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25 years after Greenport woman found murdered, case remains open

Gladys Randall lived alone in apartment F-55 at Driftwood Cove in Greenport. She was 69 and used a wheelchair. She had no known close ties with family, but a health aide would help her with household tasks throughout the week.

On Feb. 3, 1993, the aide discovered Ms. Randall strangled in her apartment; her purse was found empty in a dumpster nearby. 

But 25 year later, the killing is as much a mystery as when it happened. The case remains open, according Suffolk County Police, who denied a Freedom of Information Act request for case files. There was no immediate suspect after her death or in the years that followed, according to reports in The Suffolk Times two, and then four, years later.

Ms. Randall’s apartment was unlocked — she left it that way because it once had to be broken down during an emergency, her aide, Vivian Grant, had said.

She had been married to Frank Randall, a World War II Army veteran, and is buried at Calverton National Cemetery. It is unclear if she was widowed or divorced.

She lived at Driftwood Cove for 12 years and loved to watch soap operas — “All My Children,” “Loving” — Ms. Grant told The Suffolk Times in 1993. She added that Ms. Randall was like a grandmother and she’d sometimes bring her son along to visit.

What remained constant among investigators in those reports is that while some cases hit a standstill, they are never forgotten.

In 1995, The Suffolk Times followed up, but learned there were no leads in the case. Tips came in, but they all lead to dead ends, Detective Bob Henn had said. Mr. Randall’s Purple Heart was missing from the apartment, and Mr. Henn thought that could have been the key to finding the killer.

Two years later, in 1997, there were still no new leads. As former Southold police chief Joseph Conway said at the time, “After you follow up all your leads and until something new appears, you run up against a wall. You’re always looking for new information. You still hope something will break. You just never know.”

Retired Suffolk County Police Department Det. Bob Henn said Thursday it comes down to there being no evidence and no people of interest. DNA wasn’t found, either, he said. There was hardly anything to go on from the beginning and as time goes on it gets tougher, he said.

“Every time I’m out there I always think of it,” he said. “The people that handle it remember it. We’re sorry that we couldn’t bring it to a just cause end.”

Memories of the case came back in July, when a young woman was found dead in Greenport. A 23-year-old man was arrested the next day and charged with second-degree murder.

But in the 1993 murder, no suspect was ever named. Police at the time recommended that locals take precautionary measures and lock their doors.

The case was handled by the Suffolk County Police Department Homicide Squad.

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said in the decade or so after Ms. Randall’s murder, every once in a while someone who was arrested and hoped to get a break by providing information would mention the case.

That’s the kind of evidence investigators were hoping for, Mr. Henn said, but nothing useful came forward.

“However, most of the time it was just an opinion on who would have killed her, and no evidence was offered,” Chief Flatley said Tuesday in an email. “I would say that maybe once or twice Homicide came out to interview, but it never led anywhere. As time goes by, and as people move away from Greenport or get older, not many even remember that murder case.”

Gail Horton, longtime Greenport resident and president of the Stirling Historical Society, said locals had their own suspicions over the years about what happened, but it ended up a mystery. She said bringing up the case now couldn’t hurt at jogging memories or a chance at new information.

She recalled a period of time when there was “a little bit of an uprising” to re-investigate, “like come on this is crazy. This is a small town. But it just seems to drift away.”

She said some suspected that because Ms. Randall was black, the case did not receive a large amount of attention, but noted that there never was a lot of information to go on from the beginning.

Ms. Horton, who knew Ms. Randall as a community member and a casual friend, called her a “very nice person.”

“Sometimes when you drive by where she lived it reminds you of your relationship with her,” Ms. Horton said.

It was sobering to hear the news of the murder, she recalled.

“It seemed amazing to me that somebody would murder her,” she said.

Photo caption: Gladys Randall is buried at Calverton National Cemetery. Twenty-five years ago, she was found dead, the victim of an apparent murder, and the case has never been solved. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

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