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Fugitive Case Confounds Texas Town

Times Staff Writers

Bobbi Parker was a little shy and always in a bit of hurry, “like she had left a cake in the oven,” one acquaintance said.

But she was an independent woman, or so it seemed to the people she encountered in the Piney Woods of rural Texas. Every few weeks, she stopped to buy supplies for a local chicken farm. She cashed her paychecks at a convenience store and bought beer for the man she called her husband. She was always alone.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Apr. 13, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 13, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Fugitive case -- A photo caption with an article about captured fugitive Randolph Dial in Thursday’s Section A said he was sent to an Oklahoma prison in 1981 after he confessed to murdering Kelly Hogan. Dial was imprisoned after confessing to the murder in 1986.

If she had wanted to leave, said James Chandler, who works at the farm supply store, “all she had to do was just keep on driving.”

This week, police stormed Parker’s mobile home and arrested Randolph Dial, convicted in the 1981 murder of a karate teacher in Oklahoma. Dial had been in hiding for 11 years, ever since escaping from prison by holding a knife to Parker’s throat while she drove him to freedom. She was the deputy warden’s wife.

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Authorities say they believe Parker’s contention that she had been held against her will all along -- not physically, but by threat of violence. Some of her acquaintances aren’t so convinced.

And an event that Chandler called the “biggest thing to ever hit” this isolated pocket of East Texas had people pondering questions that seemed preposterous just days ago.

Was Parker, 42, worried that Dial, 60, might harm her real family if she tried to escape?

Did she suffer from Stockholm syndrome, where kidnap victims become sympathetic to their abductors?

Or had the polite mother of two simply fallen for a blue-eyed, smooth-talking, professed hit man?

“In the last two days, I’ve heard so much stuff that I don’t know what to believe anymore,” Chandler said. “But I wonder about it. In 11 years, you would think she could have done something.”

In 1986, a drunken Dial confessed to the unsolved murder of Kelly Hogan. Five years earlier, Dial told investigators, he had knocked on Hogan’s door and shot him in the chest with a .38-caliber pistol.

Dial said that the mob had paid him $5,000, but investigators never figured out who, if anyone, had orchestrated the murder or why Hogan might have been the target.

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Dial’s wife at the time told investigators that he had turned her into a “robot,” unable to think for herself, and tricked her into helping him kill Hogan. She was shot and killed four months later; her murder was never solved.

Imprisoned in Granite, Okla., Dial was seen as a braggart and a storyteller, but was a model inmate, officials said. The former art teacher, who made delicate sculptures of women’s figures and painted scenes of sailboats and landscapes, soon gained trusty status; he persuaded officials to let him start an art program to make money for the prison and to help rehabilitate inmates.

Much of the project involved pottery, said Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie. Dial was given regular, unsupervised access to a kiln in Deputy Warden Randy Parker’s garage. Dial became a fixture in the Parker household. He and Bobbi were friendly, and she volunteered to work on his art program.

On the morning of Aug. 30, 1994, Bobbi Parker told her husband she was going shopping. When Randy Parker left for work, Dial was in the garage. By the end of the day, both he and Bobbi Parker were missing. So was the Parkers’ red minivan.

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That night, Bobbi Parker called her mother and passed along a message to her daughters, who were 8 and 10. “Tell the kids I’ll see them soon,” she said. She called twice more in the next few days, but was never heard from after that. Randy Parker, Massie said, “never gave up hope that she was alive.”

Together, Dial said during a news conference after his arrest, he and Bobbi Parker moved around Texas -- first to Houston, where he worked as a security guard, then south of Dallas. Five years ago, they ended up in Campti, which is little more than a collection of twisting, red-dirt roads and mobile homes on the Texas-Louisiana border.

They lived and worked on a 25-acre broiler farm, where chickens are raised until they are big enough to be taken to a processing plant. In exchange for their work, the pair received $500 a week and lived rent-free, said Shelby County Chief Deputy Kent Shaffer.

Dial told reporters it was an “honest living,” although it appeared to folks here that Parker did most of the work.

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“I never hardly saw them,” said Harold Bloodgood, 59, a logger who lives nearby. “They were way back in the woods.”

Dial, who told authorities that he never forgot that he was a fugitive, rarely left the farm. He attended a nearby Pentecostal church periodically with Parker, and once drove to Oklahoma City to attend an event held for the release of a book about his disappearance. Without making any effort to disguise himself, Dial got the author to autograph a copy for him. Undetected, he went back home.

Mostly, Dial left the shopping and driving duties to Parker. He made up a Social Security number and started going by the name Richard Deahl.

At some point, Parker began signing her receipts at the farm supply store “Samantha Deahl” and referred to him as her husband. She fretted to acquaintances about Dial’s heart condition, one of the few pieces of her life she ever discussed.

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But Josephine Nichols, 61, who lived across the road, said she thought something was amiss. Parker never talked about herself, Nichols said, just her chickens. And when they spoke, the conversation was brief. Parker was always looking over her shoulder -- apparently for Dial, who was rarely seen without his shotgun.

“She told me he was very jealous and that she was not allowed to talk to anybody,” Nichols said. “She never looked very happy. She never smiled. And why should she? She had nothing to look forward to.”

On Monday afternoon, acting on an anonymous tip from someone who saw Dial’s picture on the website for the television series “America’s Most Wanted,” authorities swarmed the farm. Dial had a loaded pistol on the table and his shotgun by the door, but he was taken into custody without a struggle, said FBI Special Agent Gary Johnson.

Dial was cooking lunch and watching a golf tournament when authorities arrived. He chuckled, Shaffer said, with sheriff’s deputies when he was led away from the house: “I was wondering when you were all going to get here.”

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Despite the contention from some in the community that Parker had not been held against her will, Dial said that he viewed himself as a kidnapper and that he had been “working on her.” He said he threatened to harm her or her daughters if she fled -- although, he said, he never meant it.

Shaffer said that though investigators found her story hard to believe, it did appear Dial had used “reverse psychology” to keep her from running.

“He said he made the good guys look bad and the bad guys look good,” Shaffer said.

Dial has been charged with escaping from a penal institution, said Greer County, Okla., Dist. Atty. John Wampler. Additional charges related to the abduction are likely. Dial is being held at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

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Wampler said there were no plans to charge Parker with a crime, provided her version of the events holds up.

“There is a question there that a lot of people have problems with, and that is why she didn’t call or contact someone,” he said. “The investigation is still open.”

Randy Parker is now the warden at the minimum-security William S. Key Correction Center in Fort Supply, Okla. He declined to comment through a spokesman.

The Parkers were reunited Tuesday in Nacogdoches, Texas, and they returned to Oklahoma together on Wednesday. The two embraced, wept and seemed no different than any other husband and wife who had been apart for a long time, said the officers who were there.

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“The reunion went well,” the FBI’s Johnson said.

Dial was given a chance to say goodbye to Parker.

“Be good to yourself,” he said he told her. “You’ve got it coming.”

Hart reported from Campti and Gold from Houston.

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