After awaiting trial for almost nine years, a reputed drug dealer was convicted Wednesday of persuading a handyman to kill his sixth wife before fatally shooting the hit man inside the couple’s northwest valley home.
A jury took about nine hours over two days to reach the decision that Thomas Randolph was guilty of murder with use of a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Sharon Causse and Michael James Miller.
Prosecutors immediately moved to a penalty phase of the death penalty trial, calling a half-dozen witnesses who would testify against the now 62-year-old heavyset man with gray-white hair who wears hearing aid headphones in court.
One of those witnesses was Eric Tarantino, a man Randolph tried to have killed in 1988, a man who still fears the defendant, though he has been held without bail in the Clark County Detention Center since early 2009.
“Until the day they find him dead in his cell, or they stick a needle in him,” Tarantino told a reporter outside the courtroom, “I sleep with a gun at my side.”
Then living in Utah, Randolph had talked about killing Becky Gault, his second wife, even sang songs about it, and wanted Tarantino to do the job.
Randolph made Tarantino rehearse different ways to make her death look like an accident or a suicide: setting fire to the couple’s trailer, a car crash, rolling over her with a car at a campsite, a hunting accident, pushing her into a raging river, switching her medications, knocking her out with chloroform and arranging the scene to appear as though she fell in the bathtub.
If Tarantino delayed in his preparation, Randolph would beat him.
“It wasn’t a friendship anymore,” Tarantino testified. “It was a job. Every conversation was about her death.”
Tarantino warned Gault and fled town. She wound up dead of a gunshot wound to the head, Randolph went to trial for murder, and Tarantino testified against him.
But Randolph was acquitted. His lawyers at the time convinced a jury that Gault killed herself. Randolph collected more than $500,000 from her life insurance policies.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth told jurors on Wednesday that of Randolph’s many wives, he “either attempted to kill, hired someone to kill or killed five of those women.”
His first wife, Kathryn Thomas, said he was controlling, manipulative and psychologically abusive.
Authorities told her Randolph had taken out a life insurance policy on her. She was 18 when they married.
Her current husband, Stephen Thomas, testified that Randolph had once asked him if he would kill someone for $25,000.
Stephen Thomas married Kathryn Thomas in Utah and they moved to Washington to get away from Randolph, who later threatened to have Stephen killed.
Randolph married Gault the day his divorce from Kathryn Thomas finalized.
To this day, she carries an image of Gault with her.
“That picture gives me strength,” she said, “to express what I need to express for me and her.”
His third wife, Gayna Allmon, recalled an incident when Randolph’s gun went off while he was cleaning it in front of her. She told jurors she thinks he was trying to kill her.
In a central Indiana trailer, Randolph plotted to kill his fourth wife, Francis Randolph. He had asked Glen Morrison to stage a burglary, kill the woman and shoot Randolph in the leg or rear end. Morrison testified he refused to go through with the plan because he feared Randolph would kill him after it was carried out.
Like Tarantino, Morrison told jurors Randolph made money selling drugs.
Francis Randolph died under suspicious circumstances, Bluth told jurors. Randolph was the last to see her alive. No autopsy was performed, and her body was cremated shortly after death.
Thomas Randolph told his friends and family that his fifth wife, Leona Stapleton, died of cancer.
Deputy Special Public Defender Clark Patrick asked jurors to consider Randolph’s two children and grandchild, with the fact that he had worked to help mentally challenged children and adults, when deciding whether he should be executed.
“Not everything in his life has been bad,” Patrick said.
Prosecutors have argued that Randolph groomed Miller for a few months in early 2008 before Causse was shot.
Randolph told police that he noticed a man in a black ski mask after finding his wife shot in the head in an entrance hallway of their home in May of that year.
But prosecutors said Randolph’s story did not make sense, and they pointed to similarities between the two killings and the death of his second wife.
Randolph was arrested in the double homicide in January 2009, and it took more than eight years for the case to go to trial.
Prosecutors say Randolph was motivated by greed and stood to gain upward of $360,000 in insurance money from Causse’s death.
Defense attorneys had argued that Randolph’s last marriage was going well before Causse died, and they called Gault’s death a “red herring.”
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Randolph and Romo
Thomas Randolph, convicted Wednesday on two counts of murder with use of a deadly weapon, indicated at the start of his trial that he wants to wear a Tony Romo jersey in court. Planning ahead for Thursday, his lawyers told District Judge Stefany Miley that Randolph asked to don the retired Cowboy’s No. 9 during the penalty phase, while jurors hear testimony and argument about whether he should receive the death penalty.
“I don’t care what he wears,” the judge said, “as long as it’s processed through the jail.”
Defense attorneys, who have counseled Randolph against such attire, indicated they have the jersey and plan to place it with his court wardrobe at the Clark County Detention Center.
In opening statements of the penalty hearing, Deputy Special Public Defender Clark Patrick asked jurors to consider several mitigating factors, including “the fact that Tommy’s a Dallas Cowboys fan.”