Randall was a chief suspect in the 1984 death of Boston resident Holly Jean Cote, whose death by strangulation was never solved. Cote was a friend of Randall's then-wife, Linda Randall. Cote was last seen alive in the area of Gardner, Massachusetts on March 4, 1984. Her body was found in early May in a marsh near Birch Hill Dam in Royalston, Massachusetts. His suspected involvement in Cote's death is based on statements Randall made to his then-wife and to mental health workers during interactions he had with psychiatric services in late 1984, and on the fact that Cote's body was recovered in a fishing area Randall was known to frequent. Randall was never charged with an offence relating to Cote's death but evidence relating to the investigation was raised in the subsequent Evans/Pugh murder trial.
In the late 1980s a Massachusetts court convicted James Randall of an incident of sexual battery of Linda Randall, which occurred on 18 July 1986. Later the same year James was convicted of two counts of sexual battery and one count of kidnapping, also relating to Linda Randall. He was sentenced to five to seven years imprisonment for these offences and spent time in a Massachusetts prison until his release in 1992. After his release Randall moved to Florida and got a job as a window installer.
On October 20, 1995, Wendy Evans, a suspected Florida prostitute, was killed by strangulation; her naked body was found on Myrtle Lane in Oldsmar by a pizza delivery driver later the same day. On January 18, 1996, Cynthia Pugh, another Florida prostitute, was also killed by strangulation, her body being discovered on January 19, 1996.
Police identified James Randall as a person of interest in relation to both deaths after finding tire marks that matched Randall's Dodge D-50 pick-up truck. Police went to speak to Randall on June 27 1996 at his residence. Following that conversation police observed Randall leaving his premises in his truck and attempted to stop him to ask further questions, but Randall instead accelerated away from police and a high-speed chase between Randall and police followed. Following the conclusion of the chase Randall continued to flee on foot and escaped, although he was eventually found and detained four days later (July 1, 1996).
Police investigations revealed that Randall had a history of engaging in consensual erotic asphyxiation with his sexual partners, along with allegations of non-consensual violent attacks on his then-girlfriend Terry-Jo Howard involving in part attempts to choke her.
In April 1997 Randall was convicted by a Florida jury of first-degree murder in the strangulation deaths of both women. Sentencing judge Susan Schaeffer found three aggravating factors in the offence, being (1) that Randall had a previous conviction for a felony, (2) that the previous conviction was for a violent felony, and (3) that the murders were especially heinous, callous or cruel. Taking these factors into account, the court sentenced Randall to two death sentences in relation to the murders. He was also sentenced to a concurrent sentence of five years on a charge of evading police.
Randall appealed the murder convictions; his appeal was heard by the Supreme Court of Florida in 2000. The court upheld the appeals and found that Randall had most likely choked Evans and Pugh for pleasure, not to kill them. Accordingly, the conviction for first-degree murder was replaced with a conviction for second-degree murder in relation to both deaths, and his death sentences were changed to sentences of life imprisonment. Randall is held in Charlotte Correctional Institution, Punta Gorda, Florida.
The murder of Evans and Pugh was featured on two television shows Forensic Files, in a Season 6 episode titled Treads and Threads, New Detectives Left at the Scene and Body of Evidence.
Randall has been the target of allegations that he was involved in other deaths in Massachusetts and Florida. The initial investigations that linked Randall to the deaths of Evans and Pugh involved inquiry into a series of deaths involving female victims, many of them prostitutes, who were killed by strangulation and whose bodies were found naked.
The St Petersburg Times reports that when the imprisoned Randall was informed by detectives he would be charged with the murders of Cynthia Pugh and Wendy Evans, he replied, "Is that all?"
Although investigations are continuing, no charges have been laid against Randall relating to other deaths.