HARTFORD — Shortly before Perrie Mason vanished earlier this month, two 911 calls were made from her phone. Dispatchers did not hear anyone on the line and called her back, but still no response, according to her sister.
Four days later, on Aug. 21, the body of the 31-year-old Connecticut mother of two, who recently moved from Hawaii, was found and her ex-boyfriend was arraigned in court on domestic violence charges in connection with a previous attack against Mason, authorities said. Officials have called the ex-boyfriend, Jason Watson, a prime suspect in her disappearance, but no charges have been filed in connection with her death.
It’s not clear what happened in the moments after the 911 calls to Meriden’s emergency communications center. City police officials have declined to release the 911 recordings as well as any information about their response to the calls, citing the ongoing criminal investigation into Mason’s death.
Relatives, friends and anti-domestic violence advocates have been left to wonder whether more could have been done after the calls and whether Mason’s death could have been prevented. But they say there are no early indications of any mistakes or wrongdoing.
“We want to know more about that,” said Karen Jarmoc, chief executive officer of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Generally when someone calls 911, there is a response.”
Mishandled 911 calls have been blamed for deaths across the country. Earlier this month, the city of Cincinnati was sued by the family of teenager Kyle Plush, who became trapped in a vehicle and died last year after a failed response to his two heartrending 911 calls.
Connecticut has no statewide mandates on how dispatchers are supposed to handle 911 calls. Each department has its own rules and generally they follow guidelines by emergency response organizations, officials say. The guidelines recommend calling someone back if they don’t say anything or hang up during a 911 call and possibly sending an officer to investigate, but only if there are indications of an emergency.
Meriden officials did not respond to requests for copies of the city’s 911 call procedures.
Mason’s sister, Vao Horlback, said she reported her sister missing Saturday night, Aug. 17, after not hearing from her all day, which was unusual. They shared account passwords in case of emergencies, and she discovered the two 911 calls, made at about 7 p.m. that evening, when she checked her sister’s phone records.
“They both lasted less than a minute,” Horlback told KHON-TV. “I called the police station. They verified that contact was made. However, they couldn’t hear anything on the phone. They tried calling her back. The phone was picked up but once again they didn’t hear anything.”
Mason’s relatives this week referred questions about the calls to Meriden police. People in social media postings have been questioning how the 911 calls were handled.
In 2016, reviews of Meriden’s dispatching operations by both city officials and a private firm found a series of problems including a lack of standard operating procedures and inconsistent handling of 911 calls.
Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati said at the time that improvements were being made. He said this week that he didn’t have all the information on the calls and how they were handled.
“If we received any information on this case, I’m certain our police would have responded,” he said. “As a community, we have been grieving this. It’s been devastating.”
Mason, who grew up in Kalihi, Hawaii, moved last year to Connecticut, where she worked as a court monitor and ran her own eyelash business. She and her two sons lived with Watson, who is not the boys’ father, and his two children from another relationship.
Watson is detained on $2 million bail. He is charged with strangulation and assault in connection with an Aug. 15 attack when police say he choked Mason to unconsciousness during a fight about two days after they broke up. Horlback said her sister texted her photos of her injuries.
Watson also is charged in another case with violating probation related to a 2008 sexual assault.
Watson has denied harming Mason.