Why Did 17-Year-Old Carlos Hallowell Kill His Mother? His Motives, Explained


Nov. 5 2021, Published 4:05 p.m. ET

In July of 2019, Florida resident Denise Hallowell was found dead in her own home. The 57-year-old mom of two had been brutally attacked with an ax. At the time of the tragedy, her then-17-year-old son Carlos Hallowell was home but claimed he had been napping. When he woke up, he discovered her body and immediately called 911. However, the evidence later pegged Carlos Hallowell as his mother's murderer.

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In Dateline: Horror at the Lake, correspondent Dennis Murphy shares the details of Denise Hallowell's murder as well as what Carlos Hallowell is currently up to. Keep reading to find out more.

Denise Hallowell and Carlos Hallowell
Source: NBC

Denise Hallowell and Carlos Hallowell

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Why did Carlos Hallowell kill his mother, Denise Hallowell?

In 2006, Denise Hallowell adopted then-4-year-old Carlos Hallowell from Guatemala. Over the years, their relationship appeared normal as she raised him and his younger brother in their lakefront home in Florida.

However, in 2015, Denise Hallowell was accused by her other son of abuse, according to Fox 13. The 12-year-old, who had been adopted from Honduras, claimed that Denise Hallowell had physically abused him by locking him inside his room and not feeding him.

At the time, Carlos Hallowell defended his mother regarding the claims his brother had made. The State Attorney's Office later cleared Denise Hallowell of those allegations.

But tensions later built up between Denise Hallowell and Carlos Hallowell in May 2019 after she learned that he had been expelled from school back in February and had kept it a secret.

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On Jul. 13, 2019, Carlos Hallowell called 911 to report that his mother was dying after being attacked with an ax. While he claimed he had been taking a nap during the attack, there were no visible signs of forced entry into the home, which made police think it was an inside job. At the time, Carlos Hallowell was the only person home with Denise Hallowell.

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Using home security cameras and cellphone data from both Denise Hallowell and Carlos Hallowell's cell phones, the police were able to track Carlos Hallowell's movements on that day. With that information, they were able to determine that Carlos Hallowell had murdered Denise Hallowell.

Denise Hallowell's house.
Source: NBC

Denise Hallowell's house.

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Carlos Hallowell later tried to alter his story by claiming that he and his mother had gotten into an argument on the day of her killing. During this alleged tiff, Denise Hallowell said she was going to stop paying for his schooling because he wanted to attend a technical college.

Carlos Hallowell also claimed that his mother had been verbally abusive to him in the past, as well as critical of his grades and friend group. To get his anger out, he would often chop wood with an ax.

He eventually confessed that on the day of this argument, he grabbed his ax from the shed and used it to harm his mother. Despite this confession, however, he decided to not plead guilty at the trial for his mom's murder.

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Denise Hallowell
Source: NBC

Where is Carlos Hallowell now?

Carlos Hallowell is currently serving out a lifelong prison sentence. It is unclear where he was placed. He will be eligible for a sentence review after serving 25 years. He received this sentence and was found guilty of premeditated murder during the trial in July of 2021, nearly two years after the murder. According to the Citrus County Chronicle, he was considered for death row but was ruled not eligible as he was a minor when he committed the crime.

The prosecution ultimately argued that Carlos Hallowell had spent around 30 mimutes preparing himself for the crime. During this time, they claimed he had collected the weapon from the locked shed and then spent some time sharpening it.

Dateline airs on Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

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