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Killer's girlfriend arrested


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 29, 1998

TAMPA -- Bernice Alane Bowen will have to answer in a court of law for leaving her two young children alone with Hank Earl Carr, the volatile boyfriend who shot her 4-year-old son in the head, Tampa police said.

Beyond two counts of aggravated child abuse filed Thursday against Bowen, other charges are forthcoming, Sgt. Dan Grossi said during a news conference Thursday at Tampa police headquarters.

Bernice Bowen is being held at the Hillsborough County Jail because police say she is a flight risk. [Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Carr fatally shot Joey Bennett on May 19, then killed two Tampa police detectives, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper and himself. Officers don't know if the boy's death was accidental, as Carr and Bowen claimed.

In recent months, child welfare caseworkers had a "gut feeling" something was wrong at the home. Bowen had agreed she wouldn't leave her children in Carr's care, said Tom Jones, spokesman for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Police said she did not honor that agreement and must be held accountable.

"Miss Bowen knowingly had Hank Carr in her apartment. They were boyfriend/girlfriend," said Grossi, of the homicide division. "His propensity for violence, his use of firearms and subsequent to violating that agreement, little Joey Bennett died."

Bowen, 24, was charged with a second-degree felony for leaving Joey with Carr, and a third-degree felony for leaving his 5-year-old sister, Kayla, alone with Carr, a convicted felon wanted on warrants in several states.

Kayla is in protective custody.

Bowen was being held without bail Thursday night at the Hillsborough County Jail.

Police arrested Bowen after a traffic stop about 3 p.m. Thursday. She was riding in her sister's car on Busch Boulevard near Chamberlain High School.

Officers handcuffed Bowen, placed her in the front seat of a detective's blue Ford Mustang and took her to police headquarters.

Prosecutors have said Bowen could face other charges, ranging from obstruction of justice to accessory to murder.

Steve Cole, spokesman for the Tampa Police Department, said investigators were worried that Bowen might try to leave the state, since her son is to be buried in Ohio.

"She's from Ohio, her boy's going back to Ohio; we wanted to get her before she goes back to Ohio," Cole said.

Bowen's sister, Rose Hayes, 23, who was with her when she was arrested, said, "Nobody wants her to get out of this . . . but they don't know what she's been through."

Hayes gave a letter, which she said Bowen had written before she was arrested, to a Times reporter later Thursday. In the letter, Bowen apologized to the wives of the slain officers.

She portrayed herself as a victim who didn't know the extent of Carr's violent history. "I was not aware of Hank's background. Nor was I about to ask questions. He was physically and mentally abusive toward me," she wrote.

Tampa officers say Bowen gave investigators a false name for Carr when they questioned her the day of her son's death.

Unaware of Carr's extensive arrest record, detectives allowed him to keep his handcuffs in front of him and ride in an unmarked car without a protective screen between the front and back seats.

On the way to headquarters, Carr used his own hidden handcuff key to free himself, grab a gun and shoot Detectives Randy Bell and Ricky Childers.

Bowen also gave child welfare case-workers a false name for her live-in boyfriend, according to authorities.

Bowen's arrest affidavit report read: "She told this investigator she did know her boyfriend's real name was Hank Carr. She also knew he carried a firearm in his pants most of the time."

It also said Bowen has "pawned and reclaimed many firearms over the last few months."

Grossi said Bowen's involvement with the weapons put her children at risk.

"Guns are a principal factor in these charges," Grossi said.

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