Driving While Demented

On May 8, Betty Bowen of Pompano Beach, an 81-year-old white woman, made an illegal left turn into oncoming traffic on northbound State Road 7 in Tamarac and creamed a black man riding a motorcycle.

Witnesses told police that other cars stopping short for Bowen's bad move prevented Reginald Ervin, 41, from seeing her car until it was too late. Colliding with the front end of Bowen's Chevy Cavalier, Ervin was thrown from his bike, his helmet was knocked off, and he flew 30 feet onto a grassy swale. Less than two hours after the accident, Ervin was pronounced dead at Broward General Medical Center.

But things could have gone much worse for Betty Bowen.

For one, she came away without a scratch.

For another thing, she was wearing eyeglasses that she knew were not the correct prescription and made a turn that someone with good vision would not have made, but she won't be charged with a crime.

She wasn't even ticketed for the illegal turn.

Still, the woman is outraged that she lost her driver's license and cites only one real benefit in the crash. Bowen says she's glad she has helped "get rid of the niggers."

"One more off this Earth," she says.

Broward Sheriff's Office Det. Bruce Babcock recommended to the State of Florida that Bowen's license be revoked, but he did not give her a traffic ticket. Instead, he brought her canned goods after the incident.

Ervin's mother, Helen Williams, tells New Times that Babcock told her he didn't charge Bowen because of her age. But the detective denies it.

"There's nothing criminal involved in it," he said in a telephone interview. "For it to be a criminal case, you need one of three things: leaving the scene, DUI manslaughter, or willful and wanton disregard for life. It doesn't fall under any of those categories. You had an elderly lady with indications that she shouldn't have her license."

The number-one indication: Bowen tried to make a left onto SR 7 at a place where there's a median separating the southbound and northbound lanes. After she began her turn from NW 49th Street, there was nowhere to go but into oncoming traffic. According to accident reports, Bowen then realized her mistake and tried to make a U-turn across four lanes. Autos in the first three lanes slowed down but blocked Ervin's view as he approached at 45 mph in the right lane. Witnesses said Ervin had no chance as Bowen pulled in front of him, his motorcycle colliding with her front right bumper.

But that's not how Bowen remembers it.

The petite Wisconsin native has an apple-shaped belly and electric blue eyes. Though she rarely leaves her Pompano Beach condo, Bowen takes good care of her long hair, the outer layer of which she often dyes red and pulls back in two combs at either side of her square forehead. The bright gray bottom layer blends with red strands as they wind down past her uneven bustline.

"They took the wrong boob off," she says, to account for her shape. "Right over there at the butcher shop. Didn't give me any anesthetic. I had a towel over my face. Son of a bitch — he's a foreigner."

Betty says the man responsible for her botched mastectomy is called Ejah, but she can't be sure. After all, this happened five years ago, around the same time her health began to slip.

In addition to breast cancer, Bowen says she has "a fever in her feet," which may or may not be nerve damage related to diabetes. She believes she recently suffered a mild stroke but was able to recover. Her arms are covered in red spots she calls "nerves," and her blood pressure hovers around 200, she says. But Bowen has no doctor and takes no medication, save the blood pressure pills she once received as a sample.

"Fraud and lip service," she says of all her experiences with doctors.

Her pills sit neatly on her coffee table among nail clippers, a pair of glasses from the drugstore, tweezers, a razor, a mirror, a toothbrush, a file, baby powder, Tums, candles, cologne, and 11 pens. Having the items close at hand is necessary, as Bowen does not leave the couch very often. But she was delighted when she learned that a reporter was coming over. Bowen is fired up to talk about "that Negro son of a gun" and his "whaddaya call it? Road raging."

Bowen had set out that day for an oil change, an ambitious 25-minute drive to Phil Smith Chevrolet in Lauderhill. She hadn't ventured from the half-mile stretch of Sample Road in front of her home in months, but she had a coupon for a free oil change at the dealership.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ashley Harrell
Contact: Ashley Harrell