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Killer's girlfriend to get new trial

Bernice Bowen will get a new day in court after all.

The Florida Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a decision in her case, setting the stage for a new trial for the onetime girlfriend of murderer Hank Earl Carr.

Bowen, 28, was accused of helping Carr evade arrest on the day in May 1998 that he killed her 4-year-old son, two Tampa police detectives who had him in custody, and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper who was chasing him.

In 1999, a jury found Bowen guilty on five counts of accessory after the fact to her son's death, the three officers' murders, and Carr's escape from police. But last year the 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned the convictions. The appeals court acquitted her of charges that she helped Carr after he killed her son and FHP Trooper James Crooks, and left open the possibility of a new trial on the remaining counts.

The Hillsborough County State Attorney's office vowed to bring Bowen back for a retrial on those remaining charges, which deal with Carr's escape and the murders of Tampa Detectives Ricky Childers and Randy Bell.

The retrial was delayed while lawyers at the Attorney General's Office asked the state's highest court last September to take up the case, with the hope the appellate court's ruling would be overturned.

The state Supreme Court declined to hear the case Friday.

Pam Bondi, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office, said the office still intends to pursue a retrial.

"It's been very emotional for the families involved, and the law enforcement community," Bondi said.

The case has also been controversial. Supporters of Bowen contend she is being made a scapegoat for Carr's crimes. On the day of the murders, Carr fled to Hernando County, holed up with a hostage in a gas station, and committed suicide rather than surrender.

Police say Bowen impeded their investigation, refusing to divulge Carr's real name and aliases or the fact that he carried a handcuff key that helped him escape police and kill them. As a result of rulings by the appeals court, prosecutors will not be able to mention the key at Bowen's second trial.

Whatever happens, Bowen will continue to serve a 15-year prison sentence on child neglect charges, to which she pleaded guilty.