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Bowen guilty of aiding Carr’s killing rampage

Jurors say they took no satisfaction in finding that Carr's girlfriend was an accessory after the fact.

By SUE CARLTON and KATHRYN WEXLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 29, 1999


TAMPA -- In the moments after the guilty verdicts were read, jury foreman Donald Roy looked out at the police badges and tear-stained faces and people holding tight to each other.

On one side, he saw the two grieving widows of the slain police detectives. On the other, he saw the mother of defendant Bernice Bowen, sitting grim and silent.

Something in him, he said later, wanted to tell both sides how sorry he was for what they had lost.
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Bowen and her attorney hear the verdict. [Times photo: Tony Lopez]
"Even with the guilty verdict, nobody won anything," Roy said Friday. "It was still a sad day."

After four hours of deliberation, after jurors replayed taped interviews and even examined a dress Bowen wore, they decided she was guilty of lying to help her boyfriend in his deadly rampage last year.

She was guilty, they said, of being an accessory after the fact when Hank Earl Carr shot her little boy and then escaped from officers who were investigating the boy's death. She was guilty of helping him after he gunned down homicide detectives Randy Bell and Ricky Childers and Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James "Brad" Crooks, before killing himself.

"We did not look at her as being guilty for anybody being shot. We knew Hank did all of that," Roy said. "What she did was cover it up and hold back information."

Review the Times coverage of Hank Earl Carr's rampage
A wave of tightly controlled tears seemed to pass down the rows of police officers, friends and families crowded into the courtroom.

At the defense table, Bowen hung her head. Her mother, Connie Bowen, her face strained and weary, declined to speak to reporters and rushed from the courthouse.

"Her mother was confident she would be cleared," said pastor Pat Daniel, whose church has counseled Bowen in jail. "You have to understand, that's her daughter."

In the chaos of hugs and sobs and clicking cameras, Tampa Mayor Dick Greco appeared and escorted the widows of Bell and Childers out a back door. With red eyes and the mayor's arms draped gently around their waists, Vickie Childers and Donna Bell stepped into the Friday morning sunshine, smiling, even laughing a bit.

"They feel like they've had a good bath, like they're clean, like they've had some closure," Greco said after police officials whisked the women away in a black car.

Tampa police Detective Henry Duran, a colleague and close friend of Bell and Childers, said, "Now it won't be reading reports, going back over the crime scene. We don't have to re-live the negative. We can recall the loss in a positive-type way.

"We love Ricky and Randy," he said outside the courtroom. "We miss Ricky and Randy."

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Vickie Childers, left, hugs Donna Bell after the jury's verdict. Their husbands, Ricky Childers and Randy Bell, were killed by Hank Earl Carr. [Times photo: Tony Lopez]
Defense attorney John Kromholz said Bowen reacted with shock and disbelief at the verdicts.

"She's feeling so stupid in hindsight, how she got tied up with this man," he said.

Bowen, 25, was ordered held without bail until her July 6 sentencing. She faces 12 to 15 years in prison.

Kromholz said he believes there are solid issues to be raised on appeal, such as the witness who blurted out that he saw Bowen with marijuana.

This week, jurors spent three days hearing testimony about the relationship between Bowen and Carr, a motorcycle-riding couple who friends said loved guns and hated cops. Carr was a ticking time bomb, a wanted felon who kept a hidden handcuff key and swore he would not be taken back to prison.

Bowen, a former Kmart clerk, vowed to stay by his side and go down "in a blaze of glory" when police finally caught up with her man, prosecutor Shirley Williams said. Bowen deliberately did not tell police his real name or inform them of his record or his handcuff key during the investigation that day, she said.

In the trial's emotional climax, Bowen took the stand and broke down in anguished sobs when shown photographs of her fatally wounded son. She admitted she gave police the name of her ex-husband for Carr but said she too was afraid of her violent, abusive boyfriend.

She insisted she began helping police after learning the detectives had been killed. Prosecutors said she was simply buying Carr time.

In the jury room, three men and three women listened to several taped interviews with Bowen. When specifically asked, she told police Carr had not abused her.

The trial was emotional, and at times, graphic. At least two jurors were visibly upset at photographs of the slain officers and the little boy. In the jury room, those pictures stayed tucked in an envelope.

Juror Elizabeth Perry called it "an emotional week."

"We had no doubts in our minds that we made the right decision, but it was not an easy decision," she said. "It was not easy to listen to the testimony. It was not easy to come out and say she was guilty, even though we knew she was guilty."

Bonded by the intense experience, a few jurors exchanged e-mail addresses as they parted.

Outside the courthouse, families of the slain men expressed relief. Childers' parents shook hands with Bowen's attorney.

"I"ll still miss my dad," said 27-year-old Corky Childers, the detective's son. "I'll still miss him."

Tampa police Detective Bobby Holland remembered seeing Bell and Childers in the homicide squad room that day just as they were leaving with Carr.

"I was typing some paperwork and kind of looked up when they walked out," he said. "And that was the last time I saw them."'

"It was a long year," he said.

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