NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Her husband at her side, her children just hours away, Bobbi Parker (search) headed home to Oklahoma on Wednesday for the first time since she vanished along with an inmate after a prison break 11 years ago.
Parker, the wife of an assistant warden, disappeared with fugitive killer Randolph Dial (search) in 1994 during his escape from an Oklahoma prison. Dial was arrested Monday, and authorities believe he kept Parker from escaping all those years by threatening to hurt her family.
"Our indications are from our initial investigation that she was in fact kidnapped and held against her will," Oklahoma City FBI spokesman Gary Johnson said Wednesday.
Parker, 42, spent Tuesday night with her husband, Randy Parker, who was an assistant warden when Dial escaped and is now warden of a different prison. Nacogdoches County Justice of the Peace Donna Clayton witnessed their reunion earlier Tuesday.
"They just looked at each other, and both of them took a deep breath, and the next thing I knew, both of them were hugging and crying," Clayton said. "I think on both their parts it was, 'Are you really there?"'
A tip generated by the TV show "America's Most Wanted (search)" led law enforcement to Dial, who was arrested at a mobile home in Campti, a tiny community near the Louisiana border.
While some questioned how Bobbi Parker could have been held so long against her will, her boss said Wednesday that the mother of two was imprisoned by fear and stayed with her captor to protect her family.
"She sacrificed her life for her family's safety," said Martha Rash, who along with her husband owns the chicken farm where Parker and Dial lived and worked for five years.
Rash said that before Dial's arrest she thought Dial controlled Parker and that the pair seemed to be running from something, but she had no idea he was an escaped killer. Rash said Parker told her more about the relationship after Dial's arrest.
Rash said Dial convinced Parker that he had close ties to the Mafia and would harm her family if she left. She said those fears persisted even as Parker anticipated Wednesday's reunion with two daughters she could only dream about for 11 years.
"She still, I think, was in that kind of state," Rash said. "Even now, she fears for her children."
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 in Granite and ran an inmate pottery program with Bobbi Parker.
Dial, who had access to the Parkers' home and staff housing on prison grounds, allegedly took Parker at knifepoint in the family's minivan in 1994.
Dial waived extradition and arrived at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester early Wednesday and was placed in the top-security unit, Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie said.
Dial told reporters in a jailhouse interview Tuesday that he had held Parker hostage and that their relationship was never romantic.
"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."
The FBI (search) and Oklahoma law enforcement officials were still deciding who will lead the investigation, said Richard Goss of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
Clayton, the justice of the peace, said Randy Parker spent a lot of time talking to his wife about their daughters, who were 8 and 10 when she disappeared. He said they remembered her as a good mother, and Clayton said Bobbi Parker was "soaking it all up."
The younger daughter will graduate from high school this year, and the older daughter has plans to go to nursing school.
Rash said the couple shared the same concern when they were reunited: that the other had moved on and wouldn't be interested in getting back together. But Rash and Clayton said it didn't take long for that fear to subside.
"I would say that they were inseparable," Clayton said. "I don't think either one of them wanted to let the other out of their sight."