Lillian RandolphCourtesy photo Elizabeth O’Hara
Lillian Hedman Randolph

Lillian Elizabeth Hedman Randolph

Homicide

Lillian Elizabeth Hedman Randolph
56 YOA
Guthrie Center, IA
Guthrie County
Case # 65-00598
May 2, 1965

Many thanks to Elizabeth “Beth” O’Hara, Lillian’s granddaughter, and Wendy Chalman-Holman, Lillian’s daughter, for sharing these photos with Jody Ewing for use on the Iowa Cold Cases website.

 

50 Years Cold: Read Rebecca McKinsey’s Guthrie Center Times story — “A really, really good woman”

Case Summary by Jody Ewing

Lillian Elizabeth (Hedman) Randolph, 56, went missing from her rural Guthrie Center, Iowa, home on Mother’s Day, May 2, 1965.

Guthrie County in Iowa
Guthrie County in Iowa
guthrie-center-map Guthrie Center in Guthrie County

On Tuesday, May 11, state authorities found her body stuffed in the locked trunk of her car at the Des Moines Municipal Airport. She had been stabbed 12 times in the chest and once in the back with a small pocket knife.

In a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated Wednesday, May 12, 1965, T.A. Thompson, chief of the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said the probable cause of death was the dozen or so stab wounds in the chest and “internal hemorrhaging.”

Locals had a pretty good idea who might have hired hit men to kill the farmwife and mother of four; her abusive and dominating third husband, Howard F. Randolph, a wealthy poultry and egg processor, was known as a mean-spirited, shrewd businessman who brought the brutal ways of organized crime to rural Iowa.

Lillian had obtained a separate-maintenance decree from Randolph in 1963, and he’d moved into a Guthrie Center apartment.

Authorities said Mrs. Randolph was last seen alive about noon Sunday, May 2 — her son Hank’s 27th birthday — when Randolph arrived at the house to pick up Lillian’s two daughters, Vicki, 14, and Wendy, 16, to take them to an ice show in Des Moines.

Family came first

Lillian Elizabeth Hedman had grown up in West Duluth, Minnesota, and after graduation began working on her teaching certificate.

Lillian Randolph with granddaughter Elizabeth O'Hara Courtesy photo Elizabeth O’Hara
Lillian Randolph with her granddaughter, Elizabeth O’Hara.

Her parents, Gustav “Gust” and Anna “Annie” (Magnusson) Hedman, had emigrated to the U.S. from Sweden and felt strongly about education.

Three years into her teaching career, Lillian married her lifelong love, Robert “Bob” O’Hara, and the couple had two children, Henry Robert “Hank,” and Ann Elizabeth.

Lillian was devastated when Bob died in a home accident April 12, 1945.

In 1950 Lillian married Roy Chalman in Duluth. They had two daughters, Wendy Alice and Vicki Marie, but divorced six years later after Roy’s return from the Korean War.

Lillian had known Howard Randolph around 20 years — he’d been known to keep a cache of female companions around the state — but he eventually convinced Lillian to marry him, promising to always provide for her and the children. They married in January 1958, made Guthrie Center their home, and Randolph adopted Lillian’s four children.

lillian-hedman-1928-wendy-fbCourtesy photo Wendy Chalman-Holman
Miss Lillian Hedman, working on her teacher’s certificate, strikes a pose at the Duluth, Minn. Zoo, circa 1928. She taught for three years on the Iron Range before marrying her life-long love, Bob O’Hara.

Not long into the couple’s marriage, however, Randolph began isolating his new wife, keeping her at home without a vehicle and separated from family members and friends. Howard continued traveling the state to see his female companions, often lavishing them with expensive gifts.

More than once, Lillian tried to leave the marriage, but Randolph somehow manipulated her into staying so they could be a family.

Over time, Randolph became more fixated on Lillian’s two youngest girls and began subjecting them to the same emotional and physical abuse he inflicted on his wife, and Lillian knew the best interests of her children could only be served by forcing Howard from the home.

After the Randolphs separated and Mr. Randolph moved into the Guthrie Center apartment, he paid Lillian $800 per month in alimony and resented not being able to see the girls, now young teens, on a regular basis.

A “Hit”

In the days preceding her disappearance, police saw two swarthy-looking strangers cruising around Guthrie Center in a new white Cadillac.

On Sunday, May 2, witnesses placed the two men sitting on a golf course bench — a spot where the comings and goings at the Randolph home were within easy view.

The men left the golf course around the same time Howard Randolph picked up the girls to take them to see the Ice Follies in Des Moines.

The girls saw a white car approaching their home just moments after kissing their mother goodbye and pulling away from the house with Randolph. Despite Randolph’s possessive nature, he remained nonchalant and kept driving.

When the girls returned home that evening, they found the house in order but their mother had disappeared. Her 1965 Dodge Coronet also had mysteriously vanished.

Howard Randolph told Guthrie County Sheriff Lester Peterson that he’d returned the girls to the couple’s former home about 6 p.m. but did not go inside the house.

Peterson issued a missing person report, and for more than a week officials searched local areas and nearly every Des Moines parking lot in efforts to locate Mrs. Randolph’s car and determine her whereabouts.

Lillian Randolph's carCourtesy photo The Gazette
Officials searched Lillian Randolph’s car after a state agent found the vehicle at the Des Moines Municipal Airport Tuesday, May 11, and discovered her body in its trunk.

On May 11, 1965, nine days after Lillian disappeared, a state agent discovered her vehicle parked at the Des Moines Municipal Airport. The car keys hung from the ignition switch inside the unlocked car.

Investigators found Lillian’s body inside the trunk, “wedged in to one side of the spare tire,” The Gazette reported.

She’d been stabbed multiple times.

Lillian’s purse — containing just $11 — was found on the floor beneath the driver’s seat.

Local officials  described her murder as “the work of a professional.”

No connection to April stabbing

By May 26, 1965, police had questioned more than 850 individuals in Lillian Randolph’s homicide — some of them several times — while also investigating 17-year-old Janice Snow’s unsolved murder.

Snow, a popular high school senior, had vanished Monday night, April 13, 1965, after going Easter shopping with two girl friends.

Snow’s body was found April 15 in a densely wooded area in southeast Des Moines; she’d been stabbed 17 times.

Neither Snow nor Mrs. Randolph had been raped, and in late May 1965 police said there appeared to be no apparent connection between the two slayings.

Suing for Affection

The tyrannical Randolph immediately became the primary suspect in his wife’s brutal murder, but investigators struggled to prove he’d hired the two dark-skinned men for the hit.

lillian-hedman-at-caribou-lake-from-wendy-fbCourtesy photo Wendy Chalman-Holman
While Lillian worked as a teacher, her father built the above background cabin as well as the gate where Lillian liked to sit. It was a very happy time in her life, her daughter, Wendy Chalman-Holman, told Iowa Cold Cases.

Randolph would not, however, be allowed to return to the couple’s home to live happily ever after with adopted daughters Wendy, 16, and Vicki, 14. According to one family member, Randolph’s own mother had once told Lillian “don’t ever let Howard get those girls,” citing his alleged sexual perversion with little girls.

In the first year following their mother’s death, Wendy and Vicki lived with their brother Hank. While lawyers wrestled with custody issues, Wendy turned 18 years old, and a family friend — an attorney who knew but despised Randolph — was granted custody of Vicki.

In 1966, Des Moines attorney A.B. Crouch and Guthrie Center attorney, Robert Taylor, filed a lawsuit against Howard Randolph in the amount of $5,130 for legal services they said they provided for Wendy and Vicki in support and custody matters after Mrs. Randolph’s death.

On Aug. 4, 1967, The Gazette reported that Howard Randolph filed a $4 million countersuit against Crouch in district court, claiming Crouch alienated the affections of Randolph’s adopted daughters.

Taylor was not included as a defendant in Randolph’s counterclaim.

According to The Gazette:

Randolph’s petition said any compensation due Crouch and Taylor for services to his adoptive daughters is the obligation of Guthrie county.

~ Cedar Rapids Gazette, Friday, Aug. 4, 1967

Twenty-two years after Lillian’s still unsolved murder, her daughter, Wendy Chalman-Holman, received the call she’d waited years to get; the district attorney said the state believed they had enough evidence to charge Howard Randolph with first-degree murder in her mother’s death, and wanted to know if Wendy would be willing to testify in court as to the abuse she and her mother and sister suffered at Randolph’s hands.

Chalman-Holman, who now had a 1-year-old daughter, stated she would testify, and a follow-up letter from the district attorney explained how he expected the trial to play out and what would happen.

And then … silence. Months passed as Lillian’s grown children waited for Howard Randolph’s arrest. The months turned to years — with Randolph not yet charged — and word got out that he had cancer.

There would be no prosecution.

Howard Randolph died Feb. 9, 1994 at age 86 without ever being charged or brought to trial in his wife’s murder.

Has hope been laid to rest?

Did Howard Randolph’s death bring Lillian’s case to an abrupt close? It did not.

Lillian Randolph with son Henry, her mother and mother-in-lawCourtesy photo Elizabeth O’Hara
Lillian Hedman O’Hara, center, poses with her son Henry (“Hank”), her mother (above left), and mother-in-law.

Though Randolph’s death forever precluded his prosecution, it’s never too late for forensic evidence to close (or “clear”) a case, and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) has not given up on solving Lillian’s murder.

When the DCI established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Lillian’s homicide was one of approximately 150 cases listed on the Cold Case Unit’s new website as those the DCI hoped to solve using latest forensic advancements in DNA technology.

Although federal grant funding for the Cold Case Unit was exhausted in December 2011, the DCI continues to assign agents to investigate cold cases as new leads develop or as technological advances allow for additional forensic testing of original evidence.

Iowans already have seen this in action.

Three decades after Justin Hook Jr., 20, his mother, Sarah Link, 41, and 19-year-old Tina Lade were slain in April 1984, DCI Special Agent in Charge Mike Motsinger announced in a Jan. 10, 2014 news conference that new DNA evidence linked Andrew Six to the three victims’ bludgeoning deaths.

Missouri authorities had executed Six by lethal injection in 1997 for the 1987 kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Kathy Allen of Ottumwa, Iowa.

In Lillian Randolph’s case, other unanswered questions still provide additional opportunities to track down answers:

  • Who were the two men Howard Randolph alleged hired to kill his wife?
  • Are either of the two men still alive today?
  • Did either of the men confide in others about the role they played in Lillian’s murder?
  • What evidence on file may still be resubmitted for forensic testing using DNA’s latest technological tools?
  • What kind and how much DNA did Lillian’s killers leave behind?

The DCI remains committed to the resolution of Iowa’s cold cases and continue to work diligently with local law enforcement partners to bring the perpetrators to justice for the victims and their families.

In May 2003, author Carroll R. McKibbin published “Lillian’s Legacy: Marriage and Murder in Rural Iowa”

Five decades after Lillian’s death, her family remains hopeful answers will be found.

“She will never, ever be forgotten by us, nor have [things] ever been the same since the day she was kidnapped, May 2, 1965,” her granddaughter, Elizabeth O’Hara, told Iowa Cold Cases.

Lillian’s daughter Wendy agrees, and utilizes Facebook to keep her mother’s memory alive.

“Facebook has allowed me to share her [stories] more with a couple of nieces in here,” Wendy told Iowa Cold Cases as the 50th anniversary of her mother’s death approached. “The effects of Mom’s murder continue to this day.”

About Lillian Hedman Randolph
Lillian Randolph with son HankCourtesy photo Elizabeth O’Hara
Lillian with son Hank at Leech Lake.

Lillian Elizabeth Hedman was born in West Duluth, Minnesota to Gustaf and Anne (Magnusson) Hedman on August 5, 1908.

She married Robert “Bob” O’Hara after receiving her teaching certificate, and the couple had two children, Henry Robert “Hank” and Ann Elizabeth.

Bob died in a home accident April 12, 1945, and in 1950 Lillian married Roy Chalman in Duluth. They had two daughters, Wendy Alice and Vicki Marie, but divorced six years later after Roy’s return from the Korean War.

Lillian moved to Guthrie Center and in January 1958 married Howard Randolph. Randolph adopted Lillian’s four children.

Memorial services were held May 13, 1965 at Guthrie City Immanuel Lutheran Church, with interment in Oneota Cemetery in Duluth, Minnesota.

Lillian’s family chose to not include the name Randolph on her gravestone.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Lillian Randolph’s unsolved murder, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or call the Des Moines Police Department Detective Bureau at (515) 283-4864.

Sources:
  • Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, former Iowa Cold Cases Unit
  • ‘A really, really good woman’ – 50 years later, unsolved Guthrie Center murder still an open wound,” by Rebecca McKinsey, The Guthrie Center Times, December 30, 2015
  • Personal correspondence with Wendy Chalman-Holman (victim’s daughter), ongoing
  • Elizabeth O’Hara (granddaughter of victim), personal correspondence and photos sent to Iowa Cold Cases, February 26, 2010 — ongoing
  • Des Moines Police Department, Lt. Camden Moran, correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases, July 10, 2009
  • Lillian’s Legacy: Marriage and Murder in Rural Iowa,” by Carroll R. McKibbin, Bloomington, Indiana, 2003
  • “Murder in a Small Town: Retired Cal Poly Professor Tries to Solve a Mystery in Guthrie Center, Iowa,” The San Luis Obispo Tribune, July 20, 2003
  • United States Social Security Death Index,” index, FamilySearch.org, Howard F Randolph, Feb 1994; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
  • Unsolved Iowa killings: friends ‘still feel scars’,” and “List of ‘case open’ slaying in Iowa (Page 9A),” by Nick Lamberto, The Des Moines Register, Sunday, September 8, 1974
  • The Growing List of Iowa’s Unsolved Murder Cases” (PDF original file), by Nick Lamberto, The Des Moines Register, Sunday, November 24, 1968
  • Randolph Files $4 Million Suit Against Attorney” (PDF original file), The Cedar Rapids Gazette, August 4, 1967
  • SIX UNSOLVED MURDERS HERE,” (PDF original file), by James Beaumont, The Des Moines Register, Tuesday, July 11, 1967
  • “2 Girls’ Custody Hearing Dec. 8,” The Des Moines Register, December 1, 1965
  • “Pick judge to listen to custody suit,” The Mason City Globe-Gazette, December 1, 1965
  • “These Iowa Murders Still Defy Experts,” The Waterloo Daily Courier,” May 27, 1965
  • Killings go Unsolved: WHO WERE THEIR KILLERS?” (PDF original file), by Pat Curran, The Globe-Gazette, May 26, 1965
  • Unsolved Iowa Murders Defy All Probe Efforts,” by Pat Curran, The Centerville Iowegian, May 26, 1965
  • Unsolved Slayings Climbing in Iowa” (PDF original file), by Pat Curran, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Wednesday, May 26, 1965
  • “Work Continues on Murder Case,” The (Guthrie City) Guthrian, May 17, 1965
  • “Iowa Murder Mystery,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 12, 1965
  • “Probe mystery death at Des Moines: Body of woman found in trunk,” The Mason City Globe-Gazette, May 12, 1965
  • “Stab Wounds Add to Mystery of Body in Trunk,” The Waterloo Daily Courier, May 12, 1965
  • Clues Sought in Slaying of Iowa Woman” (PDF original file), The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Wednesday, May 12, 1965
  • “Body of Woman Found in Trunk,” The Mason City Globe-Gazette, May 12, 1965
  • “Identify Body Found in Trunk of Auto,” The Muscatine Journal, May 11, 1965
  • Minnesota, Birth Index, 1935-2002,” index, FamilySearch.org, Lillian Elizabeth Hedman in entry for Vicki Marie Randolph, 17 Jan 1951; from “Minnesota Birth Index, 1935-2002,” database, Ancestry https://www.ancestry.com/ : 2004); citing Saint Louis, Minnesota, United States, Minnesota Department of Health, Minneapolis.
  • Minnesota, Birth Index, 1935-2002,” index, FamilySearch.org, Lillian Elizabeth Hedman in entry for Wendy Alice Randolph, 20 Sep 1948; from “Minnesota Birth Index, 1935-2002,” database, Ancestry https://www.ancestry.com/ : 2004); citing Saint Louis, Minnesota, United States, Minnesota Department of Health, Minneapolis.
  • Minnesota, Death Index, 1908-2002,” index, FamilySearch.org, Robert U. Ohara, 12 Apr 1945; from “Minnesota, Death Index, 1908-2002,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2001); citing Saint Louis, Minnesota, record 976092, certificate number 027651, Minnesota Department of Health, Minneapolis.
  • Minnesota, Deaths and Burials, 1835-1990,” index, FamilySearch.org, Lillian O’Hara in entry for Robert U. O’Hara, 12 Apr 1945; citing Duluth, Saint Louis, Minnesota, reference ; FHL microfilm 2,243,507.
  • Minnesota, Birth Index, 1935-2002,” index, FamilySearch.org, Lillian Elizabeth Hedman in entry for Ann Elizabeth Randolph, 22 Oct 1941; from “Minnesota Birth Index, 1935-2002,” database, Ancestry https://www.ancestry.com/ : 2004); citing Saint Louis, Minnesota, United States, Minnesota Department of Health, Minneapolis.
  • United States Census, 1940,” index and images, FamilySearch.org, Robert O’Hara, Tract 31, Duluth, Duluth City, St. Louis, Minnesota, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 88-82, sheet 61B, family 143, NARA digital publication T627 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012), roll 1974.
  • Minnesota, Birth Index, 1935-2002,” index, FamilySearch.org, Lillian Elizabeth Hedman in entry for Henry Robert Randolph, 02 May 1938; from “Minnesota Birth Index, 1935-2002,” database, Ancestry https://www.ancestry.com/ : 2004); citing Saint Louis, Minnesota, United States, Minnesota Department of Health, Minneapolis.
  • United States Census, 1930,” index and images, FamilySearch.org, Lillian Hedman in household of Gust Hedman, Duluth, St. Louis, Minnesota, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 0077, sheet 14B, family 331, line 71, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1127; FHL microfilm 2,340,862.
  • United States Census, 1920,” index and images, FamilySearch.org, Lillian Hedman in household of Gust Hedman, Duluth, St Louis, Minnesota, United States; citing sheet 20A, family 432, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,820,859.

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36 Responses to Lillian Randolph

  1. betti jo murphy says:

    In refernce to the south side airport.did we have interns drs and hospital and or pharmacology students
    or morges.training.cadavers.10 mile radius.cabdrivers.police.involved in needing.such.

  2. Wendy Holman says:

    Elizabeth, a lot of information has been added

  3. Wendy Holman says:

    thank you dear Jody!
    maybe Howard Randolph will finally be charged & Lillian’s case closed in 2015

    Wendy

  4. I was 25 years of age and I remember well. Devastating to all who knew and loved Lil.

  5. Wendy Holman says:

    Betty, Iowa DCI can still find Randolph guilty even tho he’s dead
    God is prosecuting him right now

  6. Cindi Wadlow says:

    Wendy, when I see your mom’s picture I thought she’s not forgotten, she still lives in you.

  7. THANK YOU, AUNTIE for posting this. I know it’s hard on you – but the more people know, the more hope for an answer! I love you!!!

  8. Wendy, thank for sharing this part of your life. I can’t imagine living with something so tragic and trying to get justice all these years. I am hoping you will continue to post information and updates on the case. Let’s see this closed and guilty party prosecuted even after death.

  9. Oh my gosh. So heart breaking. Pray you guys will get justice for your family

  10. Thank you Wendy for sharing this. Your amazing strength comes from the Lord who is just and faithful. Keep on keeping your mom’s memory alive! It’s a sweet and loving gift to her.

  11. Praying and believing they can find something that will give you some closure. Love you bunches <3

  12. Kathy Cook says:

    Wendy we love you and praying for you, !

  13. That is just tragic.

  14. I’m so sorry, Wendy.

  15. Deborah Burt says:

    Oh, Wendy, I didn’t know. I’m so sorry.

  16. This just sucks. I am not always thankful for God’s wrath but this is one situation where I am.

  17. Wow, Wendy. I’m so sorry. ::hugs:: your mother sounds like an amazing woman. And this shows where some of your amazing strength and compassion comes from. Love you and praying for continued healing and resolution.

  18. breaks my heart to think of this.so sorry wendy. sending a hug for you.

  19. Wendy Holman says:

    my friend Dianne’s mother Marian & Lillian were neighbors & best friends in Bennett Wisc
    Dianne remembered Lil made her “Peter Pan” shorts – only kids from the 50s know what they were ;)

  20. Jody Ewing says:

    Thank you, Wendy! Not sure why a photo didn’t show up with the excerpt. Here’s the one I have on the ICC home page now.

  21. Lorrie Jeske says:

    My dear Wendy…..I too, was 16 when your mother died .I remember your mother as being kind and gentle and a very loving mother. I’ll never forget staying at your house when you and I were both 10 years old. Betty and I took the Greyhound to DesMoines for our sweet baby neice, Elizabeth Lorraine’s baptism who we lovingly called Beth. You and I were both so excited to be aunties at age 10! I remember Howard…..quiet and not friendly, unlike your sweet mother. God bless you, Vicki and Hank with constant healing, comfort and peace.

  22. Wendy Holman says:

    thank you Lorrie, you are such a sweetheart

  23. I, too, remember when your mother was killed. So, thinking of you now and in the days to come, and remembering all the good times we had at Mankato!

  24. Sad. They didn’t find forensic evidence to link anyone?

  25. Thessa Dawson says:

    I thought I had read through nearly all of the stories on your site. I somehow missed this one. So very sad.

  26. Lillian was my great aunt…so sad after all these years of no answers! :(

  27. I'm so very sorry . It is so heart breaking. My heart and thoughts and prayers sent to the family and friends.

  28. Can anyone tell me who Howard’s parents were? His sisters or brothers?

  29. There are so many stories of women succumbing to the hands of thier abusers during this era. Few made it into a police report. Fewer into a newspaper. I thank the feminist movement of the children of these women for safe houses and shelters nationwide. I certainly hope her mourning survivors are strong enough to name a new shelter after her and bring justice for the future victims with the injustice of her passing.

  30. JaneA.Smith Clark says:

    I remember Vicki very well. We were in the same class and I was at their home a number of times. I have fond memories of Lillian and both girls. This was such a very sad time.

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