MANGUM, Okla. – A decade after a convicted killer escaped from an Oklahoma prison and vanished along with the assistant warden's pretty young wife, the two were found living together on a Texas chicken ranch.
Now, the woman, Bobbi Parker, is back with her husband and fighting in court to prove she was a kidnap victim, not a lovestruck accomplice to the escape.
On Tuesday, a judge ruled Parker, now 46, must stand trial on charges she helped Randolph Dial break out of the Oklahoma State Reformatory in Granite.
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The ruling came after evidence was presented at a preliminary hearing that Parker and Dial shared a bed for a decade and acted like husband and wife.
During the hearing, Parker's soft-spoken husband, Randy Parker, chatted with his wife and occasionally leaned on the back of her chair. He has said only that the couple's marriage is strong and that they are looking forward to putting the case behind them.
Dial began spending time with Bobbi Parker while she oversaw a pottery program at the prison. With a charming personality and a gift for gab, Dial was granted minimum-security status and allowed to roam the prison grounds with little oversight.
The inmate and the assistant warden's wife worked together in the pottery shop in her garage on the prison grounds. They were also seen sipping coffee on her porch swing.
Their behavior didn't look right, Jack Cowley, the former warden of the prison, testified at the hearing. He said he was considering moving the pottery shop into another building when the pair disappeared.
"You don't sit on the front porch and drink coffee," Cowley said. "Just the appearance would be an impropriety."
Dial, who died in 2007 at age 62, pleaded guilty to escape and maintained until his death that he kidnapped Parker at knifepoint and forced her to drive him from the prison.
"I was a hostage-taker and will probably live to regret it," Dial said in a jailhouse interview shortly after his capture. "But now I don't. Doing a life sentence, at my age, I wouldn't trade it for the past 10 1/2 years."
But prosecutors painted a different picture, claiming Bobbi Parker fell in love with the con man and ran off with him. They said a search of the pair's East Texas trailer, which had only one bed, uncovered photographs, cards they exchanged, a box of condoms, Viagra instructions, a vibrating sex toy and a love letter she wrote to him.
Prosecutors also said it wasn't the first time Parker had inappropriate relationships, including sexual contact, with inmates at prisons where her husband worked.
Parker told investigators she and Dial never were intimate, that she wasn't attracted to Dial and that the sex toy was a gag gift from a friend. She said she stayed with him out of fear he would harm her family.
An author who wrote a book on the escape, Charles Sasser, testified Tuesday that he spoke to the couple while they were on the run and said their relationship was like that of "two old married people." Sasser said he asked Dial over the telephone whether Bobbi Parker was still alive.
"He said, `Of course she's still alive. She's right here. Do you want to talk to her?"' Sasser recalled.
Bobbi Parker then took the phone and talked briefly to Sasser, who said he encouraged her to call her children, who were 7 and 10 when she disappeared, to let them know she was safe. Sasser said Parker responded that it might be better if her children thought she was dead.
Parker's attorney said she stayed with Dial out of fear.
"From the get-go, Dial was intimidating to her," said attorney Rick Cunningham. "He threatened her and her family, her two daughters ... and that became an oppressive part of that situation. She kind of resigned herself to her fate."
Parker told investigators that she began to feel woozy on the day of the escape, possibly from being drugged, and that she recalls Dial carrying her to the van that the couple escaped in.
The judge who presided over the preliminary hearing did not buy it. In ordering her to trial on a charge that could bring 10 years in prison, Judge Brad Leverett said: "It's clear from the evidence the court has heard so far that Ms. Parker was not kidnapped in 1994 as she claimed."