This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
Family. Religion. Positivity.
That’s how Mike Randle lived his life. Anyone who knew him would agree these values were most important to him.
Since his murder in 2016, these values have become even more important as a way for his wife, Lorie, and two children, Christopher and Celestial, to hold on to his memory.
July 30, 2016 was a beautiful day in Fort Worth, Texas – 93 degrees with scattered clouds. That was the last day anyone saw Mike alive.
Mike dropped his wife Lorie off at her mother’s house before heading to a nearby property he was renovating. Their house had been burglarized once, and they feared they would be targeted again. Mike didn’t want to leave Lorie at home alone.
The next morning, Mike didn’t show up for church. He wasn’t answering his phone either. The Randle family went to the renovation property to check on him.
There, they found the back door was unlocked and Mike’s SUV was missing.
Without any clear suspects or leads on where Mike was, Lorie filed a missing persons report with the Fort Worth Police Department. She could do nothing now but wait for a breakthrough in the case.
Fort Worth investigators continuously pinged Mike’s phone until it was located in New Orleans, Louisiana. The family and authorities began calling about unidentified remains.
On February 7, 2017, over six months since she had last seen her husband, Lorie was notified by the Fort Worth Police Department that the remains found in a burning dumpster were determined to be Mike’s.
“Immediately after losing someone, it’s difficult – it turns your world upside down,” Lorie said. “All the little things, like going into Home Depot, become painful because Mike went there all the time to get construction supplies for his work. That’s a place where we spent a lot of time together.”
One of the most vivid memories the Randle family holds starts with a set of missing bikes. While out running errands with Chris and Celeste, Mike saw a homeless man on the street with what appeared to be the kids’ recently stolen bikes. Mike approached the man, asking him where he had gotten the bikes. The man, realizing he had been caught, left the bikes and headed up the street to a corner store.
When Mike followed and confronted the man, the man claimed that he needed a ride to a nearby town, Chris recalls. In true character, Mike replied by offering to drive the man wherever he needed to go. Then, he went even further in trying to help by offering him a position as a day laborer on one of his remodeling projects.
“I never heard my dad yell in an angry way before,” Chris said. “He would raise his voice but never in an angry way. He was very methodical in how he thought about everything. I didn’t see him get rattled or scared. He had this gift of being able to take the craziest things in stride.”
Mike was a staple, both in the church and the community. He was the praise and worship leader at the church.
When not at the local church, Mike devoted himself to running a construction business that offered an alternative to the larger companies, which monopolized the area.
“He always wanted to own his own company,” Lorie said. “A lot of his customers were women and lower-income families who couldn’t afford the price of big companies. And whenever it was slow, he would do temp work until it picked back up again. He made sure we always had food on the table.”
It wasn’t unusual for Mike to move his family into a home while he was working on it. For him, renovation and remodeling were labors of love.
For Celeste, the most memorable thing about her childhood home was a robin she often saw on a windowsill. “Every time that robin would come by, my dad would point it out to us and we would just sit and watch it together for a little bit,” she said.
“Now when I see a robin, I think of it as his way of checking in on me. It’s a reminder to enjoy the life we have left.”
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Mike Randle, please call the New Orleans Police Department at (504) 821-2222. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $5,000 reward, call CrimeStoppers GNO at (504) 822-1111.
Research and Impact
The need for continued awareness and education of the impact cold cases have on surviving families is evident with the families Project: Cold Case assists. Survivors have many obstacles to overcome while navigating the grief stages and judicial process, there are other underlying struggles that families may battle.
Cold cases, by nature, can date back years if not decades. Times, resources, and even legalities of charges can change over that time. Educating families on the available services and resources in their area is a priority for our office, especially if they aren’t local to Jacksonville, Florida. These resources can include grief and mental assistance along with national hotline agencies. Each survivor’s needs are unique, so we attempt to match the service we relay to best serve them.
Working with survivors of a violent crime there is almost certainly cross-over in need. Our role is to ensure that we are priming and engaging in discussions that allow for the introduction and inclusion of resources. Continued training for our staff ensures we can provide services that truly impacts positively in a victim’s lives.
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