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Judge sets bail at $50,000 for Bernice Bowen


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 9, 1998

TAMPA -- A judge set bail Monday for Bernice Bowen, whose boyfriend last month killed her small son, three law enforcement officers and then himself. But Bowen, charged with child abuse for exposing her children to Hank Earl Carr, still may not get out of jail.

Bowen's family members said they don't want to help her, and Carr's family doesn't have the cash it would take to help her.

"Nobody in this family's bailing her out. Not hardly," said Michael Bowen, of Ohio, who bristled at the suggestion that his wife's daughter is even related to him. "I sure the hell can't afford spending any money on her."

Bowen, 24, remained in Hillsborough County Jail on Monday night on two charges of abusing her children by exposing them to a dangerous felon. She was arrested May 28, nine days after Carr's deadly rampage.

Hillsborough County Judge Walter "Buzzy" Heinrich, who denied Bowen bail last week, this time reluctantly set bail at $50,000 at the request of prosecutors.

The judge also set other conditions for Bowen's release. She must prove she has a job and a place to stay in Hillsborough County. She would remain under house arrest and wear an electronic monitor on her ankle. She also is denied contact with her surviving child, Kayla, 5, who is in foster care.

Prosecutors also want Bowen to sign an extradition waiver so she could easily be brought back to Tampa if she flees to Ohio.

John Kromholz, her court-appointed attorney, said after Monday's hearing that $50,000 was too much for the charges against Bowen.

He said relatives of Bowen and Carr had offered to put homes up as collateral prior to the judge's ruling. "Now the issue is . . . if they'll put their money where their mouth is."

Her dead boyfriend's mother said she has no money to offer Bowen toward bail but will let her stay in her Seminole Heights home while she awaits prosecution.

"We're so tapped out on money it's pathetic. We're paycheck-to-paycheck people," said Gail Cox, 53. "I can give her a place to live. She's totally welcome here."

Kromholz said he expects it could be at least three days before Bowen is released from jail.

He argued at Monday's video hearing that officials had overstepped their authority by denying bail to Bowen, who has become the target of a community's rage over the officers' deaths. Bowen has been attacked by police for failing to warn the two detectives of her boyfriend's true identify after he gave them a false name. Armed with that information, detectives would have treated Carr differently, police have said.

Heinrich last Wednesday deemed Bowen a flight risk and denied bail after detectives came to court with pamphlets, stolen driver's licenses and a catalog titled Ways to Disappear, recovered from her apartment. Her mother and a sister returned to Ohio last month to bury Bowen's son, Joey, 4, who was shot by Carr.

The shooting set off a rampage in which Carr slipped out of handcuffs and shot veteran Tampa police detectives Ricky Childers and Randy Bell as they transported him to police headquarters, then killed Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James Crooks, a rookie who tried to stop Carr as he fled north in a stolen truck. After a standoff in a Hernando County gas station, Carr killed himself.
-- Staff writer Geoff Dougherty contributed to this report.

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