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He was promoted to sergeant in 1966, and pondered his future. By then, he was responsible for feeding his three children and his wife's four, all from previous marriages.
That didn't stop Wakefield from pursuing new goals.
"I just wanted my degree," he says, "to make something more of myself after I retired from police work."
He enrolled at the University of Arizona, attending classes while working night shift until he earned his bachelor's degree. Along the way, Wakefield decided to become a lawyer.
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"With a degree in psychology, what was I going to do, be a security guard or something? I decided to take it a little further."
He earned his law degree in 1973, and served his final four years with DPS as a legal adviser before retiring in May 1977.
After three years in private practice, Wakefield and his family moved to Montrose County, Colorado, where he worked from 1981-83 as a prosecutor.
"Putting bad guys behind bars came pretty naturally to me," he says.
In October 1983, Wakefield took a job as a trial prosecutor with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. A few months later, then-county attorney Tom Collins assigned him a controversial, high-profile series of cases.
It was a strange time: Collins had won election in part because of the campaign support of the Citizens for Decency Through the Law, a special-interest group dedicated to fighting obscenity. CDL was founded by Charles H Keating Jr., chairman and president of American Continental Corporation, who would later serve prison time for securities fraud.
Wakefield's marching orders were to prosecute local adult-movie store owners under Arizona's obscenity laws. He wasn't thrilled about the assignment, but says that, as a newcomer to the office, he had little choice but to go along.
"The office asked me what I knew about porno," he recalls. "I said, 'Nothing, other than looking at it.' I look back on that era and shake my head. You'd win or lose a case almost strictly on the makeup of the jury, not on what either lawyer had to say."
Wakefield's foe in many porno trials was Phoenix defense attorney Richard Hertzberg.
"He had that cowboy appeal, and he seemed to know what he was doing," Hertzberg recalls. "He was always a squared-up guy, tougher than hell to fight against, but honest. I don't think we liked each other much at the time, but he never became a zealot, and I appreciated that."
Hertzberg expresses surprise when told of his former adversary's current legal problems.
"What's a dad supposed to do?" Hertzberg asks. "What the hell did they expect him to do? I probably would have gotten in my car and confronted my kid. They tempted fate. Family comes first, no matter what."
After two convictions, two acquittals and two hung juries in the porno trials, Wakefield says he implored a supervisor to reassign him.
From the late 1980s until he retired, Wakefield worked in a variety of units--including organized crime and charging.
Wakefield's evaluations during his 14 years with Maricopa County were excellent.
"I wish to take this opportunity to thank Randy for his cooperative spirit," special-crimes chief Bill Culbertson wrote in a March 1992 letter of commendation. ". . . The cooperative effort that Randy has shown is one which we should seek to instill in all of our deputy county attorneys."
Like Romley, Wakefield is a Republican. But he says he is "sort of apolitical," and took no part in the county attorney's winning election campaigns in 1988, 1992 and 1996.
That didn't stop Romley from issuing a letter of commendation to Wakefield after the successful 1990 prosecution of a Phoenix auto-theft ring:
"I wish to add my personal commendation to that of [the Phoenix Police Department] for the dedication and professionalism you displayed in the handling of this case, which I know is typical of your work . . ."
Wakefield's immediate supervisor, Miles Nelson, wrote in a June 1996 annual evaluation: "Randy has demonstrated to me that he understands the policies and procedures relating to the office in general as well as policies and procedures that relate specially to the [Charging] Bureau. He follows and supports these policies and procedures without exception."
Wakefield says the part about supporting office policies wasn't true.
"This has become an office in which almost every act is politically motivated--much more than with Collins," he says. "I wasn't a rabble-rouser, not hardly, but
I wasn't walking around with stars in my eyes, either. I was a good soldier, but not a real happy one about the direction."
As an example, he cites the gun policy, in which defendants who possess a weapon while committing a crime are not offered probation-eligible plea bargains.
"[It] sounds good, but it has two big problems," Wakefield says. "You send people to prison who should have been eligible for probation. So they go away and really learn to be bad. Then you have folks going to trial and walking away scot-free who should have had a criminal record."
Despite Wakefield's discontent, he says he'd planned to stay on the job until late 1998. The recent events altered that plan.
The alleged June 1996 incident at the Four Sons Market in New River could be described as a classic hate crime.