By Steve Olafson
OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - An Oklahoma prison warden's wife claimed she was kidnapped when she and a convicted murderer vanished for nearly 11 years, while police were certain she was in love with the man and helped him escape.
After a trial that lasted throughout the summer, a jury agreed with police and found Bobbi Parker, 49, guilty on Wednesday of helping Randolph Franklin Dial escape. They recommended she serve a year in prison.
Parker spent nearly 11 years on the run with Dial, a gray-haired, bearded sculptor who befriended the assistant warden's wife through a prison-based pottery class in Granite, Oklahoma.
Dial, who was serving a life sentence for murder when he escaped, was a manipulative and egotistical "ladies man," District Attorney John Wampler said after the verdict.
"He could talk a good talk. I suspect he probably charmed her and she became enthralled with that," he said.
Parker's attorneys maintained she was threatened, a defense upheld by Dial's own recorded statement. Dial died of lung cancer in 2007 at age 62, but his statement was played during the trial. Parker did not testify on her own behalf.
District Judge Richard Darby scheduled formal sentencing for October 6. Judges in Oklahoma nearly always follow sentencing recommendations made by juries, Wampler said.
Parker and Dial were discovered by authorities in April 2005 when a tipster alerted the TV show "America's Most Wanted" that they were posing as a married couple while living and working on a chicken farm in rural east Texas.
Parker was returned to her husband and Dial was returned to prison, where he told authorities Parker was innocent of wrongdoing and acted out of fear from the threats he made.
Prosecutors in Mangum, Oklahoma, didn't file criminal charges until three years after Parker was reunited with her husband Randy and their two daughters, who were 8 and 10 years old when she vanished.
Her husband, Randy Parker, is still employed by the corrections system but no longer works at the prison.
He testified in her defense, telling jurors he still loved his wife and had a good relationship with her before she and Dial vanished.
Before he was imprisoned, Dial had worked as an art teacher and sculptor. One of his works, a desktop sculpture of an oil derrick, was featured on the television series "Dallas," where it was displayed on the desk of the show's villain, J.R. Ewing.
(Edited by Karen Brooks and Cynthia Johnston)