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Family observes final rites for Carr


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 1998

TAMPA -- While thousands gathered at the Tampa Convention Center on Saturday to honor two police officers slain in the line of duty, across town a much simpler ceremony was under way for their killer.

Hank Earl Carr, who shot 4-year-old Joey Bennett before killing three law enforcement officers and taking his own life, was cremated at Florida Mortuary on north Nebraska Avenue in Tampa. His ashes were released to relatives.

Carr's family held a brief prayer service Saturday inside his mother's home in north Tampa, with only family members and his girlfriend, Bernice Bowen, the mother of Joey, present, family members said.

Neighbors and old girlfriends recalled Carr as an abusive man with an explosive temper, but Carr's family said he was a loving man goaded into his killing rampage by the police officers investigating the boy's shooting.

"They told him he was going to fry for Joey's death," said Bernice Bowen's sister, Rose Hayes. Hayes said Carr feared he would be blamed for Joey's death, which Carr insisted was an accident.

Hayes and her mother, Connie Bowen, remain in Tampa for a hearing this morning to determine the temporary custody of Joey's sister, 5-year-old Kayla Bennett, who witnessed her brother's shooting. The state Department of Children and Families placed Kayla in an emergency foster home after the incident. Connie Bowen, Kayla's grandmother, previously had custody of the children in Ohio and had allowed them a visit with their mother in Florida.

"All I can say at this time is that we hope Kayla is placed in a safe home environment with family," Hayes said Monday.

Hayes said Bernice Bowen had been allowed a visit with Kayla, and that the little girl had not yet been told of her brother's death.

"With everything that's happened, they're going to wait until she's psychologically ready," Hayes said.

Meanwhile, Connie Bowen made arrangements for her grandson's funeral to be held in Marietta, Ohio, later this week. She said police had not yet released Joey's body, but that she hoped to have services for him by Friday.

Joey was shot to death in the morning hours of May 19 in the north Tampa apartment his mother shared with Carr, her live-in boyfriend. Hours later, Carr gunned down veteran Tampa police detectives Randy Bell and Ricky Childers in their car while they held him for questioning in connection with Joey's death.

With his hands cuffed in front of him, Carr used a handcuff key he had hidden on him to unlock his handcuffs in the back seat. He then reached over the front seat, grabbed Childers' gun and used it to shoot both detectives. He escaped to later kill Florida Highway Patrol Trooper James B. Crooks in Pasco County. He also shot and injured a truck driver before taking a hostage and finally killing himself in a Shell gasoline station in Hernando County.

Tampa police have said Bernice Bowen is under investigation for child neglect and for obstruction for not telling them that Carr was using a false name.

Michael Bowen, Joey and Kayla Bennett's grandfather, said he and Connie Bowen grieve not only for their grandson but for the other victims, as well.

"We'd like to express our deepest sympathy to the families of the three slain police officers," Michael Bowen said, "and we'd appreciate everybody's prayers for their families and for us getting our granddaughter back home."

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