“This just shows the extent of the pain that murder victims’ families bear.” Hillar Moore III, district attorney
The colorful race car that was on display Friday downtown is a rolling labor of love and tribute to Neal Hawkins’ son and nephew, who were murdered within a year of each other.
It also serves as an unusual “thank you” on wheels to the local prosecutors and law enforcement officials who helped convict the killers of the two young men.
The open-wheel modified dirt-track racer, which Hawkins spent $42,000 to build, sports portraits of Corey Leigh Hawkins, 26, who was shot to death Oct. 29, 2005, and Drew Dale Hawkins, 21, who was fatally shot Nov. 19, 2004. A portrait covering the roof shows Corey Hawkins in a U.S. Navy uniform, the branch of the military in which he served.
The car bears the numbers 44 and 79 because Neal Hawkins’ son Corey was born April 4, 1979. The car also carries the name of Dakota Sky Racing, taken from the name of Corey Hawkins’ daughter, Dakota Sky Bergeron Hawkins, who was born four months after Corey Hawkins died.
The car also pays a special thanks to the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office, the Police Department and the State Police Crime Lab by specifically naming District Attorney Hillar Moore III; Assistant District Attorney Barry Fontenot, the lead prosecutor on both murder cases; other prosecutors and investigators in Moore’s office; police homicide detective Chris Johnson and State Police firearms examiner Jeff Goudeau.
“I just wanted to do this in memory of my son and nephew,” mechanic Neal Hawkins said as he stood holding Dakota outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse, where Corey and Drew Hawkins’ killers were tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
“One of these days she’s going to say, ‘I can’t believe my Paw Paw did this,’ ” Hawkins said of his 6-year-old granddaughter.
The car also is inscribed with the message, “In memory of my daddy. Luv, Dakota Sky.”
“This just shows the extent of the pain that murder victims’ families bear,” Moore said after talking with Hawkins about the car. “It’s really rewarding to the prosecutors who tried the cases.”
Fontenot, a veteran prosecutor, said the unusual recognition was a first for him.
“We’re happy that the family chose to show their appreciation,” he said. “It’s an honor.”
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this dude,” Hawkins said of Fontenot.
Hawkins said the car races at speeds of 80 mph to 130 mph, depending on the track.
“I’m hoping we can go out and win some races in memory of Corey,” Chris Buhler, the car’s driver, said. Buhler said Dakota Sky Racing takes part in races in Mississippi, Florida and other states. A covered trailer that transports the car bears the same tributes as those found on the car.
Hawkins said he has two other race cars.
Corey Hawkins, of Baton Rouge, was shot to death outside the now-defunct Plantation Inn at Airline Highway and Bluebonnet Boulevard. Ricky Davis, a Hurricane Katrina evacuee from New Orleans, was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing. The Plantation Inn was demolished in 2007 to make way for the Bluebonnet Square retail strip center.
Drew Hawkins was fatally shot by George Hughes, of Baker, at Hawkins’ apartment in Central. Hughes was the father of Drew Hawkins’ girlfriend.