Murder victim's family seeks change after child's 911 call from motel room fails

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on January 9, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Kari Rene Hunt died in early December. Her estranged husband, Brian Dunn, is charged with killing her.

Mrs. Hunt was slain in an East Texas motel bathroom; her children were in the adjacent bedroom.

The oldest knew to call 911 for help, so she dialed those three lifesaving digits. But she didn't know she needed to dial an extra "9" first to get an outside line.

So 911 didn't work.

"When they do it, when they follow the rules and do it the way we taught them," said Mollie Rivas, an emergency management coordinator who is also one of Kari Hunt's childhood friends. "It should work; we should make sure that happens."

"Her mother babysat my sister and I after school and summers," Rivas said. "My younger sister was on the soccer team with her. She was just a really sweet girl."

From an emergency planning standpoint, Rivas said it's not right that there could be obstacles to calling 911 — but there are.

There is no data about how many hotels or motels in Texas or across the U.S. have the capability of dialing 911 directly from rooms. Some in East Texas have made the change, but Kari Hunt's family wants it to work universally.

"I want every single building to have that ability," DaLonna Hunt, Kari's stepmother, told KLTV in Tyler. "I don't know whether that could've saved my daughter... it might've gotten help there faster."

Kari's survivors started an online petition seeking to force hotels to make the change. Their effort is gaining steam, and those who could force a shift are listening.

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler) told News 8 by phone from his Washington office that he's working on a plan. He has started meeting with hotel and motel owners, and he's instructed his staff to begin serious research into what changes could work.

Gohmert said, however, he doesn't want to create red tape or extra cost for business owners.

"We don't want to require a mandate that ends up requiring mom and pop hotels to have to get new phone systems," Gohmert said, "but there absolutely, I am convinced there's gotta be a way we can get this done."

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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