Warden's wife plans appeal on aiding inmate escape

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 23, 2011 12:39 AM
Warden's wife plans appeal on aiding inmate escape

By Steve Olafson

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - If you believe her story, Bobbi Parker spent the better part of 11 years in a prison without bars, captive to a sociopathic killer.

But now that an Oklahoma jury has rejected that notion, the 49-year-old wife of a prison warden finds herself in a real jail -- behind real bars.

Parker will spend her second night locked up in the Greer County jail on Thursday after a jury found her guilty of helping Randolph Franklin Dial escape in 1995.

Her lawyers said they plan to appeal the sentence, comparing her situation with Dial to that of a prisoner of war.

"She's depressed," her lawyer, Garvin Isaacs, told Reuters. "They're all really sad this happened. They wanted Bobbi to come home and be with them and get on with life."

Instead of staying with her husband, with whom she reunited after she and Dial were discovered in 2005, she could spend the next year incarcerated if the judge agrees with the jury's recommendation.

Isaacs said Parker was the victim of a trial riddled with judicial errors that kept important information from the jury.

The undisputed villain in the case is Dial, who died of lung cancer in 2007 but left behind a long trail of written admissions detailing how he drugged the woman, kidnapped her at knifepoint and took her to east Texas, where they led a backwoods existence under phony names.

The two knew each other, according to prosecutors, from a pottery class held in the Parker garage on prison grounds.

The state claimed she loved Dial, but her lawyer said there was not a bit of affection between the pair, only a clear understanding that he would harm the husband and two daughters Parker left behind in Oklahoma if she fled.

"The guy's a hitman, killer, convicted murderer, and he was dangerous," Isaacs said.

He already had confessed to one murder, the 1981 slaying of a man in Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

State prosecutors, though, are making no apologies.

They had enough damaging information to paint Parker in an unsympathetic light, such as a taped conversation that a state police investigator conducted with Dial after he was returned to prison in 2005.

At one point in the interview Dial was asked, "Do you think she loved you?" and Dial replied, "She thought she did."

After a four-month trial in which 80 people testified and 800 court exhibits were introduced, Parker will be formally sentenced on October 6.

The trial may be the longest criminal trial in Oklahoma City, said District Attorney John Wampler, who said he's satisfied with the one-year sentence recommended for Parker.

But the 3,000 residents of Mangum, the county seat of Greer County, remain divided on whether the woman is guilty, said Casey Paxton, editor and co-owner of the weekly newspaper, The Mangum Star-News.

"It's about half-surprised," Paxton said of the town. "The biggest thing is they're just glad it's over."

Prosecutors offered Parker a plea bargain years ago in which she would serve a token amount of time in jail if she would plead guilty, Wampler said.

"Most of what I was seeking was an admission of 'guilty' on her part," he said. "The length of time she served was not a big issue to me."

(Editing by Karen Brooks and Jerry Norton)