Bad Signal

When Randy Angle disappeared, he left behind a multimillion-dollar fortune in a two-way radio -- and an ugly secret

Mostly, though, the two worked long days and into the night visiting their tower sites, doing the frequently needed repairs and keeping their system on the air. A lightning strike that would knock everyone off the air could require back-to-back 20-hour days to set things straight. Radio repeaters -- the transmitters that under perfect conditions can send a signal in a 75-mile radius -- require a lot of work.

Within seven months of opening the business, Youngblood recalls, Dana bought a new car -- things seemed to be going that well. Angle realized that the business' success depended on expanding to more and more frequencies, by whatever means he could.

Under Federal Communications Commission rules, dispatch-radio frequencies could be used by several co-licensees. Also, if a licensee did not fully develop and use the channels in his network, regulators could take them away and award them to other operators. The government was more interested in making use of the system than making revenue from it, so the frequencies were obtained for nominal fees. At various times, too, there were limits on how many channels an individual could own.

wide selection of mainstream and independent comic books. Such outlets are a dying breed.

wide selection of mainstream and independent comic books. Such outlets are a dying breed.

Randy Angle, left, and Richard Youngblood in 1984, the year Angle began his radio business.
Arthur Nichols
Randy Angle, left, and Richard Youngblood in 1984, the year Angle began his radio business.

With his temperament, Randy Angle would use all sorts of irregular methods to expand his business in this regulated world.

According to Youngblood, he'd put ownership of frequencies in different names to get around limits on how many one person could have.

"He'd tell me how he'd jam his competitors' stuff, play games with them," recalls Wayne Lott, owner of Delta Communications and Electronics, which rented so much air time from Angle that it accounted for about $40,000 of Angle's roughly $50,000 monthly revenue. "You've got a guy here who wasn't stupid. His IQ must be in the 145 range. He's a very intelligent person who doesn't like to say, 'Let's discuss things. Let's see if we can work it out.' Randy would decide the way he wanted things to work, and he'd make that happen. He was a taker, not a giver."

Another competitor, who asked not to be identified, says Angle would put his Spanish-speaking customers on shared channels with, say, high-end hotel clients who would become annoyed with the foreign language that came over their sets. Some would get so irritated that they'd simply drop the channel, leaving it for Angle to take over. On other shared channels he'd employ a "dead-key," which holds the frequency open similar to an open mike, thereby making them unusable. Others using the channel would be annoyed to the point where they would relent and pick up service elsewhere.

"One time I tried to dead-key him back, and he was ready with an immediate complaint to the FCC. I got a citation," the competitor laments. "He played me like a piano."

In the end, Angle had collected a set of 51 federal licenses and assembled a network spanning radio towers from Rockwall to Denton to west Fort Worth.

Then there was his secretive, paranoid side.

"Everything he did was shady," says Weathersby, who now works on the Dallas County government's radio system. Weathersby worked for Angle for a brief time in the mid-'80s and was perplexed at the way he "used 14 different names to run under, aliases."

Subsequent legal actions turned up names such as Randy James, NCE-CPA, Conventional Systems, Dana Smith, 2WC Inc., Q-Com, PTR Leasing, S.S.P. Leasing, and Rayburn Properties.

"Randy was secretive about everything," recalls Lott. "I'm sending him $40,000 a month, and he'd never give me a phone number where I could reach him. It would always be a beeper; he was very secretive about his life."

Paula, who did billing and accounting work for the business in later years, can understand his stealthy ways: Not once did she see evidence that he was paying income or business taxes. His approach to money was simple: He'd buy gold and bury it in the back yard. After he disappeared, her attorney says, they found empty, freshly dug holes all around the place.

The thin wall Randy Angle erected around himself caved in all at once.His daughter Paula had left home at age 17 and married John Jenkins, whom she had met in church.

After four years and two children, Paula moved back with her family and began living in a trailer at their ranch in Van Zandt County. In 1997, she went back to work at the family business. "She had an understanding that Randy would leave her alone," says Brenda Collier, Paula's attorney.

And Randy did -- until early October 1998, when he called her to a back room. "It's nothing to be upset about," he told her after the rape, a police report states. "It's just a bodily function, and you probably needed it too." As before, fear and embarrassment kept her from turning her father in.

Attempting to smooth things over that very week, Angle bought a new Dodge Ram pickup, which he put under another alias, "PNT Leasing." He told her it stood for "Paula's new truck." Paula said she wanted to help pay for the truck and began making payments.

Paula continued to work at the Garland radio shop -- where she could work part-time and take her children to work -- until March 1999. She had started dating a paramedic, Chad LaPrade, which led to more trouble.

"His thinking was sick, but he didn't approve of me being with anybody else," Paula says, explaining Randy's growing jealousy.

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