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Mystery of Missing Inmate and Woman Ends

1994 Escapee Is Found With Presumed Abductee

By Sylvia Moreno
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page A02

AUSTIN, April 6 -- Randolph Franklin Dial used to portray himself as the hero of his own novel, writing friends that he served in Vietnam as a member of Delta Force or that he was a CIA, Secret Service or FBI agent. He told others he was a hit man with Mafia connections.

What he was, in actuality, was an accomplished artist and sculptor, a convicted murderer, a prison escapee and the presumed kidnapper of the wife of the assistant warden of the prison from which he escaped in 1994. Today, he is the star of a bizarre mystery that ended Monday night after almost 11 years when federal, Oklahoma and Texas authorities found him in a mobile home, three miles off the nearest paved road in rural East Texas. Dial was sauteing steak for supper and, according to one official, said: "I had been thinking of when they were going to catch me. I had been looking for it, but I never saw this coming."

Randolph Franklin Dial was convicted of the 1981 murder of a karate instructor. He escaped from prison in 1994 with Parker, the assistant warden's wife. (ShelCounty Sheriff's Office Via AP)

On Wednesday, Dial, 60, was back in Oklahoma, held in the maximum-security penitentiary in McAlester. Bobbi Parker, 42, the woman he reportedly abducted when he escaped from the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite and who was found on the property outside the mobile home, was reunited with her husband. Randy Parker is now the warden of the William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply.

Dial's story is that he held Parker against her will -- under threat of death -- for more than 10 years.

"She was living under the impression that if she ever tried to get away, I would get away and I would make her regret it, particularly towards her family," Dial told reporters gathered at the Shelby County Jail in Texas on Tuesday, several hours after his arrest.

"I didn't mean it, but she didn't know that. . . .," Dial said. "I'm not workin' you. I'm just telling you I know what I'm capable of. I'm not capable of that, but she didn't know that."

Greer County District Attorney John Wampler, whose office will prosecute Dial on a prison escape charge, has ordered an investigation.

"We will be looking at all the facts surrounding this matter . . . to find out what actually occurred and what happened," the Oklahoma prosecutor said. "It would appear that kidnapping charges against Mr. Dial would be appropriate," he said. "Whether there's any reason to charge Ms. Parker with anything, I won't know until the investigation is complete."

He said Parker told authorities this week that she had been kidnapped and held against her will. Neither Parker nor her husband could be reached today.

The family reportedly got a call from Parker the night she disappeared, and a friend got a call from her a day later. In 2000, the FBI announced a $25,000 reward for information leading to Dial or Parker.

At the time of her abduction, Parker was running an inmate pottery program with Dial at the prison, where her husband then worked as assistant warden. As a trusty, Dial lived in minimum-security housing outside the prison walls; the Parkers and their two daughters lived in housing on the prison grounds.

The author of the true-crime book "At Large," which was based on Dial's case, does not believe the story that Parker had been forced to stay with Dial since 1994. Charles W. Sasser, a writer and a former Tulsa homicide detective, spoke to Dial and Parker by telephone in 2001, three years after "At Large" was published. Dial called him, Sasser said, to say he had read the book 12 times and to note that "you weren't always complimentary to me, but you were always fair and objective."

Sasser asked about Parker, and Dial said she was fine and put her on the phone. Sasser said he asked three questions to which only Parker would have known the answers and was satisfied that he was talking to the right woman. He said he asked how she was and urged her to call her family and let them know she was alive. "She said, 'I'm fine and I'm happy,' and . . . she said she wondered if it was better to let them [her family] keep thinking she was dead or to call them," Sasser said. He said he spoke to Dial for about an hour and called the FBI afterward. FBI attempts to trace Dial's call were unsuccessful, Sasser said.

Authorities were led to Dial and Parker this week by a tip generated by the TV show "America's Most Wanted," which featured the case. The two had been running a chicken farm in Campti, near the Louisiana border, for the past 5 1/2 years. They lived in a two-bedroom trailer in the woods. Dial told authorities he rarely ventured off the property. Instead, he sent Parker on errands to nearby Center, including to the town's grocery store, across the street from the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.

"We're looking across the highway at the store," Chief Deputy Kent Shaffer said. "She could have driven in here instead. We sure would have helped her out, I guarantee you."

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