuit Court, was transferred in early January to U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.
Among the defendants are four dispatchers who received “written reprimands” or “counseling” in the wake of the incident.
FIRST CALL WAS INAPPROPRIATELY CODED
The internal investigation concluded the initial call would have been more appropriately coded as a “Priority 1 Domestic.”
Instead, Wentworth coded it as a “Priority 2 ‘Disturbance in progress.’”
“The call was made ready for dispatch at 6:18:05am however there were no area cars available, so the call was held as a pending call,” wrote McWatters in his investigative report.
“The (first) call held until Suspect Kenneth Boone called back at 7:24 and stated he had killed his father,” wrote McWatters.
At the time of the first call, all available deputies were tied up at various scenes, including an OWI arrest, an animal complaint, a motorist assist and a separate death investigation.
“Coding the (first Boone call) as ‘Disturbance’ was not inaccurate, however, given what was said on the call by both Kenneth and James, coding the call (as) a ‘Priority 1 Domestic’ would have been more appropriate.”
In his report, McWatters listed the information Wentworth documented in the dispatch computer during the first call:
- 6:16:38 FATHER YELLING IN THE BACKGROUND
- 6:16:44 SAYING THAT HE IS BEING THREATENED
- 6:17:05 NOW TALKING TO FATHER/SON IS OFF HIS MEDS FOR MENTAL ILLNESS
- 6:17:15 NO WEAPONS/NO ASLT/ NO KIDS
McWatters then outlined information Wentworth failed to document:
- Kenneth stated that he was being threatened by his father, James.
- James stated, “He’s threatening me… will you hurry up.”
- James stated that Kenneth was “Starting to get in my face and double fist his fists.”
- When asked if an assault had taken place James stated, “Not yet.”
- When asked why Kenneth wanted to be arrested, James responded, “Because he knows he could do something bad to me.”
“Based on this information,” McWatters wrote, “the call would have more appropriately been coded by Wentworth as a ‘Priority 1 Domestic – In Progress’ and her (computer) entries should have included more detailed information about the threats being made and statements made by both James and Kenneth.”
According to McWatters, those responsible for dispatching deputies (not Wentworth) would have treated the call more urgently if it had been coded Priority 1, or even if it remained a “Disturbance,” but included more detail about what was happening.
He also noted that a shift change occurred between the first and second calls.
McWatters told News 8 Wentworth knew there’d been prior calls to the Pawnee address, which show up automatically on the call taker’s monitor.
When Kenneth first called, Wentworth’s screen showed five recent 911 calls to the Boone home, including a domestic between father and son, an overdose involving Kenneth Boone, a suicidal subject (Kenneth), a mental health pick-up order (Kenneth) and malicious destruction of property.
“While they did see the previous domestic and mental health-related calls at the address, I don’t conclude that that should have impacted how they dealt with the call,” McWatters wrote in an email to News 8. “Unfortunately, we deal with a lot of addresses where there have been previous calls like this, so this type of history for an address is pretty common.”
McWatters reiterated it was the circumstances at the time of the first call, and the information provided by both men, that should have triggered a more urgent response.
WRITTEN REPRIMANDS, COUNSELING, EXTRA TRAINING
“Dispatcher Nicole Wentworth will receive a Written Reprimand for not properly coding the call… and for not putting more detailed information in the call narrative… Wentworth will receive supplemental training on this,” McWatters wrote.
Another employee, dispatch supervisor Meagan Ross, received a Written Reprimand “for not contacting a Sheriff’s Department Supervisor while (the first Boone call) held to seek direction from the supervisor on whether to continue to hold the call or to find deputies/officers from outside of the area to respond.”
McWatters declined an on-camera interview citing the pending litigation.
However, when News 8 first reported on the deadly incident in 2019, the executive director sat down for an interview and said the dispatchers involved were “stellar” employees who do “heroic work” every day.
“This is hindsight with the value of time and investigation. Our dispatchers are handling multiple calls. They are forced to make very quick decisions. I don’t think any reasonable person listening to that (initial) call would have predicted the ultimate outcome that he was going to murder his father. However, there was some verbal conflict taking place at the time,” McWatters said, noting OCCDA would use the case as a “learning tool moving forward.”
MCWATTERS: ‘STELLAR’ DISPATCHERS, ‘HEROIC WORK’
“The people involved, I can assure you, are great employees with a great work history,” McWatters said in 2019.
“Situations like these are tough because we’re in the business of helping people and people here are dedicated to doing that and, when something doesn’t turn out as well as you’d hoped, something as tragic as this, it’s tough,” McWatters said.
He confirmed OCCDA implemented a new policy in the aftermath of the Boone homicide.
If a Priority 2 call is held for a certain amount of time, dispatchers are now required to notify the sheriff’s department for guidance on how to respond.
The federal lawsuit accuses the dispatch authority and seven employees of gross negligence, wrongful death, failure to train or supervise (dispatchers), intentional infliction of emotional distress (upon James Boone) and violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process clause.
INVOLUNTARY HOSPITALIZATION, VIOLENCE, THREATS
According to the suit, Kenneth Boone was “mentally ill and had a history of severe mood swings, violence, and threatening behavior, and he had recently been involuntarily hospitalized in November 2019.”
Also noted in the suit were Kenneth Boone’s multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions prior to Dec. 1, 2019.
“By telling James Boone, on more than one occasion during the initial phone call, that she would be dispatching police or send ‘help out that way for you,’ but then failing to dispatch a police unit to the location, Wentworth provided James Boone with an illusory sense of security and endangered his life, and said failure caused James Boone’s injuries and death,” wrote plaintiff’s attorney David Shafer in the lawsuit.