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Survivors are offered financial aid

By RICHARD DANIELSON and SUSAN CLARY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 21, 1998


TAMPA -- Even as Tampa Bay extended its sympathy to the families of three law enforcement officers slain Tuesday, officials arranged for ongoing financial and emotional support.

Florida Highway Patrol Maj. Ken Howes said support to Trooper James Crooks' family will come from several sources: state life insurance and workers' compensation, highway patrol trust and insurance funds, the U.S. Justice Department and the Florida attorney general's victims compensation trust fund.

Similarly, city officials said support to the widows of Detectives Rick Childers and Randy Bell includes money from state and federal sources, as well as city employee life insurance, support from the Police Benevolent Association and benefits from the city's fire and police pension plan.

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Bell is survived by his wife, Donna, three daughters, age 10, 12 and 23, a 14-year-old stepdaughter and an 18-year-old stepson. Childers is survived by his wife, Vickie, the Police Department's records manager, as well as a 23-year-old son and a 25-year-old stepson.

"They are holding up as best they can under the circumstances," police Chief Bennie Holder said. "They wanted to thank the community for their support."

The Gold Shield Foundation, created by New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, gave $3,000 checks to Bell's and Childers' families for funeral expenses and will give one to Crooks' parents.

As in the past, the foundation will pay college tuition for the children and widows of the fallen officers. Contributions can be sent to P.O. Box 271791, Tampa, FL 33688.

Contributions can also be sent to the PBA, the union that represents Tampa police officers and will be split between the families. The PBA's address is 1703 N Tampa St., Suite 8, Tampa, FL 33602.

"A lady walked in our office and gave $8," PBA president Jim Thompson said. "She probably gave the last $8 she had."

Colleagues also offered moral support.

"I wanted to let them lean on me a little bit," said Wendy Epps, widow of Officer Norris Epps, who drowned after the crash of a police helicopter in 1995.


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