The Randy Farenthold Murder
In all of Jim Peters’ years as a Texas Ranger, there was probably never a more widely-publicized murder investigation than that of George Randolph Farenthold, multi-millionaire playboy step-son of gubernatorial candidate, Frances “Sissy” Farenthold. When Randy’s body was found in the surf off Mustang Island, shocked Texans everywhere demanded a quick ending, but it wasn’t to be. Before his death was finally solved, it involved literally hundreds of investigators, half a dozen or so investigative agencies, no clues, theories by the score, and a reward that approached one million dollars. It was Jim Peters who probably provided the most evidence leading to a solution of the case, and it was Peters who finally brought Randy’s killer back to Texas for justice. It’s a case no one involved will ever forget.
It began on Monday, June 6, 1972. That morning, elderly Port Aransas fisherman Carl Carson and his helper, Joe, expected just another routine day. As they did every day of the week before the sun peeked over the horizon, they drove in Carson’s battered old pickup truck down the packed sand of Mustang Island beach and searched for any signs of bait fish in the surf. Their usual custom after Carson found what he was seeking was to park the truck, drag a large beach seine down to the surf, wade into the shallow water pulling the seine, make a large circle, and then tow the fish-laden net ashore. Carson would sell the catch to charter and pleasure boat captains and pay Joe. Over the years, he’s captured tons of bait fish in that manner.
This morning, however, was different. It was a little past 6:00 a.m., and the sun had already topped the horizon before Carson finally spotted what he wanted in the surf. The two men would have to hurry if they expected to sell their catch to early-morning boat captains. The charter boats left at 8:00 a.m. sharp for their first excursions of the day.
Carl Carson parked his truck just out of reach of the tide, and along with Joe, waded into the gentle waves with the big net. They walked in their customary circle, dragging the seine, and as the net filled with mullet and became hard to tow, it snagged on something heavy in the water. The old fisherman stepped gingerly out to see what it was. Peering into the clear water, he recoiled in horror. Sightless eyes in a bloated face stared back at him through the mesh of the seine.
The two men struggled to drag the corpse to shore, which was no easy task because of the condition the body was in. After stooping down to examine it closely, Carson left Joe guarding the discovery, jumped in his truck, and sped back down the beach to the Port Aransas Police Department.
Port Aransas is a small beach community of about 5,000 permanent residents, and the Police Department shares a facade with City Hall. Carson parked in front of the building, entered, and reported to the dispatcher on duty, Sergeant Paul Olsen. He told Olsen of finding a body in the surf on Mustang Island, and then added for definite clarification, “and it wasn’t no accident, either. The man’s been beat, cut, and tied up with wires and chains...and there’s a concrete block wired to his neck!”
Sergeant Olsen stared at Carson like he was crazy, but the old man was a well-known character and had a reputation for being nobody’s fool. Olsen got up and walked into the inner office where the Chief of Police, Jim Wright, was sipping his morning coffee. “You’re not going to believe this,” Olsen began, and then filled his chief in on the details as Carson had told them.
Chief Wright listened dumbfounded. Violent crime never happened in Port Aransas. He hurried to the outer chamber, talked a few moments with Carson, and then instructed the old fisherman to lead the way to the body. He jumped in his patrol car and followed the old man’s battered pickup truck down the beach.
At precisely where Carl Carson said it would be, Jim Wright bent over and examined the mutilated corpse. It was a gruesome sight to behold. Not only was the face cut, bruised, bloated, and chalky white from being immersed in the sea, but wire and chain were wrapped tightly around the neck---the other end of the chain being secured to a 40-pound concrete block. Yet, even through the distortion and grotesque appearance, the face looked vaguely familiar.
“My God!” breathed Chief Wright. “I think it’s Randy Farenthold.” He raced to his patrol car and radioed Sergeant Olsen with the news. The Sergeant notified the Nueces County Sheriff’s office and the County Medical Examiner, Doctor Joseph Rupp.
By 8:00 a.m., the area was teeming with police and medical officials from Port Aransas and Corpus Christi. Several of the public officials present agreed that the corpse looked like Randy Farenthold, but no one could actually be certain because of the advanced state of decomposition. One deputy, however, made a prophetic statement, “If that IS Randy Farenthold, there’s going to be hell to pay.”
The coroner ordered the body removed to Corpus Christi, and ambulance attendant, Don Moore, who would later become a Port Aransas police officer himself, drove it to the Nueces County Medical Examiner’s office. By nightfall, the coroner had a verdict. The body found in the surf at Port Aransas was, indeed, that of George Randolph Farenthold. It was the coroner’s opinion that the victim had died of a combination of strangulation, beating, asphyxiation, and drowning.
George Randolph Farenthold, or Randy as he liked to be called, was Corpus Christi’s one and only playboy millionaire. Oh, there were millionaires in the “Sparkling City by the Sea,” but none had the charm, the good looks, or the connections that Randy had. He had friends by the thousands, acquaintances by the score, and no apparent enemies---or so everyone thought.
His grandfather was the late Rand Morgan, the wealthiest industrial businessman for miles around. When Randy turned twenty-one in 1961, he inherited Morgan’s cotton and maize farms, and several large cotton gins all over South Texas. One of the largest of the gin complexes was on Rand Morgan Road, located just outside the Corpus Christi city limits on the northwest side of town. Much to the surprise of others in the business community, Randy leaped whole-heartedly into the company and ran it with a firm hand. He seemed imbued with business acumen, and it wasn’t long before he had multiplied his considerable fortune many times over.
Randy married and fathered two children, and to all outward appearances, he seemed a devoted parent and husband. But trouble brewed on the horizon. The more successful he became, the more time he spent pursuing his leisure activities of gambling, pigeon shooting, and sports fishing. Although things were friendly and he kept in close contact with his family, there was first a legal separation from his wife, and then a divorce.
In 1970, Hurricane Celia changed his life forever. The windy lady blew ashore between Corpus Christi and Port Aransas with peak wind gusts estimated at more than 210 miles per hour---no one knows for sure, as all wind barometers blew away. She damaged or destroyed practically everything in her path. One of her casualties was the Farenthold cotton gin on Rand Morgan Road. It was completely destroyed, and that seemed to be the turning point in Randy’s life. He did not rebuild the gin. Instead, he shucked the business world altogether.
Randy Farenthold was an avid sports fisherman, and one of his memberships was with the Port Aransas Boatman’s Association. His pride and joy was a 35-foot yacht, THE LOLLIPOP, which he kept docked at the island community, and his presence around town soon became a common sight to the local islanders. In fact, his transformation became so complete, that the locals looked upon him as one of their own, which is no easy feat in an island community where anyone in coat and tie is looked upon with suspicion. Randy took to wearing worn tee shirts, old faded jeans, and sneakers without socks.
Although extremely wealthy, Randy had several things going for him with the Port Aransas island community. Foremost among them was that he never “put on airs” with the local folks. He always treated everyone with such open friendliness that he achieved a reputation as “just a good ole boy.” Randy was also one “hell of a fisherman,” and it gained him the respect of all the boat captains in the whole area. The islanders vied with each other to work on THE LOLLIPOP.
It seemed inconceivable to everyone that Randy Farenthold could be murdered. The Saturday before his body was found, the Farenthold family celebrated Sissy Farenthold’s entry into Texas politics. She had narrowly missed becoming her party’s gubernatorial candidate, and it was a sign of the changing times in the Lone Star State. Although Randy’s absence at the party was duly noted, no one ever suspected that at that very moment, miles away on the Texas Riviera, as the Gulf Coast around Corpus Christi was known, he was being brutally murdered, his body being dumped into the sea. Everyone just assumed he had gone deep sea fishing---the bill fish were running---and that he would show up later that night. When his body was found Monday morning, as the deputy had said, “all hell broke loose.”
Nueces County Sheriff Johnnie Mitchell was on vacation when Randy’s body was pulled from the surf. He had just won re-election in a particularly arduous political campaign and was looking forward to a few days of rest and relaxation before returning to Corpus Christi and the influx of summer visitors. When he learned the identity of the victim, however, he caught the first plane back to personally take charge of the investigation. He knew the Farenthold family was sure to apply pressure from every quarter for a quick arrest in the case.
Sheriff Mitchell assigned investigators Ted Jolly and Lester Manson to the case, and they began on Mustang Island trying to trace Randy’s last hours. It was a monumental undertaking from the beginning. The tourist season was just beginning, and already, thousands of visitors were in Port Aransas for fishing and swimming in the warm Gulf waters. Men, women, and children milled everywhere up and down the main thoroughfare, and cars were bumper to bumper at the ferry landing---both entering and leaving the island paradise. The two officers just stood on the steps of city hall and stared aghast at the situation. Randy’s killer could be anyone.
Deputies Jolly and Manson decided to start their search along the waterfront dock area. Before the day was over, they had interviewed sailors, fishermen, boat captains, bartenders, waitresses, waiters, and service station attendants. They were confident they had traced every movement Randy had made in the last week of his life. Nowhere did they turn up the name of anyone who would want to kill him. Randy Farenthold seemed to be well-liked and admired by everyone in town.
At the same time the sheriff’s deputies were conducting their investigation, Jim Peters exercised his prerogative of entering the investigation of any crime occurring in Texas by beginning his own formal study of the case. Even though one of the issues on Sissy Farenthold’s ticket had been the abolition of the Texas Rangers Organization --- probably the single, most important reason why she lost the election --- Jim Peters gave the case everything he had. His attention to detail missed nothing.
Peters conducted his investigation in practically the same manner as the sheriff’s deputies. He went to Port Aransas and interviewed hundreds of islanders, gleaning as much as possible about the last few days of Randy Farenthold’s life. He learned that in the previous week, Randy had participated in a deep sea fishing tournament in New Orleans and had then brought THE LOLLIPOP back to Port Aransas, where he had it hauled out of the water to repair some minor hull damage.
On June 2nd, Randy had been seen around his beach house. He had also gone to a swank nearby restaurant for dinner, and so meticulous was the investigation that Peters learned what Randy had ordered from the menu. Randy spent the night at his beach house, got up early the next morning, and had breakfast at a local cafe. He had then gone down to his boat and helped the boat captain repair the damage, spending the remainder of the day at the dock.
On June 3rd, Randy had driven down the beach to Padre Island and had entered Corpus Christi via the John F. Kennedy Causeway, voting before the polls closed. From there, he went to his elegant Corpus Christi home, showered, and changed clothing. His next stop had been the Corpus Christi Yacht Club, where he enjoyed two drinks around 6:00 p.m., before driving to his ex-wife’s home for dinner with her and their two children. He left that residence around 8:00 p.m. and headed for a local nightclub.
Randy had spent an aimless night on June 3rd. He went from one night spot to another, before becoming engaged in a crap game which witnesses claimed had netted him several thousand dollars. It could have been a motive for murder, but Jim Peters learned that all the men in the crap game were wealthy and in the same social class as Randy. Furthermore, Randy had really only won several hundred dollars, not thousands as reported, and the sheriff’s deputies had already found the money from the game where Randy had carelessly tossed it---in a dresser drawer in the master bedroom of his house.
One puzzling aspect to the case concerned the finding of Randy’s car keys in the grass in front of his house. His car was parked neatly in the driveway. Had he been accosted before reaching his front door? Peters thought he had, but how to account for the money from the crap game in the dresser drawer? Perhaps, Peters reasoned, the money in the dresser drawer wasn’t from the crap game after all. Suppose it was Randy’s “mad money,” money he routinely kept on hand all the time? Peters also theorized that Randy might have been home, left the money, and had been accosted as he was leaving for somewhere else. It would be months before Peters would know which theory was correct.
Peters learned that Randy had received a phone call from a woman prior to leaving the last nightclub. Thinking she might have lured Randy home to his house, where he had then been abducted and killed, he tracked her down and interviewed her. It was a false lead. The woman in question had only called and asked Randy to join her for a drink, which he had politely refused. When Peters checked, her story held up.
Randy Farenthold met his killer sometime in the early morning of June 4th...someone who hated him enough to hack him with a knife, beat him viciously with a club, and then garrote him with wire, before chaining at least one 40-pound concrete block to his neck and dropping him into the Gulf of Mexico. But who? And why? The thirty-two-year-old Randy was liked and admired by everyone.
Jim Peters sent the chains, wires, and concrete block to the Crime Lab in Austin for analysis, but it proved to be fruitless. Items of that nature were so common that they littered practically every boat yard and dock on the Gulf Coast from the Mexican border to the tip of Florida. Peters then turned his attention to an expert on coastal tides, in an effort to discover exactly where Randy had been dumped into the sea.
The scientist contacted the coroner’s office and obtained the weight and measurements of the body, along with the weight of the chains that had bound the body to the concrete block. Knowing that Randy had died in the early hours of Saturday morning, the tide expert consulted his charts. In his opinion, the body had been tossed into the water at the mouth of the jetties, which border the ship channel running between St. Joseph and Mustang Islands.
The Port Aransas side of the jetties are always packed with fishermen from the crack of dawn until shortly after the sun sets, and the only activity in the area after dark is usually from the shrimp boats headed out for their harvest of the ocean floor. Pleasure craft seldom clear the harbor at night. Even the big, commercial shipping vessels normally “lay to” off the jetties at night, preferring to maneuver the ship channel in daylight. Jim Peters knew Randy’s body had probably been dumped by a shrimp boat. But which one? All of them denied any knowledge in the matter. In fact, they all seemed more than willing to take the law into their own hands the moment Randy’s murderer was caught. Everyone in Port Aransas felt the same way.
Meanwhile, the two sheriff’s deputies from Nueces County, Ted Jolly and Lester Manson, were also busy with the shrimp boats. They intensively questioned the crews of two boats, learning only that another shrimper had left Port Aransas for Houston around the time of the killing. The two deputies then journeyed to Houston to question the suspect, but it turned out that the shrimper had only gone to Houston to voluntarily check himself into the Veterans Administration Hospital for narcotics addiction. Another dead end.
Things took a strange turn of events when the Federal Bureau of Investigation entered the case. It turned out that Randy Farenthold was a key witness scheduled to testify in federal court on a fraud case involving a Corpus Christi contractor with alleged ties to the Mafia. The trial was set to begin four months away---in October.
According to the FBI, Randy had been approached in 1969 by contractor Bruce Bass with a get-rich-quick-scheme of buying short-term U.S. Treasury notes at a huge discount from a Mafia source in Houston. Bass claimed that he was unable to raise the cash on his own, but he offered to cut Randy in as a partner if Randy would finance the plan.
Randy knew Bass from years of associating in the same “by-invitation-only” gambling and pigeon shooting clic that also involved others of wealthy, independent means. Although the two were acquaintances, they were not close friends, and for some unknown reason, Randy still agreed to the proposition. He put up $100,000 to purchase $166,000 worth of bonds. His instructions were to withdraw the money in cash, check into a Houston hotel, and wait for his contact. The bills were to be in small denominations with non-consecutive serial numbers.
Randy did as instructed, and presently his contact arrived. The “Mafioso” type asked to see the money, satisfied himself that it was all there, and the two men sat down to discuss the transaction. Meanwhile, Randy had called down to Room Service for some soft drinks, and when a knock sounded at the door, he naturally assumed it was the waiter with the drinks. He opened the door, and in rushed a man in a Batman costume, brandishing a sawed-off shotgun. “Batman” robbed Randy of his money, and the Mafioso guy of $10,000---money which Randy said he never saw.
This angered Randy, and he was all for calling in the police, but Bruce Bass talked him out of it. Bass and a companion then placed a call to Las Vegas, Nevada, and claimed they talked with a highly placed Mafia official who promised to listen to Randy’s story. If the official believed what Randy said, he would then recover the stolen money and also sell Randy double the amount of the bonds.
Somewhat mollified, Randy returned to Corpus Christi, secured yet another $100,000, and boarded a plane to Las Vegas with the money. During the journey, however, he came to his senses, and as soon as the plane landed, he went straight to the police. He told them everything. The police officials referred him to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where agents took his statement and promised to investigate. Randy Farenthold then returned to Corpus Christi, and when Hurricane Celia blew away his cotton gin, committed himself full-time to the gambling, pigeon shooting, and sports fishing activities that he so loved.
Meanwhile, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Corpus Christi branch of the FBI, Penrod Harris, was hot on the trail. He had a copy of Randy’s statement, and after a thorough investigation of the charges, presented everything to the U.S. Attorney. Early in 1970, Bruce Bass and a Corpus Christi accomplice were indicted for fraud. The charges also named two men from Louisville, Kentucky, as co-conspirators. After numerous delays by lawyers for the defense, the trial was scheduled to begin in October 1972.
With Randy Farenthold the key witness, prosecutors thought they had a sure thing. He was an upstanding citizen of the community with family members highly placed in State politics. Furthermore, he insisted on testifying against Bruce Bass and his associates. He made a powerful witness. The prosecution, however, failed to take into account the power of Randy’s adversaries. When Randy reported death threats on his life, if he persisted in testifying against Bass and his associates, authorities failed to take them seriously. It turned out to be a colossal mistake.
It now appeared to Jim Peters that he had, at last, stumbled over the motive for the murder. He concentrated his efforts on Bruce Bass and his associates. The four men in the indictment, however, had iron-clad alibis for the time of the murder, but that didn’t faze Peters. He reasoned that the murder could have been committed by a hired hitman.
By now, the Port Aransas area literally swarmed with federal investigators. They found nothing more than what the sheriff’s deputies or Jim Peters had found. The FBI then expanded its investigation to include New Orleans, where THE LOLLIPOP had been entered in the fishing tournament the week prior to the murder. Every participating fisherman, every boat captain and dock worker, who had even the remotest contact with Randy, was interrogated and released. Hotel desk clerks, waitresses, bellhops, bartenders, maids...no one was overlooked by the FBI. New Orleans turned up an absolute blank.
Next, the FBI brought a banker over from Georgia, a man who was involved in the gambling clic that Randy belonged to. The banker testified that it was his practice to fly a bunch of the gambling members to the Bahamas, and they would gamble on his plane, spend a couple of days in the sun, and fly back. During the investigation, however, the FBI became highly interested in all the money that the banker was spending, and the man eventually ended up in the penitentiary for embezzling a lot of money from several banks.
Things just went on this way, turning all these weird rocks over, but nothing led to the apprehension of Randy’s killer.
When the federal authorities decided to look for any shadowy character in Randy’s past that might have borne him a grudge, they traveled the Gulf Coast from Cozumel, Mexico, to Carabel, Florida, stopping and interrogating people in hundreds of places. They questioned yachtsmen and shrimpers, jet setters and the downtrodden, running the social gamut from the fabulously wealthy to the unemployed. They expended thousands of investigative hours and learned only one thing---Randy Farenthold had been well-liked by virtually everyone, and they all wanted to see his killer brought to justice.
Meanwhile, right after Randy’s body was found with no trace of his killer, the Farenthold family prepared to issue a news statement with the offer of a six-figure reward for the arrest and conviction of Randy’s slayer. Sheriff Johnnie Mitchell talked them out of it---temporarily anyway. The Sheriff feared the announcement would bring an onslaught of false tips and interference from the general public, especially thrill seekers. He may as well have saved his breath. Everyone in the Coastal Bend area attempted to help, reward or no, and investigators from all the agencies involved found themselves stumbling over each other, as they tracked down each lead and false clue.
The murder car was finally found abandoned in a maize field off Weber Road in the far southwestern part of the city. Chemical tests of the trunk proved it to be the vehicle which had transported Randy to the dock for his final journey to his watery grave, but the owner of the car had reported it stolen. The owner also had an iron-clad alibi. In fact, no one could be found who could even be suspected of driving the death car.
Finding the murder car also presented more problems. To get the body into the trunk required two or more people. Randy stood five feet, ten inches tall, and he weighed 250 pounds. He was healthy and strong, in the prime of life. It seemed unlikely to Jim Peters that any one person could have subdued Randy and inflicted the terrible damaged that he had suffered. Furthermore, one person could not have lifted the body from the trunk and carried him onto the boat---unless the killer was some kind of gigantic weight lifter.
Things took another weird twist when Bruce Bass called the police to his home, pointing in terror to his front door where someone had left a crudely lettered note: “YOU WILL GET YOURS.” Some investigators believed it was just a ruse to put lawmen off the scent, but others believed that it was a genuine threat from Randy’s friends on Mustang Island. The islanders, all 1,218 of them, would have done just about anything to see Randy Farenthold’s murder avenged.
By the time the fraud case was due to come to trial in October, there was still no indictment in Randy’s murder. And without the key witness, the charges against Bruce Bass and associates were dropped. The four co-conspirators scattered.
As the years passed, Jim Peters worked the case at every free moment that he had. His gut feeling told him that Bruce Bass had something to do with the murder, even if Bass’s iron-clad alibi did put him somewhere else at the time. It remained only for Peters to find the evidence which would point to Bass’s guilt. Peters was not alone in his belief. As he searched for the missing clue, the Nueces County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI, the Corpus Christi Police Department’s Organized Crime Unit, and the Nueces County District Attorney also continued to work the case. No one lost track of Bruce Bass.
There also continued to be false leads pouring in from the community in response to the reward offered by the Farenthold family, which now approached one million dollars. Every one was methodically checked out. One promising lead claimed Randy had been killed by a hired killer from Mexico, only when Jim Peters checked into it, the suspect could not be found and the story could not be verified. Peters eventually chalked it all off as a red herring.
By this time, there were so many investigators from so many different investigative agencies that keeping up with the traffic of paperwork seemed all but impossible. Peters finally decided it was time to try yet another tactic. A friend of his, Ken Bung, a lieutenant in the Corpus Christi Police Department assigned to the Organized Crime Unit, called him early one morning, suggesting that they interrogate a prison inmate in the state penitentiary, who might be able to shed some light on the Farenthold investigation. The two lawmen journeyed to Huntsville, near Houston. The inmate had admitted to killing twelve people---“they all deserved killing, but I never picked on any officer”---but he was only convicted of killing two. Although the prisoner readily agreed to talk to the officers, he wasn’t able to help in any way.
Disappointed, Peters and Bung left the penitentiary. They hadn’t gotten very far before Peters’ intuition kicked into gear. “Ken,” Peters said, “Robert Walters is up here. He may be able to help us. Let’s go talk to him while we’re here.”
“Sure,” replied Bung. What did they have to lose?
Peters reached for the radio and called the Huntsville headquarters, known as “The Walls,” to find out which prison Walters was in.
Robert Walters was in jail in Rosharon for his part in the Robert Graham jail break, and the lawmen drove over to the prison to interview him. He didn’t say anything, other than to “let me think about it.” Two weeks later, he sent Peters a letter. “Come back. I want to talk to you,” he wrote.
Jim Peters and Ken Bung drove back to Rosharon, and Robert Walters gave them an earful.
“I’m not interested in any reward money,” Walters said. “I’m also not interested in getting out early. I’m doing my time, and I’ll be out soon. This is the way it went down.”
Walters said that Bruce Bass had come to him and had asked him to set everything up for the hit. According to Walters, Bass had told him to rent two cars, buy a boat and motor to transport the body out into the Gulf, and buy a chain and the big concrete blocks which were used to weigh the body down. Bass then had him buy a navigation map, rent a boat slip in the water at Port Aransas, and rent a boat barn stall in Corpus Christi. Walters then explained how Bass got rid of the boat and the stolen murder car---the whole works. With this information, Jim Peters and the Corpus Christi Organized Crime Unit began to corroborate everything Walters said.
Meanwhile, the unthinkable happened. It was now 1975, and Bruce Bass was involved in a serious automobile accident. As he lay in guarded condition, close to death, police officers, who were so close to arresting him, became frantic with worry. They were almost in a state of sheer panic. “If he dies,” one of them remarked, “we’ll never close the case.” “Yeah, I’d give that guy blood if it’d induce him to give us a statement.”
When Bruce Bass, the prime suspect, finally recovered from the accident and was released from the hospital, he left Texas for Grand Junction, Colorado. He rented a two-bedroom apartment for $250 a month under the alias of Ponders.
Jim Peters and officers of the Organized Crime Unit were finally able to put all the evidence together, and they gave it to District Attorney William B. Mobley. In March 1976, Mobley laid it before the Grand Jury. The panel members spent three months reviewing the evidence. Just before its session was due to expire in July, they requested, and received, a three month extension to continue the study of the evidence. On September 8th, in a sealed indictment, the Grand Jury charged Bruce Bass with the murder of Randy Farenthold.
The indictment was passed on to the District Attorney’s office, and a warrant for arrest was issued for Bruce Bass. Grand Junction, Colorado, authorities then arrested Bass without incident. He waived extradition proceedings, and on September 10th, Jim Peters and two members of the Organized Crime Unit flew in a Department of Public Safety plane to Grand Junction and escorted Bruce Bass back to Texas.
On the way back, the plane stopped in Lubbock, Texas, to refuel, and Peters escorted the prisoner to a comfortable chair in the lounge, where they could wait. Bruce, who hadn’t spoken one word to Peters since the officers had picked him up, suddenly turned and said, “Peters, as skinny and frail as I am, do you think that I could kidnap Randy Farenthold, put him in the trunk of his car, take him out there, take him out of his car and put him into another car, transfer him from car to car, take him out there off Weber Road, beat him with a pistol and choke him to death, put him back in the car, take him over to Port Aransas, put him on a boat, take him out in the Gulf and lift him out of the boat with all those chains and concrete?”
The tall Ranger looked Bruce evenly in the eye and said, “No, but I know you had it done. They got Randy when he got home. They kidnapped him in his driveway and put him in the trunk of the car. They transferred him from one car to another, and you ordered it.”
Robert Walters, in his talks with Peters, also named another person with Bass, and although all the law enforcement officers knew the other person with Bruce, the man was never prosecuted and his name cannot be given. Several years later, this other man died from a heart attack.
Robert Walters was given immunity for his cooperation in breaking the case. He said that he and his brother, Donnie, had gotten everything together for Bruce Bass. At the time Jim Peters interviewed Robert in Rosharon, Donnie was in a federal penitentiary in Kansas, and Robert wanted to talk to Donnie.
“Can you make it possible for me to talk to my brother?” Robert asked the tall Ranger.
“Sure. Be glad to,” Jim Peters replied. It was a call from a prisoner in a state penitentiary to a prisoner in a federal penitentiary in another state.
“When we told the FBI about it later,” Peters laughed, “they said, `That’s impossible. There’s absolutely no way that it can be done.’ I said, `Oh yeah? I’m a Texas Ranger, and Rangers can do anything.’”
Bruce Bass stood trial for the murder of Randy Farenthold and was given thirteen years in the state penitentiary. Shortly after he was released, he was shot and killed by some of his unsavory associates.
When it came time to testify against Bruce Bass in federal court, Randy Farenthold had refused to back down, and he was murdered because of it. District Attorney William Mobley spoke for all lawmen everywhere when he said, “...to kill any witness in another case is about as bad as you can get....”