LYNNFIELD, MA – In a stunning revelation that shook a Massachusetts family to its core, Thomas Randele, a seemingly ordinary man from Lynnfield, disclosed a secret on his deathbed in 2021 that he had been harboring for over fifty years. This extraordinary tale, which sounds like it’s straight out of a Hollywood script, was not just a quirky “dad joke” but a startling truth about his hidden past as one of America’s most elusive fugitives.
Ashley Randle, Thomas’s daughter, initially dismissed her father’s confession as another one of his typical jokes. He was known for his humor, often making light-hearted comments. However, the reality dawned on her when she discovered his true identity: Theodore John Conrad, a notorious bank robber who had successfully evaded capture since 1969. This revelation was shocking and frightening for Ashley as she realized the gravity of her father’s past.
The podcast “Smoke Screen: My Fugitive Dad,” available on The Binge, delves into this bewildering story. Ashley narrates her father’s life journey, revealing the complexities of a man who was much more than just a criminal. She shares memories of a loving father, a devoted husband, and a cherished friend, painting a picture of a man whose life blended ordinary and extraordinary.
Ashley recalls her childhood as idyllic, filled with the loving presence of her parents at every significant event. Her father, Thomas Randle, was a doting parent, even composing a lullaby for her. However, in retrospect, specific incidents now seem peculiar, like her father’s reluctance to travel abroad or participate in a family DNA test. Once brushed off, these oddities make sense in the context of his hidden identity.
The story takes a tragic turn in 2021 when Thomas Randle is diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer, leading to his untimely death. In his final days, he chose to reveal his true identity to his family while watching an episode of “NCIS,” fearing the repercussions they might face if his secret was discovered posthumously.
Thomas Randle, or Theodore John Conrad, had executed one of Cleveland’s most audacious bank heists in 1969. He left the Society National Bank with $215,000, equivalent to over $1.7 million today. His disappearance remained a mystery for decades, featuring his case on shows like “America’s Most Wanted” and “Unsolved Mysteries.”
The podcast sheds light on Conrad’s motivations, revealing a desire to escape a troubled family life and start anew. His meticulous planning and the lax security of the era facilitated his heist and subsequent disappearance. Ashley and her mother grappled with the revelation, contemplating when to approach the authorities, knowing their lives would never be the same.
The truth about Thomas Randele’s identity came to light when a true-crime writer in Cleveland connected the dots after spotting his obituary. This discovery brought closure to a mystery that had perplexed law enforcement for over half a century.
Despite his life’s dramatic and criminal aspects, Ashley Randele’s podcast aims to portray her father as more than just a fugitive. She seeks to share the story of a man who, despite his past, was deeply loved and is still missed by those who knew him. Her narrative offers a unique perspective on a life that was a complex blend of love, secrecy, and intrigue.