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Carr's rampage: Those left behind

'Real immediate' about life

After her husband's death, Vickie Childers-Metzler felt her mind playing tricks.

The widow of slain Detective Ricky Childers, would forget to turn on the lights in her home or to buy groceries. She couldn't sleep and walked her dog at 2 a.m. She refused to clean the ashtray that held his last cigarette.

A doctor diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I couldn't separate myself from Ricky's death," she said. "It's like, okay, Ricky died, so my personal life is over. (The doctor) asked me, 'Are you getting out, are you doing social things?' I said, 'Well, really, why would I do that?' (The doctor) said, 'Do you realize you didn't have to die at the same time Ricky did? He would not have wanted you to die at the same time he did.' "

It was a year before she began to heal. Now retired from a civilian job at TPD and remarried to a former Tampa police officer, the 58-year-old petite blond feels she has learned to live again.

"I was fortunate because I met someone who, first of all, really understood that period and what had happened," she says. "I really met someone who wanted to help me rebuild."

But she still suffers periods of sadness and painful reminders. She feels all the pain changed her way of seeing the world.

"Pay attention to the things you say you want to do," she says. "You really need to do them now. I've just become real immediate about life. We never made it to Key West. We never made it on a cruise."

Abbie VanSickle, Times staff writer

'Time has helped to heal a little'

Mike Crooks, father of slain Trooper Brad Crooks, is 63 and semiretired, but he still keeps a few cattle. Clewiston, where he lives, is the sweet, small town it always was. He bumps into his son's friends some days and it feels good.

"You never stop thinking about it," Mike says. "But time has helped to heal a little."

People from all over the country offered donations, and the Crooks family started a scholarship fund.

His other son lives with his three children in Michigan. "He's gone on, too. He's got a family to raise."

Mike's wife, Vivian, died this time last year. By then, they had stopped going to law enforcement memorials. It was just too difficult.

His voice breaks at the mention of her. He grieves alone now, trying not to think too much about all he has lost. "I've just moved on. You have to go on."

Molly Moorhead, Times staff writer

A reminder of a cop's vulnerability

After chasing Hank Earl Carr up Interstate 75 at 110 mph, Jim Campbell worked eight more years with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office before retiring.

His brush with Carr tore up the inside cage of his patrol cruiser with bullet holes.

"Being shot at didn't bother me," said Campbell, a Vietnam combat veteran. "How close he was getting to my head was bothering me. I actually tried to shove my shotgun through one of the bullet holes in the windshield.

Now, Campbell keeps the shattered cage as a reminder of the officers' vulnerability that day.

Molly Moorhead, Times staff writer

'I don't even

think of him'

When Carr put a bullet in trucker Christopher Espinosa's arm, that was only the beginning.

Ten years have been hard on Espinosa, 65.

He lost his trucking job. Then a daughter died in a bathtub fall. Then his kidneys shut down. A few months ago, he fell and broke his leg and hip.

He lives with his daughter in Delaware watching Law & Order, waiting for a blue bus to take him to dialysis. He uses a walker and wheelchair.

"I can't blame him for what happened in my life," Espinosa says.

The silver lining of so much bad luck?

Espinosa has pretty much forgotten the name Hank Earl Carr.

"I don't even think of him.

"No.

"Nah."

Justin George, Times staff writer

Carr's rampage: Those left behind 05/16/08 [Last modified: Saturday, May 17, 2008 6:32pm]
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