By Jeff Osborne
LIVE OAK COUNTY – Nearly 45 years ago, a tragic murder rocked South Texas with echoes across the entire state, as Patrick Randel, an undercover narcotics agent for the Texas Department of Public Safety, was killed in a roadside park just east of George West on U.S. Highway 59 (which was then state Highway 9).
A monument marks the site of the Oct. 23, 1974, tragedy, but road construction is requiring the monument to be moved, and it will be relocated to a prominent spot at the Live Oak County Justice Center. A ceremony is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 13, with DPS Director Steven McGraw serving as the keynote speaker.
Randel was working to help apprehend two men who were part of an Austin crime ring, Doyle Skillern of Austin and Charles Victor Sanne of California, when he was killed in the line of duty.
Skillern would eventually be put to death for his role in the crime, while Sanne was sentenced to life in prison.
Randel had just recently turned 40 and left behind a wife, Wanda, a daughter, Sheila, and two sons, Doug and Mike. The three children were each between the ages of 10 and 12 when their father was killed.
Sheila, Doug and Mike recently offered their reflections of their father’s impact on their lives and their reaction to their dad’s legacy.
Plenty of good memories remain from Sheila, Doug and Mike’s childhood.
“So many memories come from vacations,” Sheila said. “We usually went camping and fishing. While they were not fancy, we had a camper and a boat. That was really all we needed.
“I still remember making his last birthday cake. I wrote on it, ‘Good ol’ 40, Happy Birthday, Daddy.’ It was quite likely that it tasted awful, but you never would have known it by him. That was just days before he was murdered.”
Randel was fully devoted to his family and to his job, Mike recalled. “When he worked he was all about work, when he was with family it was family time.”
Doug recalled his father’s old school approach to education.
One of his best memories was “his trying to teach me mathematics (division),” Doug said. “You have to understand he was country, like you don’t see anymore. He tried to explain to a thoroughly bewildered youngster about ‘gazintas.’ Such as 4 ‘gazinta’ 16 4 times and aught gazinta 16 aught. The next day my teacher was amused by my ‘gazintas’ and ‘aughts.’”
Doug said he also recalls Randel’s “ornery side.”
“The week we spent at the lake inner tubing,” Doug said. “Us kids were having so much fun that mom decided she wanted to try it hair up in curlers and all. She made him promise to go slow. He couldn’t resist sending her scooting across the water. One of his bigger mistakes was putting her back in the boat.”
Randel has had a strong impact on his three children long into their adulthood.
“Dad would have never told us what to do as a profession but the work ethic would have been evaluated,” Sheila said. “He would not have cared if we were street sweepers. But we better be GREAT street sweepers.
“Throughout my paralleling career (with the DPS), I did wonder what he thought. I think most of the time he would have been busting with pride. A few times he probably would have shaken his head and thought ‘That’s my girl.’ Overall, I believe he would have been proud of the adults all of us became.”
Mike said his father’s impact was more of a foundation in doing the right thing.
“It isn’t so much of the career choice, but the morals that he instilled in me and other people he associated with,” Mike said.
Doug said he has been inspired by his dad’s work ethic.
“As a young DPS officer he took side jobs in the oilfield and truck driving to make ends meet or to provide for the Christmas holidays,” Doug said. “He was willing to do whatever it took. He didn’t care what we did as long as we did our best at whatever it was. “
Sheila, Mike and Doug expressed mixed feelings about the relocation of the marker honoring their father.
“I was saddened when the monument had to be moved from its original location,” Sheila said. “The park was beautiful. Now I am thrilled that the monument is being moved to such a respectful location.
“I am humbled to see this come together.
“I hope that when others see the monument they realize that one person can make a difference.”
Mike said he hopes more people will reflect on the meaning of his dad’s service and sacrifice now that it will be located in front of the justice center.
“To understand what he did in his duty for the state is inscribed in the monument,” Mike said “Hopefully moving it to a safer and more public location will cause others to think about his values and maybe they can be carried forward by others.”
Doug said he appreciates the fact that his father is still remembered.
“It is comforting to know he is honored after all this time,” Doug said. “As for the marker being moved, I haven’t seen it in its present location. I live in Big Spring (the Midland/Odessa area) and have not been south of San Antonio in 23-25 years. I was saddened when it was moved from Randel Park. It was a point of pride to have a park bear our name. Nothing remains the same. To that end I’m happy about the improved location.”
Each of Randel’s children reflect on the challenges they have overcome as the result of their father’s death in similar ways, and prefer the attention says on their father.
“This is about dad, not us,” Sheila said. “But whatever challenges there is no choice but to play the hand that you were dealt.”
“This was not about what the family had to go through but what he went through for the people,” Mike said.
“Life goes on and life is not fair,” Doug said. “Our lives were hard, but there are those that have it harder. I was cheated out of his influence in my growing up and know he wouldn’t have allowed me to be so hard on my mother. There were years that she should have killed me and been justified in the actions. God knew what he was doing, and that everything would be all right in the end. I like to think my dad would be happy with how his kids turned out. Certainly not how he wanted it, but glad how it came out.”
Sheila, Mike and Doug remain proud of their father’s dedication to service and law enforcement.
“Paraphrasing dad because I cannot quote him,” Sheila said, “‘Law enforcement is a dirty job and somebody has to do it and I’m not any better than anyone else.’ I believe that he just wanted to make a better tomorrow.”
Mike said his dad knew serving in law enforcement could be difficult, but also important.
“He knew it would be an ongoing battle and that he did not battle alone but he knew it was worth it,” Mike said.
Doug said his father was dedicated to making a positive impact on the world.
“He always wanted to make a difference,” Doug said. “As a DPS trooper he would get disgusted to pull over someone for 15 mph over the speed limit and while writing the ticket three others would go by at 20 over the limit.
“He understood the importance of the job but was wanting to make a larger impact. That was the reason for the transfer to the narcotics division. He did that for everyone and for his family.
“Austin is nice but why would you move from Junction to Austin? For the community to still remember him after 40 plus years says he was correct.”
Jeff Osborne is the editor of The Progress. He can be reached at 361-786-3022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.