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One moment, one bullet snuff out a child's dreams

By AMY HERDY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 1998


TAMPA -- Joey Bennett dreamed the dreams of any 4-year-old boy whose world revolved around Barney and Batman.

Deadly Rampage
More coverage from the pages of the St. Petersburg Times.
He wanted to be a cowboy. He was a super hero who loved to whip around his neighborhood on a Batman bike.

But mostly, it seems, he wanted to be loved.

After his parents divorced, they signed over custody of Joey and his sister, Kayla, to their grandmother. Joey stood at his grandmother's kitchen table and watched his father, Joseph Bennett, give him up with a signature on a piece of paper.

"He turned to Joseph and said, "Daddy, I'll be good if you'll take me home with you,' " the grandmother, Connie Bowen, recalled.

Later, following much pleading, Connie Bowen let her daughter Bernice take Joey and Kayla.

On Tuesday morning, Joey was waiting to go for a swimming lesson with the other man he knew as dad, Hank Earl Carr, who kept an arsenal in the family's home. Carr's mother has said he planned to rent a motel room to give them access to a pool. Instead, Carr shot Joey in the head, police say, as a horrified Kayla watched.

The brother Kayla called Bubba Dude was dead at 4. Hours later, three police officers were dead, too, and the loss of a little boy's life was eclipsed by the enormity of the day's events.

On Friday, Joey's grandmother sought to bring some recognition to his short life.

"He was a beautiful child. He didn't have a chance," Connie Bowen said, as she made plans to bury her only grandson in her hometown of Marietta, Ohio. Plans for the service were incomplete Friday.

Connie Bowen was in the hospital room when Bernice Bowen delivered Joey by Caesarean section in 1993, and she heard her grandson's first scream. "He was blue as a button," she said.

Despite the problems in the lives of the adults around him, the little boy had a sunny disposition, relatives said.

On a trip to Arizona, he became attached to an uncle's black cowboy hat, and someone bought him little cowboy boots to match.

He had a gray-and-white kitten named Joey. He had a pet dove named Vicki. He played on his swing set in Ohio, and when he moved to Tampa he got a Batman bike and child's size-9 Batman shoes.

"I've got brand new shoes now, Grandma, I can really make that bike go," he said in a telephone call to his grandmother in Ohio.

Joey was good at playing his Sega video game, and he could count to 100, recite his ABCs and print his name. He also was mischievous.

There was the day he went fishing in his grandmother's aquarium. His aunt walked in to find the fish flopping on a table.

"I'm going fishing, Aunt Rosie," he told her.

"He was delightful," said his aunt, Rose Hayes. "We loved him. We needed him as much as he needed us, and it's going to be hard to exist without him."

On his last phone call to his grandmother, Joey asked her to send him a toy gun. Plastic guns were his favorite toys, she said.

Next week, Bowen plans to bury the gun with Joey.
-- Times staff writer Marty Rosen contributed to this report.


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