OKLAHOMA CITY – A convicted murderer and a deputy warden's wife who disappeared nearly 11 years ago have been found living together and raising chickens in Texas (search). The woman said she was held captive the whole time, staying with the killer out of fear her family would be harmed if she fled.
Bobbi Parker (search), 42, was reunited with her husband Tuesday as authorities tried to piece together details of the strange case. "It looked like a husband and wife who hadn't seen each other in 11 years," Texas Ranger Tom Davis said of the emotional reunion.
A tip generated by the TV show "America's Most Wanted" (search) led law enforcement to a mobile home in Campti, Texas, where escaped convict Randolph Dial was arrested Monday, said FBI agent Salvador Hernandez. Parker was found a short time later working at a nearby chicken farm; the two were living under assumed names in the trailer outside Campti, a tiny town near the Louisiana border.
The couple have two daughters, who were 8 and 10 at the time of the disappearance. The family still lives in Oklahoma, where the escape occurred.
Tanya Joy Parker, the sister of Randy Parker, said the two children did not make the trip to Texas. "They are elated, but after 10 years you'd be a little stunned," she said.
Sheriff Newton Johnson had said that Bobbi Parker wanted to stay on the chicken farm, but Hernandez said this was a misinterpretation. Hernandez said that while it is unusual for someone to be held against one's will for so long, it is not unprecedented.
"There have been cases of this kind and typically this will result when someone believes family members might be in danger," Hernandez said.
The FBI continued to question Bobbi Parker on Tuesday in Texas.
Residents of Campti thought something wasn't quite right about the pair over the years. They kept to themselves, never engaged in any personal conversations and avoided going to the nearby town of Center. Their trailer is secluded, near a red dirt road and sitting on a wooded lot across from five long metal chicken houses.
"We just thought they might have a couple of warrants or something," said Renae Almaguer, who once worked at a convenience store where the couple shopped for beer, cigarettes, gas and quick groceries. She said she told co-workers "something ain't right with them people."
Dial, a sculptor and painter, was convicted of the 1981 murder of a karate instructor. He had obtained trusty status at the Oklahoma State Reformatory, and he ran an inmate pottery program with Bobbi Parker and had access to the couple's home during the day in staff housing on prison grounds.
Bobbi Parker's mother received a phone call from her the night of the 1994 disappearance traced to Hurst, Texas. "I can't talk now," she said, crying. "I'm OK. Tell the kids I'll see them soon."
A day later, she made a second call, this time from Fort Worth to a friend. It was the last message her family got from her. "Tell the kids I love them and I'll be home soon," she said.
In a jailhouse interview with reporters Tuesday, Dial, 60, said he took Parker at knifepoint when he escaped.
"I was a hostage-taker and will probably live to regret it," Dial said. "But now I don't. Doing a life sentence, at my age, I wouldn't trade it for the past 10 1/2 years."
Dial said their relationship was never romantic and that they lived in separate rooms. He likened Parker's relationship to him as "Stockholm Syndrome," where kidnapping victims become sympathetic to their captors over time, often out of fear of violence.
"She was living under the impression if she ever tried to get away, I would get away and I would make her regret it, particularly toward her family," Dial said. "I didn't mean it, but she didn't know that."
But some residents said if the woman they knew as "Sam" was being threatened, she didn't act like it.
Almaguer said Parker regularly came into the store by herself to cash Dial's payroll check. She said clerks sometimes told her the bank would cash it for her, but Parker would say she was too busy, or didn't want to make the two-mile drive to town.
When Parker did go to town to shop at the main grocery store, she wore a straw gardener's hat — pulled tightly to her head with a scarf — and a baggy dress, Almaguer said. She said people would laugh at how she looked, as if she was in disguise, Almaguer said.
Charles Sasser, a former Tulsa homicide detective who wrote a book about Dial, said the escaped inmate called him in 2001. Sasser also said he spoke with Bobbi Parker, and heard nothing from either one to indicate Parker was held against her will.
"I don't believe it," he said. "I spoke to her and told her to call her children."
Sasser notified the FBI, but agents were unable to determine where the Dial call came from.
Dial said he lived in other Texas towns, including Houston, before moving to Campti. The sheriff estimated Dial had lived in the area about five years.
"Being a small, rural East Texas area, I guess it felt like a good place to be," he said.