Mark Barton's Murder Spree
“It’s a bad trading day, and it’s about to get worse.”
Mark Barton had been on a losing streak, and on Thursday, July 29, 1999, he had an appointment with the management at Momentum Securities to put up $50,000 cash, so he could continue the fast-paced, high-risk stock market speculation that had become his obsession. On Tuesday he had lost his trading privileges for the second time in three months, and the check he had written to cover his margin had bounced.
He arrived in Buckhead, Atlanta’s pristine upscale financial district, at about a quarter past two. The manager had stepped out briefly to the bank, so Barton waited fifteen or twenty minutes for him to return, chatting with the staff and the other day-traders.
Casually clad in khaki shorts and a roseate Polo shirt, the strapping 44- year-old trader known as “Rocket” for moods as volatile as his stocks appeared to be jovial and relaxed.
“I was there in the office today when Mark Barton came in and started his shooting rampage.” said Joe Skipper, a day trader. “He had a smile on his face.”
According to Skipper, Barton showed no sign of disturbance when he entered the office. “I passed by him maybe two minutes before he started shooting. He looked me in the eyes and asked me how I was doing.”
“I told him, ‘Great.’”
Barton passed Skipper in the hall on his way to the break room and then came back to the trading room. The manager he wanted to see still had not returned, but Barton could wait no longer. “That’s when I heard the shots go off.”
Momentum Securities is one of eleven offices of this Houston-based private corporation which claims to handle the nation’s largest volume of day-trading. The brokerage provides trading terminals equipped with high-speed data connections that allow day-traders like Barton to manage their own investments. In a frenetic combination of Wall Street and Las Vegas, often making thousands of transactions per day with occasional spectacular profits, day-traders must maintain a minimum account, and Momentum was the second brokerage to cut Barton off in the nine months he had been trading.
Barton had started trading there three months earlier, with an initial transaction of $100,000 on May 13. Since then his net worth had plummeted from a reported $750,000, including $250,000 in cash, to a net loss estimated at nearly a half-million dollars.
Though he had been making a respectable $85,000 a year as a chemist, the former National Merit Semifinalist had higher expectations for himself as a provider for his family. Dropping out of the corporate rat-race, he had planned on turning a substantial insurance settlement into a fortune by day-trading.
“He had no money,” said Detective Steve Walden. “He had no intention of going to pay off his debt - he knew exactly what he was going to do over there.”
Barton had come to town to close out his account. This would be his final statement.
“He began shutting the blinds in the office,” said Walden. “Then he closed one of the doors in the office. He turned around and whipped out two guns, one in each hand.”
The two-fisted gunman smiled ironically and quipped, “It’s a bad trading day, and it’s about to get worse,” opening fire with a Glock 9-mm semiautomatic in one hand and a Colt .45 in the other.
“This wasn’t a shooting spree,” said Walden. “His shots were intentional. Everyone was shot at close range. Some people had gone under their desks and he just stepped up to them and fired.”
“He was shooting one and then the other,” said victim Sang Yoon. “People were rushing for the door. He shot at people as they were running away. The office secretary was crying and yelling for someone to call an ambulance.”
“He shot her.”
Yoon fell as he scurried for the door. Lying there on the floor watching the gunman’s shoes advance toward him, as he executed people along the way, Yoon noticed the blood flowing from his own wounds.
“I said it’s my last day. I gave up my life.”
But just as Yoon was saying his prayers, the fatal footsteps paused, then unaccountably moved off in another direction.
As soon as he could see his way clear, Yoon dashed for the door and lurched down the hall to another office, spurting blood and begging the receptionist to call for help.
It was 2:45 P.M when emergency operators logged the first call.
Melinda Batch called to report that a man “covered in blood” had stumbled into her office after being shot. She had to repeat the address twice: “It’s 3500 Piedmont Road, Building Eight at Piedmont Center.”
“Quick! We’ve got an emergency!” screamed another woman immediately after that, demanding an ambulance. “There’s a lady that’s down!”
The calm professionalism in the dispatcher’s voice reassured the hysterical woman. “Ma’am, we’ve got everybody en route.”
Within minutes the first officer from the Atlanta Police Department arrived to find blood everywhere.
“He was immediately told that four people were dead and he went up to Suite 310,” said Police Chief Beverly Harvard. “He called for backup and other officers arrived within seconds.”
When Glenn Miller, one of the day-traders at Momentum Securities, dialed 911, he was put on hold. He hung up and called back.
As soon as the first shots rang out, Miller and Skipper headed for a back office and barricaded themselves in. “I flipped the desk over, and held the door closed with the desk,” said Skipper.
The enraged gunman rammed the door, trying to force it open, and then opened fire. Joe Skipper said he “felt the wind” as a bullet passed close to his head. “He shot through the desk twice.”
Trapped in the back room, the two terrified traders found an ingenious new use for a computer by launching it through a third-floor window to open up an escape route.
As gunfire claimed the lives of four victims, throughout the building survivors ran for shelter, and one of the first officers on the scene heard a woman scream, “Mark Barton shot us!”
Meanwhile, in the midst of the chaos, the mass murderer managed to coolly stroll out the door, somehow packing his two handguns inconspicuously enough to pass by the officers already rushing to the scene.
It had been a bad trading day, indeed, and it was about to get even worse, as Mark Barton crossed Piedmont Road to close out a few more accounts.
All Tech Investments
“I hope this doesn’t ruin your trading day.”
At about 3:00 P.M., Mark Barton calmly walked into the offices of the All Tech Investment Group. Though he had not done any trading with All Tech for over three months, he seemed comfortable enough as he greeted the other traders.
Fred Herder had started day-trading at All Tech the same day as Mark Barton, nine months before, and Barton’s terminal was right across from his. Barton had stopped by briefly at All Tech on Tuesday, but on that occasion “he wasn’t very talkative,” said Herder. “He was kind of depressed.”
When Barton walked into the office on the third floor of Two Security Center on Thursday afternoon, Herder joked, “Where were you yesterday? You make too much money or what?”
But Barton didn’t laugh. Despite his superficial smile, he wasn’t very talkative today either. He needed to talk to the manager, he said, and stepped directly into an office with him and his secretary.
“A couple of minutes later, I heard three shots,” said Herder.
After shooting the two All Tech employees at point-blank range, the burly gunman burst through the door into the main trading room, both handguns blazing at fellow-traders and strangers alike.
“I thought he was playing a game at first,” said an unidentified eyewitness, who had accompanied trader Yusef Liberzon to All Tech to learn something about day-trading.
Fred Herder wasn’t taking any chances. What had been unimaginable seconds before had materialized, and was coming straight at him with blood in his eye. Herder dove under his desk, but Barton shot him in the back on his way down.
“I hope this doesn’t ruin your trading day,” snapped Barton as he shot to kill, aiming for the head, the chest and back; and with only one exception, every single shot found its target.
“I was the first person to look into his eyes,” said day trader Nell Jones, describing Barton as “someone who was very calm and determined. No feelings. No feelings.” She rode in the ambulance with two critically injured victims and was treated for shock at the hospital. Although Barton did fire at her, “the bullet missed me, and then he turned to shoot at other people. And I escaped.”
“He was proficient with his firearms,” said homicide commander Lt. Tony Biello. “He was methodical.”
Liberzon was shot point-blank in the head; his friend who lived to tell the tale was dazed but unwounded, as the determined gunman passed him by for more likely targets.
All four staffers were wounded, seriously but not fatally, but the death toll at All Tech that day came to five before Barton was satisfied.
John Cabrer, who was working right outside All Tech, told reporters, “When I heard the gunshots, it sounded like a ladder being thrown down a stairwell. I thought maybe a window-washer had dropped something.” But when he walked into the office to investigate, he saw three people dead and four others wounded.
“I tried to administer CPR to one of them, but then I realized he was gone,” Cabrer said. “So I went to the man who was still conscious on the floor and I called his wife for him.”
Although Cabrer was one of many witness dialing 911, motorcycle patrolmen on Piedmont Road had heard the second volley of gunfire themselves and were already responding.
“I could see some security people moving toward the offices,” said Cabrer. “I walked in the emergency exit, and right as I came in the door I saw a man on the floor in a pool of blood.”
Chris Carter, who works in another office on the third floor of Two Securities Center, described seeing a body on the floor near the leasing office, down the hall from All Tech.
“They weren’t attending to him, which led me to believe he was dead.” Carter said. “Obviously, he had run or walked down the hallway and fell into the leasing office, because there was a trail of blood leading from that end of the hallway to our end.”
Scott Belazi, who works with Carter, added that he saw “a bunch of blood in the leasing office.”
John Rustin, the first Emergency Medical Technician to arrive at Two Securities Center, said he found bodies scattered all over, and several victims were still sitting in their chairs. “We came in, and there were two fatalities to the left, one critical to the right, one fatality in the hallway, two more critical and one walking wounded.”
“They were just begging for help,” said Steve Goodman. “There was so little we could do for them but comfort them.”
“I saw blood in the hallway and officers with weapons drawn,” said one witness. Another told reporters, “I saw a pool of blood and told everybody in the office, ‘There’s been a shooting, we’ve got to get out of here right now!’“
They weren’t the only ones desperate to escape.
Leaving five more dead and a total of a dozen injured, once again, Barton took advantage of the chaos of the massacre, and before the double crime scene could be cordoned off, undetected by law enforcement troops swarming over the area, Georgia’s most prolific mass murderer had already made his getaway.
“People who will snap any place, at any time. ”
By an incredible coincidence, less than a half hour after the first reports of gunfire in Buckhead, a heartbreaking triple murder scene was discovered sixteen miles away in Stockbridge, a suburb southeast of Atlanta.
“There was a request for a welfare check on the inhabitants of the home,” Jimmy Mercer, Chief of Henry County Police Department, announced at a press conference later that evening. The request had apparently been initiated by a coworker who had become concerned because Leigh Ann Barton had not come to work.
The first call was received by the Henry County Police emergency response center at 3:32 P.M., but after confirming that it was, indeed a homicide, it was almost two hours before detectives were able to briefly enter the apartment, and then a thorough inspection would have to await the issuance of a search warrant, which was not obtained until 7:08 P.M. It would be 9:30 P.M before Chief Mercer would make the official announcement about the preliminary results of the search.
Henry County Police set up a command post outside 1505 Cobblestone Drive at the Bristol Green Apartments, and would reveal only that there had been a homicide involving three victims who were apparently related to the fast-breaking news from Buckhead, and that information found at the scene had led authorities to conclude that “three other people might still be in danger.”
Chief Mercer described how he first learned about the extent of the danger. “When Captain Simmons came here today, he told me he had reason to believe other people were at risk, and he began to try to contact other people at that time. He told me over the radio that this may be related to the incident with the sniper in Atlanta.”
By the time the crime scene tape went up in Stockbridge, the search for the fugitive mass murderer had already captured the attention of the nation. Now came the first signs that what had first appeared to be a classic workplace massacre took on a sinister new dimension as details of the gruesome triple slaying leaked out, bit by provocative bit.
While awaiting further information from official sources, reporters frantic for an edge canvassed the neighborhood, eliciting reactions and observations from people who had known the Bartons. None of the neighbors reported noticing anything suspicious at the strangely quiet apartment.
Mark Barton and his second wife Leigh Ann had separated, but even though Leigh Ann had told her sister she was afraid of her husband, she was willing to give him one more chance, for the sake of the two children from his first marriage, 12-year-old Matthew and 8-year-old Mychelle, known as “Shelley.” Mark had come up short three weeks back, and couldn’t make the payments on his house in nearby Morrow. So Leigh Ann had let them move in with her.
“The children and him didn’t have a place to stay,” said Stubbs. “That’s why they were here. She had a good heart.”
A lay Carmelite brother who lived in the complex came down to join the crowd of neighbors, journalists, and curiosity-seekers gathering in front of the Barton residence, as they made the connection between the shocking drama on TV and the murder mystery unfolding right next door.
Brother Douglas Reagan knelt and lit a candle, said a Hail Mary and another prayer, and offered his consolation. “You have to realize there are people who will snap any place, at any time.”
“They were our best friends,” recalled one of Shelley’s girlfriends wistfully. “The dad was really nice and he’d talk to us like a Scout leader troop person. He said his name was Lee, but on the news they are saying his name is something else.”
“He was a nice guy, a gentleman,” said neighbor Helene Peluso. “He’d say hello, goodbye. Always friendly.” Recalling Barton in the sheer knee socks and kerchief of the Boy Scouts, she was puzzled at the incongruity. “He didn’t look like the kind of man who’d go around shooting people.”
“It was a real shocker, I tell you,” said Jimmie Northcutt, another neighbor. “As far as I was concerned, he was a pretty good fella.” However, Northcutt’s daughter described Barton as aloof and reluctant to talk.
“Sometimes he would nod and sometimes he wouldn’t,” equivocated Barton’s next-door neighbor. “It was one of those situations you were never sure about.”
“He was not a social person,” said Christine Johnson more decisively. “He didn’t get out and talk. He would just throw his hand up or something. If he was in his van or out in his yard, and he saw you there, he’d just throw his hand up.”
“Tuesday night when he come to pick up my grandson, the dad did look a little bit peculiar,” allowed one newly-suspicious neighbor, forced to reflect on the fragile mortality of her own family.
Herman Johnson lives right across the street. “It’s shocking and sad,” he said, anxiety creasing his brow. “I just can’t explain what’s going on. It’s scary.”
“It’s just kind of creepy,” said an uneasy young housewife from down the street. “I think I may change my locks.”
Robert Grimes was more philosophical. “I feel sad we missed the opportunity to prevent this from happening. We never know when we do prevent it. We only know when we don’t.”
Mark Barton on the Cover of Time
“It deteriorated very quickly. ”
Just after 3:30 P.M., a husky middle-aged white man was spotted running south along Piedmont Road by several office workers.
“We had no idea he had just shot the people at Piedmont Center,” said Lori Woodward. “We watched him because he looked strange. He was carrying, like, a knapsack on his back and he was acting nervous.”
However, at the first sight of a black-&-white, the runner in the khaki shorts and red shirt stopped short.
“At that point he looked around, and then he walked up the driveway of a building that’s under construction.”
“He kept looking around, looking over his shoulder. He noticed two more officers at the top of the driveway, and he turned around and walked back to the street, and then he ran into a patch of woods.”
“We never saw him after that.”
For five hours, nobody knew where the killer was. Police had no way of knowing whether he might be on top of a building, lurking somewhere within the internal maze of office towers, or hiding in the bushes.
Terrified office workers either huddled fearfully in barricaded back offices, or dashed madly out onto the street, while city, state, and federal law enforcement officers blanketed the area, and emergency medical crews struggled to focus on finding, treating, and evacuating the wounded. Seasoned paramedics reeled at the extent of the carnage.
One of the first paramedics to arrive was unable to leave the scene once she had located a 24-year-old shooting victim. “He was in a lot of pain,” said Joette Castronova. “I just rubbed his head and told him he was going to be OK.”
“We see shootings all the time, they almost seem routine,” said Reginald McCoy, a paramedic with Grady Hospital. “But I’ve never seen anything like that... the volume. It was utter chaos.”
“It deteriorated very quickly,” said Atlanta paramedic Terry Brown. “It went from one gunshot victim on the floor being saved to multiple victims coming out of offices screaming.”
Roads were blocked off and traffic rerouted. Police dogs were brought in, and SWAT teams in full regalia were joined by FBI agents in military gear, as they combed the parking lots and roadways of Buckhead. Each office building had to be secured, searched and cleared - office-by-office and floor-by-floor.
Office workers were confined in safe areas and released only after hours of searching had cleared an evacuation route. Those wishing to leave the scene by car were subjected to identity checks and thorough searches of their automobiles, including opening the trunks.
When mass murder came to town, it caught law enforcement short-handed, with 100 officers in New York for the funeral of one of their own. Atlanta Police Chief Beverly Harvard was out of town at a conference as well, leaving Mayor Bill Campbell to take the helm during the heat of the crisis.
Most of Atlanta’s most experienced journalists were also away, attending a convention of the Georgia Press Association. Those who remained to carry the flag gave it their most enthusiastic effort, but the news had a certain raw edge, bursting with urgency and bristling with conflicting accounts of the rapidly unfolding events. Information that later proved spurious was played and replayed, creating a vertiginous admixture of reliable facts and rumors as fleet as they were fallacious.
One dramatic clip of an hysterical woman babbling about a sniper holding a hostage on the roof took on a life of its own in reruns, although it was as baseless as the continual reiterations that the shooting had started at All Tech, then moved to Momentum, rather than vice versa.
Atlanta-based CNN had switched to full saturation coverage within minutes of the first reports, picking up feeds from the local network affiliates and broadcasting them worldwide. One news crew was telecasting live from behind the crime-scene tape, because they had arrived at the scene immediately and the crew was already well-entrenched, satellite uplink in place, by the time police could secure the area.
While swirling skycams gave the world a chance to participate in the manhunt, the “father of electronic day-trading” called a press conference in the company’s New Jersey headquarters to deny that the shootings had “anything to do with a down day in the market.”
“My emotions are so crazy right now I don’t know what to say,” admitted a flustered Harvey Houtkin, chairman and CEO of All Tech Investment Group. “For something like this to happen is just crazy.”
Although the stock market had dropped about 250 points, Houtkin pointed out that this is not enough of a fluctuation to cause any undue stress for the seasoned investor.
All Tech President Mark Shefts declared that the entire company was shocked and saddened by the “senseless tragedy.”
“We understand that Mr. Barton was going through a difficult divorce and perhaps this precipitated these events,” said Shefts. “But no explanation can alleviate our grief or bring a sense of closure to the horror of these shootings.”
A hollow-eyed Mayor Bill Campbell addressed citizens over the airwaves, imploring them to pray not only for the families of the victims, but for the entire City of Atlanta.
“It is clear that we need something.”
The Barton Family
“You know he’s going to kill you.”
Joe Vandiver says Mark Barton robbed him of his daughter. “I hope there is a hell, and I hope Mark Barton burns in it for 10,000 years, because he deserves it.”
When she met Mark Barton, the young Leigh Ann Vandiver had been married to David Lang. Even though Mark was a married man twice her age, they began having an affair, and by May of 1993, Mark’s wife Debra was getting suspicious.
“The key to the whole thing was I started going to the tanning bed, and she didn’t like that,” Mark explained in a deposition.
In June of 1993, the two lovers shared a romantic getaway to North Carolina, and over dinner with another couple, Mark toasted Leigh Ann as the love of his life, and pledged that he would be free to marry her by October.
In August, Leigh Ann left David Lang to move in with her sister, and by the end of the month, her lover Mark was a free man. His wife Debra had been tragically murdered along with her mother, while Barton claimed to be at home in Lithia Springs, Georgia, watching Matthew and Mychelle. Leigh Ann moved in with them in less than a week; a month later her divorce was finalized.
Investigator Danny Smith called on Leigh Ann shortly after the double murder, and warning her that during the investigation, Barton had told him that he would always need a “young, sexy wife.”
“When you cease to fill those needs, you know he’s going to kill you.”
His own prophetic words haunt the investigator today, but they weren’t enough to deter Leigh Ann. Six months later, she moved with Mark and the kids to a house on Sinclair Place in the Atlanta suburb of Morrow, in Clayton County, Georgia; however, their home life was never a settled one.
In February of 1994, Mychelle, who was 2-1/2 years old, complained to a day-care worker that her daddy had “played with her boo-boo.” Asked what she meant, the child pointed to her vaginal area. The child’s complaint was reported and investigated; however, not unlike the murder of her mother, this case was also closed for insufficient evidence. Both children remained in the custody of their father, and on May 26, 1995, Mark made Leigh Ann his second wife.
Mark was using his training as a chemist on a series of sales jobs, until he got a settlement from the life insurance he had taken out on his first wife shortly before her demise. Though most of it was tied up in a trust fund for the kids, the remainder of about $200,000 was Barton’s to invest, and thus was born the new day-trader.
Dana Reeves, Leigh Ann’s older sister, says that Leigh Ann had grown frustrated with supporting the whole family by selling cleaning supplies, while her husband had not worked since the insurance money had come in.
Leigh Ann packed up and left the home more than once, but she always came back. She was attached to the children, and enjoyed leading Mychelle’s Brownie troop and coaching Matthew’s soccer team.
“I know she had some concerns about the kids, wanting to be with them and wanting to be involved in their life like she had been,” recalled her sister.
In late October of 1998, Leigh Ann was busy working as a customer service trainer, when a morose Mark called her on the job, complaining that he had nothing to live for and he was going to kill himself. Leigh Ann dashed home, but by the time she arrived, Mark was no longer suicidal.
“Never mind,” he said. “I’ve already killed the cat.”
Leigh Ann was alarmed, but Mark’s theatrics took an even more ominous turn, as he spent the next two days pretending to help Mychelle look for her missing pet.
According to Henry County homicide Detective Rene Swanson, “That’s what convinced Leigh Ann to finally leave him.” She moved to Stockbridge to start a new life without Mark.
“I know she had fears from him,” said Leigh Ann’s sister. “The last deep-down, heart-to-heart conversation we had, I asked her was she comfortable or scared. She said, ‘Yes, but my apartment has this security system and that makes me feel comfortable.’“
After Leigh Ann left him, a disconsolate Barton went to visit his sister-in-law, Kelly Argo, and her husband, Gary, at their home near Macon, and confided that he had lost $250,000, and only had about $20,000 left to his name.
By Christmas, his losses had reached about $300,000. He sought out his estranged wife and wept, “I lost it all. I need help,” but Leigh Ann was no longer sympathetic. In fact, she was furious, recalled Kelly Argo. “He couldn’t afford the day-trading and he couldn’t stop.”
By March of 1999, Barton told Gary Argo that he had tapped the children’s trust fund, and if he couldn’t replace the money, he might go to jail. The next time the Argos talked to him, he told them he had found the money and was doing all right.
But the troubled trader was not doing all right. He had lost at least $100,000 over the last 60 days of his trading career, and his documented losses over the past year exceeded $450,000. By June he was already in debt to fellow traders, some of whom he later slaughtered; the debts he canceled that day are in truth incalculable.
The emotional losses Mark Barton faced are likewise incalculable, and much of this mystery must remain unsolved. But suggestions of generational incest justify a certain amount of informed speculation that not only had his second wife rejected him, but perhaps his youngest and most vulnerable victims had begun to do the same.
It is not inconsistent for a child whose boundaries have been invaded since infancy to tolerate the abuse until the ego matures, and as the natural individuation of the personality occurs, a new separation from the parent begins. At this point, many abused children begin to insist upon personal space, and if the abuser is unwilling to relinquish the established practice, the violation of the child might escalate or take on a new twist. The father might even kill his own children to keep them quiet about Daddy’s little secret; to stop the deadly cycle of generational abuse in the most urgently primitive way.
This family’s secrets have all gone to their graves now, but those who are left behind can’t help but wonder how these intimate circumstances might have been tormenting not only Mark, but Leigh Ann.
Dana Reeves says Leigh Ann had been wary of Mark after he was named the prime suspect in the murder of his first wife and her mother. “There was never really a comfortable feeling with him after that,” she said, and insisted that if Mark had killed anyone, her little sister had known nothing about it. “She’s just an innocent victim that something terrible has happened to.”
However, David Lang is not so sure. He told the New York Daily News that he believes his late ex-wife was fully aware of the crimes of her murdering spouse, and had in fact helped him cover them up, so the new menage could live off the money. Leigh Ann had taken out a $250,000 insurance policy on him as well, and he wondered if his own life might have been at risk.
But whether or not Leigh Ann was involved, none of them would live happily ever after. Mark Barton would see to that.
Mark Barton & The Family He Killed
“I forced myself to do it.”
On July 28, 1999, Mark Barton phoned his wife Leigh Ann’s place of employment and told her supervisor, Helen Sowerpy, that his wife would be absent from work that day due to illness.
The next day, Leigh Ann did not report to work, nor did she call, which alarmed her co-workers. Finally one of them phoned Marty Pickard, the manager of Bristol Green Apartments. Expressing her concerns, she asked that someone check on Leigh Ann’s welfare. Management agreed.
Marty Pickard summoned David Small, the maintenance man, and the two of them went to the apartment, knocked, and after receiving no response from within, entered using their pass key.
“When the maintenance personnel came to check, that’s when they found the two children,” said Chief Jimmy Mercer. Grabbing Barton’s cordless phone on the way out, they immediately vacated the premises.
Pickard called Henry County Police at 3:23 P.M., and first response to the scene was by Property Crimes Detective Joe Norton, who happened to be in the area. Due to the exigency of the circumstances, Detective Norton entered the apartment, and upon verifying the presence of the two children, did a quick sweep and exited the apartment, closing the door behind him. He immediately called Detectives Rene Swanson and Tom Stott, who cover crimes against persons.
“That takes in everything people can do to each other,” said Detective Swanson. “We handle it all, from homicides to juveniles to people who punch somebody in the face.”
Until Swanson and Stott arrived at 3:50 P.M., Detective Norton stayed outside with Pickard and Small.
Officer John Cabral was putting up the yellow crime scene tape when the homicide detectives arrived, but to ensure proper processing of evidence, Swanson and Stott remained outside with a steadily growing crowd until Captain Jim Simmons arrived at 5:26 P.M.
When the captain and the two homicide detectives entered the apartment, nothing seemed out of order. “You walked in there, and if it hadn’t been for the fact it was a murder scene, it just seemed like the most normal place in the world,” said Detective Swanson.
They headed directly for the bedroom to verify what had been reported; the bodies of two children were tucked into bed with a blanket covering all but the faces, each one with a note hand-written by their loving father lying atop the blanket.
These notes piously conveyed the souls of his beloved victims to their next destination. The killer prayed that somehow, somewhere, someone would “take care of them.”
The note found with Barton’s son read:
I give you Matthew David Barton, my son, my buddy, my life. Please take care of him.
The note found with Barton’s daughter read:
I give you Mychelle Elizabeth Barton, my daughter, my sweetheart, my life, please take care of her.
Though Rene Swanson had been a detective for twelve years, she had been a mother for even longer, and it was as a mother that she was severely shaken by the sight of the two lifeless children tucked into one bed together: Matthew with his Game Boy, and Michelle with a teddy bear, “snuggled in like it was real cold.”
“I believe he had washed their bodies, and the little girl’s hair smelled of shampoo like my 10-year-old Brittany’s hair smells after a shampoo,” said Swanson. “When I saw the notes, I just felt complete sorrow, devastation that they wouldn’t be playing tomorrow, or ever.”
To avoid contaminating the evidence, the officers would have to leave the heartrending scene without touching anything, until they could return with a search warrant.
As they were on their way out, they spotted a letter prominently displayed on the coffee table in the living room. Mark Barton had word-processed it on his computer, printed it out, enclosed it in a plastic page protector, and deliberately placed it “in a position we were sure to find it.”
“The letter appeared to be on his own personal stationery,” said Jimmy Mercer, Chief of Henry County Police Department, “but the notes themselves appeared to be something less than that.”
The word-processed letter read:
July 29, 1999, 6:38 A.M.
“We looked in the closet, but we didn’t see a body,” said Detective Swanson. “There was a smell, though.”
To Whom It May Concern:
Leigh Ann is in the master bedroom of the closet under a blanket. I killed her on Tuesday night. I killed Matthew and Mychelle Wednesday night.
There may be similarities between these deaths and the deaths of my first wife, Debra Spivey. However, I deny killing her and her mother. There is no reason for me to lie now. It just seemed like a quiet way to kill and a relatively painless way to die.
There was little pain. All of them were dead in less than five minutes. I hit them with a hammer in their sleep and then put them face down in the bathtub to make sure they did not wake up in pain. To make sure they were dead. I’m so sorry. I wish I didn’t. Words cannot tell the agony. Why did I?
I have been dying since October. I wake up at night so afraid, so terrified that I couldn’t be that afraid while awake. It has taken its toll. I have come to hate this life in this system of things. I have come to have no hope.
I killed the children to exchange them for five minutes of pain for a lifetime of pain. I forced myself to do it to keep them from suffering so much later. No Mother, no father, no relatives. The fears of the father are transferred to the son. They were from my father to me and from me to my son. He already had it. And now, to be left alone, I had to take him with me.
I killed Leigh Ann because she was one of the main reasons for my demise, as I planned to kill the others. I really wish I hadn’t killed her now. She really couldn’t help it. And I love her so much anyway.
I know that Jehovah will take care of all them in the next life. I’m sure the details don’t matter. There is no excuse, no good reason. I am sure no one will understand. If they could, I wouldn’t want them to. I just write these things to say why.
Please know that I love Leigh Ann, Matthew and Mychelle with all my heart. If Jehovah’s willing, I would like to see them all again in the resurrection. To have a second chance. I don’t plan to live very much longer. Just long enough, to kill as many of the people that greedily sought my destruction.
You should kill me if you can.
Mark O. Barton
After the search warrant was obtained, the body of Leigh Ann Barton would be found further back in the closet, just as Barton had described it, wrapped up tightly in a blanket, the grisly bundle topped off with a note similar to the ones left with the children:
I give you my wife Leigh Ann Barton, my honey, my precious love. Please take care of her. I will love her forever.
Examination by the medical examiner confirmed Barton’s written description of the cause of death of his wife and children.
At the end of the meticulously-preserved word-processed letter, the names and phone numbers of three individuals were listed. They were Barton’s mother, Gladys; Bill Spivey, who had accused Barton of killing his wife and his daughter Debra; and Joe Fowler of Douglasville, Georgia, another one of Barton’s attorneys.
There was no indication of the significance of the inclusion of these names, and it might have meant nothing more sinister than a conscientiously provided listing of the people who would need to be notified after the multiple emergencies Barton was staging.
However, police could not afford to take chances, and coming right after his vow to “kill as many of the people that greedily sought my destruction,” they treated the three names as a hit list, and notified the parties that they might be a target of the homicidal fugitive.
“Joe Barton fled as soon as I called his office to notify him about his name being on that list,” said Detective Swanson. “His office star-69’d their phone and called me back and asked me what was going on. And when I told them about the list, they said, ‘Oh, my God, do you think we ought to close the office?’“
I told them, “Well, I would!”
Barton had been to Fowler’s office to request changes to his will on Monday, clearly showing premeditation. After killing his family and composing his notes, Barton had gone back to the law office again Thursday morning to drop off a set of keys and finalize the new will, on his way from one death scene to the next.
Gladys Barton remained in seclusion, releasing no comment, but Bill Spivey had been trying to get someone to listen to him for years, and finally everyone wanted to hear what he had to say about Mark Barton - now that it was too late.
The Spivey Family
“Everybody in the family thinks it was him.”
“If what I’ve heard is true, the man has destroyed nearly my whole family,” said Bill Spivey. “The man who it appears killed my wife and daughter also killed my two grandchildren.”
Six years ago, Spivey had thought of Barton as “the perfect son-in-law.” That was before his daughter Debra and his wife Eloise were found hacked to death, and the paragon was named the sole suspect.
“Since then, we have cooled tremendously toward each other,” announced the retired Federal Aviation Administration supervisor a few months after the murders, with a remarkable degree of understatement.
It had been Labor Day weekend, 1993, when mother and daughter left their home in Lithia Springs, an Atlanta suburb in Douglas County, Georgia, driven Mrs. Spivey’s red Thunderbird, for a holiday visit to a riverside campground they had just rented in Cherokee County, Alabama. A bloodied camper was found on September 5 parked alongside Lake Weiss, with the Thunderbird parked outside. Inside, both women had been slaughtered with a hatchet, undetected by as many as 600 people vacationing nearby.
There were no signs that entry had been forced. Eloise’s purse had been dumped out, and two rings were missing, but six $100 bills, credit cards, and other valuable jewelry were untouched. Her .32 caliber revolver was also left untouched on the kitchen counter.
Douglas County investigator Jerry Wynn concluded that although there had been a half-hearted attempt to make it look like a robbery, “the motive here was a lot of anger: kill, kill, kill.”
Barton’s suicide note acknowledged similarities between the 1993 murders and the 1999 murders, and although there were significant differences, still at both scenes the victims were killed with blunt force trauma, and there were attempts to clean up.
Although the crime occurred in Alabama, Georgia authorities had became involved in the investigation because the victims, and the suspect, lived in Georgia. Douglas County police had searched the Barton’s metro area home, seizing golf clubs and anything that might have been used as a murder weapon.
Robert Hughes, one of Barton’s attorneys, said he doesn’t think Barton was the culprit in the slayings. “He had a good alibi. He was at home watching the two children while his wife and mother were at the lake.”
While Barton’s alibi could not be proven, neither could it be disproven. Police had first become suspicious when they took him to the scene of the crime and he showed absolutely no emotion. Then on initial questioning, his answers seemed rehearsed.
“We felt sure he was our man,” said Cherokee County Sheriff Roy Wynn told reporters in the wake of the Buckhead massacre. “I wish we could have nailed him first.”
But Mark Barton was to join the ranks of multiple slayers such as “Railway Killer” Angel Maturino-Resendiz and “Yosemite Killer” Cary Stayner, who dominated headlines in 1999 by walking away from authorities, only to kill again and again.
“We figured they would have questioned him and let him go and eventually we forgot about it,” said Eric Anderson, one of Barton’s neighbors.
“We didn’t have any witnesses who could put him there,” lamented Danny Smith, an investigator with Cherokee County. “We didn’t have any fingerprints.”
“There was never any forensic evidence, never any eye witness evidence, never any statement from him,” said Tommy Waldrop, Sheriff of Douglas County.
“He was the suspect, but that’s a long way from being the defendant,” said Richard Igou, who had handled the case as Cherokee County district attorney in 1993.
“Mr. Barton was not only our prime suspect, he was our only suspect,” said Mike O’Dell, the current Cherokee County district attorney.
There were bloody footprints at the scene, but the shoes could not be identified, and although everyone who had been at the campground that day was interviewed, nobody recalled seeing Mark Barton or anyone else around the camper by the red Thunderbird.
While police could not place Barton at the scene, they did find blood in his Ford Taurus. They searched the car one week after the crime, and released it back to Barton, instructing him not to clean it. The next time car was examined, it had obviously been detailed, and the surfaces buffed with Armor-All. Nevertheless, an application of Luminol revealed traces of blood on the brake pedal, the ignition switch, and the steering wheel. However, before the spots could be processed further, Barton claimed he accidentally spilled a soft drink on them, spoiling their evidentiary value.
Barton had shrugged off the blood evidence. “If there is a ton of blood in my car, why aren’t you arresting me?” he had challenged investigators. “Well, now, why am I not in handcuffs?”
Months later, Barton had driven 100 miles from his Georgia home back to Alabama to tell Cherokee County investigators he had remembered why there had been blood in his car. It was his own, he said. He had cut his finger the summer before. But he pulled his punches. When it came down to giving samples for DNA testing, Barton just said no.
He had also refused to take a polygraph.
“First of all, I’ve had a lie detector test before, whenever I sought employment at the 7-11 convenience store,” Barton explained in a deposition. “And afterwards, I felt raped, I felt violated... I knew that it was not admissible in court. I knew that these people were not on my side. They had already lied to me several times...”
He referred to another case, comparing his situation to theirs, saying the defendant had not passed a polygraph test, and protesting vaguely, “I thought that lying people might do that to me.”
“They told me that they wanted to give me a six-hour lie detector test and ask me about my relationship with my wife and with my girlfriend and just get inside my head and ask me about all kinds of things.”
“I asked them if I was - if I passed such a lie detector test, would it clear me as a suspect. And they said no. For all of those reasons, I said, no, forget it....”
Debra’s cousin, Marty Powell, described Barton’s demeanor at the double funeral as “colder than a cucumber.”
“He was a pretty cool character throughout the investigation,” said Igou. “That was part of the problem; there was never a crack in his facade.
Danny Smith said that after Barton remarried, he would occasionally call to taunt him. “He told me that he would never go to jail.”
Barton would sarcastically ask the investigator why he was a suspect in the slayings. “It was a game to him,” Smith said. “He got mad at me one time because he couldn’t convince me he didn’t do it.”
“For every question you’d ask him, he’d come back with ten questions of his own, trying to figure out where you were coming from,” said Jerry Wynn.
“If he couldn’t control the conversation, he would either stop talking or switch to something else,” said Larry Wilson, an investigator with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department.
Smith and Wilson both protested against criticism of their investigation, saying they did all they could in the slayings, even if there was never an arrest, and they resent that their investigation has been second-guessed by Georgia authorities.
“I don’t know of anything we could have done differently,” Smith said, looking back ruefully. “We knew morally that he had done it, but we could not prove it legally.”
A defensive O’Dell fended off accusations by reporters covering the slaughter, insisting that their office had never stopped looking for evidence.
“This is an ongoing investigation we continued to work, and in fact had investigators interviewing individuals as recently as this spring.”
Major Phil Miller, of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, said that while he wasn’t criticizing the Alabama investigators, still he believed they were reluctant to accept help from Georgia and did not act fast enough in gathering evidence.
“We weren’t trying to take the case over,” Miller said. “We had a right to ask questions.”
Barton had taken out a $600,000 life insurance policy on his wife only four days before her murder; the insurance company, Investors Life Insurance of Nebraska, had refused to pay the claim because of the cloud of suspicion over the beneficiary. They offered to pay the full amount of the policy, provided it go into a trust fund for the children. Barton refused, and in 1995, Investors Life sued him for fraud.
Danny Smith said Barton had also taken out another $100,000 policy on his wife from a Texas agent.
The attorney who had represented Barton on the criminal charges was Atlanta civil libertarian Michael Hauptmann. After the Buckhead massacre, he appeared on Nightline, capping an afternoon and evening of full saturation coverage. Hauptmann told Ted Koppel, “There was a civil action over the insurance policy. They didn’t want to pay because of the short time it was in existence and because Alabama authorities thought he was involved in the criminal case. He received a substantial portion, and a large portion went into a trust for the children.”
Upon prompting by Koppel, Hauptmann admitted to being stunned and saddened by the tragedy, but stood by his client’s innocence in the 1993 murders, pointing out, “They had another suspect in custody in Indiana who had confessed to the killings. The person in Indiana was present at the scene, and my client was 100 miles away with a pretty good alibi. The person in Indiana had access to the type of weapon, which was a very unusual type of hatchet.”
Jerry Wynn, however, says that investigators in both Georgia and Alabama were satisfied that the Indiana suspect could be ruled out despite his confession; multiple witnesses placed him elsewhere at the time of the murder.
Nothwithstanding the best efforts of Barton’s attorneys, nobody but Barton was ever considered a suspect, and considering the later crimes, his behavior regarding these earlier unsolved murders would not be inconsistent with guilt. Further, the shadow of suspicion does not fail to extend to the mistress who had divorced her own spouse when her fiancŽ became so conveniently available, just as he had promised.
Even though Barton’s suicide note said “there is no reason for me to lie now,” that is not, strictly speaking, true. He had lied so many times before, and by the time he made that statement, he was so far into a delusional psychotic state, the borders between fantasy, delusion, deception, and reality had
become indistinguishable. He could have easily been frankly hallucinating by that point. At the very least, the crime scene shows that he was lying to himself in crossing the border between the living and the dead. All the care lavished on the remains of his children shows that their loving father was not in touch with the reality of what he was presently doing, much less what he had done in the past.
When their mother was murdered, if Mark Barton was not at home with the kids, as he claimed, then perhaps someone else was - someone he could keep quiet about it later. Everyone has characterized the man they knew throughout the years as an attentive and loving father. Whether or not what he felt was love as we generally understand it, at the very least, he was notably conscientious about providing for the children, and desirous of protecting his custody.
Even though he was clearly capable of the cold premeditated murder of their mother and grandmother, by 1993 he had not reached the point where he would have found it acceptable to go off and leave his children alone in the house for the minimum of four hours it would have taken for him to drive to Alabama, take care of business, and drive back.
Hypothetically, Barton could have been at home when his wife was killed. He could have hired someone to do the job for him, perhaps even the prisoner in Indiana, but this was a very highly intelligent man, and it would seem that if he had gone to all the trouble to recruit, supervise, reward, and silence a hitman, his plan would have included an alibi appearance, deliberately calling attention to his presence somewhere else. It just didn’t happen that way.
This was an intense and intimate murder by someone who didn’t have to break in to gain entrance. The amount of rage evident at the scene points towards a killer with a great deal of emotion invested in the victims. It’s hard to believe that person could be anyone but the middle-aged man with the hot young mistress, who stood to profit from his wife’s death, and who went on to kill the only witness. It’s hard to believe some passing stranger could have gained access to the camper and become so enraged as to commit this passionate crime, remaining on the scene afterwards to make a telling attempt at cleaning the corpses.
It is rather more plausible that the mistress would be happy to babysit while her man took care of some business he need only explain with a wink and a nod. Leigh Ann was thoroughly under his dominance and had already begun to covet the role of wife and mother.
If Barton’s young soulmate was complicitous in this or any other way, that might explain much of the discord that plagued their marriage. After his first wife’s murder, Barton had lied about his mistress to the police on two separate occasions. Perhaps he had more to hide than just a marital indiscretion.
A deposition taken on March 14, 1995, by the attorney for the insurers, Ben Kingree III, gives a fascinating look at Barton’s glib equanimity under pressure, in a scene curiously reminiscent of our recent presidential peccadilloes.
Kingree: Why did you, Mr. Barton, the second time you were asked about whether or not you’d had an affair with another woman, why did you deny it on that occasion?
Barton: First of all, I was mortified over telling people about it, I mean, I was embarrassed. I found the idea of telling them difficult. I didn’t know what I thought about it, I didn’t know what to say about it. I knew I had to tell them about it. I knew that there was records that I had already signed over to them that would show them, but -
Kingree: Are you talking about the telephone records?
Barton: Oh, telephone records, credit card records, I mean, there’s all kind of records. The things that I had done and the manner that I had done it in, there was countless people that knew about it. It was in, you know, a different city. I didn’t think any of it would ever come home. But if somebody started investigating it, they would find it all. The first time they asked me, I was in the presence of my in-laws and they had a wide variety of handguns, and that didn’t seem like a good time. And then the second time, Leigh Ann was on her way ... up to my house. She was driving up from Macon. And if the police didn’t leave soon, she was going to drive up the driveway, and we were going to have this discovery meeting, you know, right there on the spot.
Investors Life finally settled for $450,000 in 1997, with $150,000 in a trust for the children. “We would still be litigating with Mr. Barton, but we had a feeling that that jury would have not let those kids go away without any funds,” Kingree later told Ted Koppel.
Robert Hughes, an Atlanta attorney who represented Barton in the suit, was paid an estimated $100,000. The remainder went to fuel Mark Barton’s stock¬market speculations.
Mark Barton’s doomed first wife had often spoken of her fears of her husband, who has been described by a former employee as paranoid, controlling and vindictive. On Nightline, Michael Hauptmann quoted a chilling statement from Debra’s diary, in an entry penned shortly before she was murdered. “I don’t know if the Mark who left the house this morning will be the same man who comes home tonight.”
“Everybody in the family thinks it was him,” said Marty Powell. “If they had stopped him then, there would be twelve more people alive tonight.”
“We know he’s a murderer,” said Major Miller, in retrospect. “That’s obvious from the twelve people he killed. Why not the other two? In my mind, he was a very greedy, selfish person. He killed to obtain money and he killed out of frustration.”
Still reeling from the shock of Barton’s latest wave of homicidal rage, Bill Spivey told reporters how he had been pressuring the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to pick up the investigation of Barton, because he felt that the Alabama authorities had failed to vigorously investigate and prosecute the double murder. His campaign had been going on for years.
“I’m having trouble keeping myself together,” Spivey had told the Atlanta Journal seven months after the double murder. “My wife was my best friend, and I’d known her since she was a little girl.”
“The girl loved to fish more than anyone I ever met,” he said of Eloise. “She wanted a place we could fish, and we were at the stage of life where there was no reason not to.”
And Sheriff Wynn had responded, “There’s nothing I’d rather do than nail the killer, but we have to do things right.”
Now, forced to face horror upon horror, Bill Spivey has remained gracious in his grief, even though he could not help but feel it could have been prevented.
“That bunch in Alabama bungled that thing and waited so long until they couldn’t make a case, even though I think they had a ton of evidence,” he said as a Douglas County detective stood by protectively.
Spivey’s voice cracked as his new bereavement reopened the old wounds. “It’s almost too much for me to deal with, that my grandchildren are dead.
At their funeral, beside the two small coffins were two heart-shaped wreaths reading “Gone to be with Mama”; a pair of teddy bears rested on a cross behind the altar. The consolations offered by more than 300 mourners only sharpened a grief of truly Job-like proportions. Bill Spivey wept openly, his shoulders shaking as the organ played “Jesus Loves Me.”
After the service, the grandfather was too devastated to comment, but his second wife spoke for them both, bereft but still not embittered in their grief. “If you knew Mark, you would never believe he could do a thing like this. He was always so protective of those children.”
“This is so hard,” she said as Spivey slowly shook his head with downcast eyes.
“Bill Spivey is a hero,” said attorney Joe Fowler, who worked on Barton’s will just before the murders. “Mr. Spivey bore up under the loss of his wife and daughter like a champion. And I’m sure he will do it again. But I just don’t know - how much can one man take?”
“Something is chipping away at the collective soul.”
For four hours after the Buckhead double massacre, the frantic manhunt went on without any reported sightings of the killer. While law enforcement and media helicopters circled above, SWAT teams searched the two Buckhead office complexes.
Randy Joiner looked out the window of his seventh-floor office and saw “more officers than I ever thought were in Atlanta. They just came in like a flood, sealing off all the exits.”
“I think it’s fair to say virtually every law enforcement personnel in the state began a search for Mr. Barton,” Mayor Bill Campbell told Ted Koppel on Nightline. “There was a very active and aggressive search on every level.”
There were 856,000 square feet of offices, cubicles, bathrooms, storerooms, break rooms and hallways to be cleared, just in the two office buildings involved in the shootings.
Office workers huddled in back offices until they could be evacuated in small groups. The wounded were moved out to area hospitals first; the dead had to wait for the complex crime scene to be secured and the evidentiary process completed, before they could be removed.
Nobody knew whether the killer might still be hidden in the buildings or somewhere nearby; apocryphal reports of a rooftop sniper continued to circulate and had to be ruled out.
Meanwhile officers in patrol all over the metro area were on alert as well. Henry County and Douglas County were busy working the triple murder and protecting Bill Spivey, because of the possible death threats in the note left by the fleeing felon.
Clayton County police had Barton’s Morrow residence actively under surveillance and were controlling all routes of access to it. Barton reportedly had access to a private plane, so all of the airports in the extended metro area had to be checked out.
As busy as the suburban counties were on special assignments with a direct connection to the slaughter in Buckhead, most of them were covering their local patrols with a skeleton crew, as all officers who could be spared from active duty elsewhere were trying to help clear the scene at ground zero, where 22 people had been shot.
Northwest of downtown Atlanta, the Cobb County Police Department was especially short-handed, with 100 officers out of town for a funeral, and the city, state and federal troops blanketing Buckhead were joined by more than a few from Cobb.
Even though the ranks were thinned, the heroic response of one officer was quick and effective enough when the killer struck again in Kennesaw, a prosperous conservative stronghold about 15 miles northwest of Buckhead up I-75, where a city ordinance actually requires residents to own firearms.
Ann Greenley had just finished shopping at Rich’s, metro Atlanta’s premiere upscale department store, and was pulling out her keys as she walked up to her car in the parking lot of the luxuriously-appointed Towne Center Mall.
It was 7:30 P.M., about the time police were pulling the bundled body of his wife out of her closet, when the menacing stranger approached Ann Greenley with his hand suspiciously tucked into a shoulder bag.
“He said, ‘Don’t scream or I’ll shoot you.’“
The 25-year-old college student was too frightened to scream. For a moment, she stared at him motionless, taking in a sight that would be burned indelibly into her memory. “His eyes were cold,” she recalled. “Every time I think about it, it reminds me of shark’s eyes. I think that’s what let me know how much danger I was in.”
So terrified she couldn’t scream, she found that she could run. So she dashed back toward the shelter of the mall, running for her life and expecting every step to be her last. When she reached the sidewalk, she turned to see the mass murderer still glaring at her with his hand concealed in the bag. With a fresh spurt of energy, she dashed through the mall entrance to safety. It was all over now but the dreams, and they started in at once with a dreamlike sense of unreality, as she reported to mall security, and their office called 911.
Meanwhile, Jim Gilmartin had brought his family to Towne Center Mall after following the news closely enough to recall that the infamous fugitive owned a highly-recognizable green Aerostar van. He even remembered the license plate number, having seen it telecast.
Like everyone else in the area tuned in to radio or TV, Gilmartin was primed with the heightened sense of vigilance that can bring on the “flash-bulb effect,” where every detail of an encounter becomes a durable meme, as in the long¬standing recall of “where you were when you heard they shot JFK.” Those fortunate enough to survive a close encounter with the infamous gunman would recall the events of that day like a slo-mo strobe, and return to them again and again, seeking and often finding a message, a lesson, an inspiration or resolution.
As Gilmartin scanned the parking lot for a spot, he commented to his wife Anne on how many green vans there were. Suddenly he saw not only a green Aerostar, but when he checked the license tag against the one he’d been watching on TV all afternoon, seeing that match was the first real flash-bulb, shortly followed by an even more intense jolt.
Just as he registered the significance of the green van, he spotted Greenley racing straight towards him headed for the mall entrance. “She had a look of terror on her face.” Then as he proceeded along, he noticed the man staring at the terrified woman, and shuddered as excitement turned to fear with the realization that he was looking at not only the area’s most-wanted vehicle, but the fugitive himself.
As Gilmartin piloted his family carefully past a close encounter with the rampant death-dealer, there was a moment of eye contact. After it was all over, Gilmartin was still galvanized, his fear now turned to exhilaration at surviving to tell the tale. “Thank God I kept my window closed and kept quiet!” he laughed nervously.
At that point, Barton apparently realized he’d been made, and fortunately, instead of going on to stage another mass slaughter at the mall, he gave up his attempt at car-jacking and got back in his own van. As soon as the distinctive green Aerostar pulled into the congested traffic of the mall, Mannon Smith spotted it.
“It was this totally, totally freakish thing,” the young shopper said. “I was absolutely positive it was him. I was shocked. You pull up behind a car and here was this guy everyone is looking for. Nobody expected him in Kennesaw.”
Smith grabbed her cell phone and punched in 911. Cobb County dispatchers were skeptical at first, and Smith was nervous about staying on the line to persuade them her report was not a prank. “I didn’t want him looking back and seeing me on the phone reporting him,” she said. “I really wanted to get off the phone.”
While Mannon Smith was on her cellphone with police dispatchers, and Ann Greenley was blurting out her tale to mall security, an excited Jim Gilmartin took Anne and his daughter Molly on a dangerous adventure as they tagged along a few cars behind the van, trying to keep it in sight while on the lookout for police.
He didn’t have long to wait. Right on cue, Gilmartin spied a Cobb County officer on his way to investigate multiple reports of an attempted car-jacking at the mall. Excitedly, Gilmartin flagged down the squad car, gesticulating and shouting, “That’s the van!”
The green Aerostar entered the stream of traffic pouring from the mall directly onto Barrett Parkway, on the way to the main northwest corridor, I-75.
Cobb County Police Officer Huel Clements was still wearing the black stripe across his badge in honor of his slain comrades, when he shifted smoothly into emergency response mode, verifying the tag number and tailing the green van at a discreet distance, staying in touch with fellow officers rushing to join him. “My main concern was keeping surveillance and waiting for backup,” he said on debriefing later.
Although as lead officer, Clements used neither his emergency lights nor his siren, as one squad car after another joined the procession heading north on I¬75, the desperado knew his run was finished. It was time to cancel all his debts. The green van pulled off the interstate at exit 120, and police followed him into a BP station in nearby Acworth, at the intersection of Georgia 92.
A car parked at the McDonald’s next door gave an alert teenager a front row seat for the whole scene. As 14-year-old Dana Pritchett described it, the van pulled into the station, slowed up at the pumps as if stopping for gas, and then slowly rolled to a halt at an odd angle in a space halfway between the pumps and the car wash.
Corporal Curtis Endicott was the first of several Acworth Police officers to join the orderly, low-speed pursuit, and just as Clements pulled his Cobb County cruiser in behind the van, Endicott swung his Acworth PD squad in front of it, while the other Acworth officers quickly lined their cruisers up on each side, thus blocking the exit.
While Endicott was maneuvering into position, Clements was the first to leap from his cruiser, in one smooth motion going into a crouch and drawing his weapon on the suspect, shielded behind his open door.
“He was yelling ‘Get out! Get out!’“ Pritchett said.
Endicott was next. “A lot’s going through your mind when you have a suspect of this magnitude. I was scared,” he admitted. “I didn’t know what he might do.”
The teenager watched aghast, taking it all in as the young Acworth officer jumped out and pointed his weapon at the van. She flinched as the driver put two guns to his head, one to each side, but she could not tear her eyes away from the appalling sight of a gunman blowing his own brains out, as a flash-bang rocked the van.
“We heard a muffled sound,” Pritchett said, “and his head fell against the steering wheel.”
Suddenly, all of the officers were out of their cruisers at once, pointing their guns at the van, knowing all too well that an injured gunman could still fire off one last fatal shot. They were already sensitized, because two of their own had been shot dead trying to contain a hostage situation less than a week before.
Dana Pritchett watched Corporal Endicott gingerly approach the driver’s side. “He walked over and with one hand slung the door open and then backed off,” she said.
“I guess he saw blood or something.”
Across the street at the Amoco station, the manager on duty, Jim Fowler, could tell when it was all over. “They all just started holstering their guns.”
It was 8:00 P.M when the word went out that the bloodbath had claimed its thirteenth victim, and minutes later, the Buckhead crime scenes were given the all-clear, the search for the crazed day-trader was called off, and the first bodies were carried out, while in Stockbridge, the remains of the slain family were still undisturbed, pending the issuance of a warrant.
“It seems that there is something chipping away at the collective soul of those who not only want to harm themselves but want to take others with them,” reflected Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell.
And now all the action was over, and in the aftermath, the final scene remained garishly lit up by skycams broadcasting from above, with news crews going live in the street.
Jim Fowler said the BP station was clogged with “15 or 20 police cars,” and described the suicide as “the most excitement Acworth has had in a while.”
As soon as the announcement went out, as many as 200 curiosity-seekers rushed to the scene, many wielding camcorders, the better to capture their own imagery of this ghoulish bit of history.
With a sharp eye for a business opportunity, the savvy Amoco manager turned the unexpected debacle into a nice little windfall, by announcing that anyone in the parking lot who wasn’t buying something had to leave. His creative crowd-management maneuver was a success. “Now they’re buying stuff just so they can watch.”
After all, it wasn’t every day you could catch a glimpse of the spattered blood of a gun-toting, day-trading, mass-murdering, baby-slaying monster, risen from the slimy deeps of our cosmic consciousness and cast up here before us in a suburban parking lot like a broken mannequin. They would pay to be there, if they had to, stepping through the looking-glass of the TV screen to find out for themselves how it really looked and sounded and smelled, to share in the joking and to revel in the gore. It was the purest form of street theater, reality transformed by all the high drama into a source of wonder, thus rising to the level of prime-time interactive infotainment.
Mark Barton Deceased
“He is killing himself many times over. ”
Now that Mark Barton has sealed off access to his family secrets, we can never know for sure what went into the making of this unique combination of serial, spree, and mass murder. All we can do is sort through the clues that are left behind.
Mark Barton’s motive in committing these last thirteen homicides transcended the simple urge to kill. Murder on this scale and with so much explicit and implicit symbolism is a way of using gross violence to send a message. It’s up to us to read the bloodstains spattered across the glittering, high-tech surfaces of our lives. There is indeed “something chipping away” at our collective soul, and we need to interpret its grim significance.
“He is killing himself many times over,” said Dr. Dave Davis, a forensic psychiatrist who has interviewed over 400 killers. “He is killing himself through his family, he is killing himself through these traders who are like him. Plus, it makes a statement. He becomes something. His name is a household word today.”
Davis believes that the trend toward public expression of violence is “a uniquely American” one that started at the post office, moved into the schools, and is now hitting the white-collar enclaves. He describes it as “a kind of domestic terrorism.”
The temptation is to reduce the message of the workplace slaughter to something like “Die, yuppie scum!” or perhaps “Dilbert goes postal!” But Barton’s slaughterous statement was only workplace terrorism on one level. The concomitant family violence must be accounted for as well. Dreadful and corrosive secrets are implied in Barton’s suicide note: “The fears of the father are transferred to the son. They were from my father to me and from me to my son.”
If he was speaking of some form of intimate abuse, we are unlikely to be able to verify it. Nevertheless, even though it may be ultimately unknowable, the relative paucity of other known aggravators leaves a very ominous silence at the core of the matter.
If Barton’s father, Truman, had been his primary abuser, he is safe from both slander and discovery, having died two years ago, leaving Barton’s mother as the only living witness to the family secrets.
“I’m not talking to reporters - none,” said 77-year-old Gladys Barton from her home in Sumter, South Carolina. “I’m not giving any information.” Later, she relented, but not much.
“You want to know how I feel?” she said in a terse note to the Atlanta Journal. “There are not words in my vocabulary to express my feelings, but Psalm 94:17 says it all. ‘If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.’“
Since she has chosen SILENCE as her keyword, there being powerful psychological reasons for denial as well as legal ones, Gladys Barton is unlikely to provide anything further that will help us understand what happened to Mark when he was too young to know the difference between right and wrong, too young to resist the invasion of his identity, too young to even remember the worst parts.
But a pattern with recognizable parameters can be discerned from clues throughout this case history. The very secrecy itself is consistent with generational incest, as is the incongruity of the conservative public image with secretive private behavior that corrupts until it explodes.
One important clue was daughter Mychelle’s early complaints of unwanted attentions from her father, and another was Barton’s boast of always needing a “young, sexy wife.”
“I’m sure the details don’t matter. There is no excuse, no good reason,” demurred Barton in his suicide note. “I am sure no one would understand. If they could, I wouldn’t want them to.”
This man had secrets he would rather kill and die than reveal. And until more of those secrets can be uncovered, the ultimate source of the collective social and spiritual disease that erupted on June 29, 1999 in Atlanta, Georgia must remain rather speculative.
The man who listed “Guns & Day-Trading” as his hobbies on his AOL profile was a military brat. Born in 1955, the only son of Truman and Gladys Barton grew up on military bases first in Germany and then in Sumter, South Carolina, where Gladys put in twenty years as a church secretary for the St. James Lutheran Church, and Truman worked for the Air Force.
“He didn’t like his father,” said Milton Grisham, a psychologist who has known Mark Barton since his sophomore year in high school. “His dad was very stern and strict.”
The red brick house at the end of Wren Street, in one of the nicer suburban areas of Sumter, was home to an inconspicuous boy who was a bit of a nerd. Beth Edwards, who helped organize the 25th reunion for the Class of 1973, didn’t even remember him.
The math whiz peering out from behind horn-rimmed glasses in a yearbook photo didn’t socialize much. He didn’t have a girlfriend, and although the gangling teen would eventually grow to a sturdy 6’4” and 205 pounds, he was never much for sports.
“If someone didn’t fit into a group and find an identity, they could just slide through unnoticed,” said J. Grady Locklear, one of Barton’s English teachers. “Mark is one of those.”
His high school yearbooks didn’t even get his name right. Listed as “Jack Barton” in 1971, and mislabeled again in 1972 as “Mack Barton,” his picture is missing altogether in his senior year, and while they did get his name right in the 1973 book, he is identified only as a “Merit Scholars Semi Finalist.”
Cindy Haley, who attended Sunday school with Barton at St. John’s United Methodist Church, remembered him as “highly intelligent, much, much more intelligent than most people,” but also as “very quiet, kind of a loner.” Haley could not remember Barton having any friends. He was just another nobody.
“He was angry about not fitting in,” said Grisham. “He figured, ‘I’m an outcast. Why should I participate?’“
Perhaps that’s one reason the clever misfit turned to petty crime early, and returned often, refining his larcenous techniques over the years. He confided in his pal Grisham that whenever he went anywhere he would be sizing up how to break in, where the money was kept, what he could steal, and how he could get away with it.
At 14, he got caught breaking into a drugstore. “He fancied himself a mastermind criminal,” Grisham said, “but he was such a screw-up, he’d just pretty much botch it.”
Grisham noticed Barton’s tendency towards dissociation in adolescence, although he had been unable to interpret the contradictory behavior he observed until he became a psychologist years later. Characterizing Barton as “caring, ebullient, personable,” Grisham noted that significantly, at times he could also be cold and distant, and “he was always a schemer.”
When he was 16, Barton’s lifelong interest in better living through chemistry led to experimentation with psychedelic drugs. He extracted a potent hallucinogen from morning glory seeds, and after tripping on it, was never quite the same.
“He ingested a great deal of it. Then he really overdosed. He had hallucinations and had to go to the emergency room,” said Grisham, who has worked with rapists and killers. “It did something very bad to him.” Grisham speculated that the toxic effects of the ingestion might have been complicated by the chemicals Barton had used in the extraction process.
After the acute phase of the induced psychosis passed, Barton remained out of touch with reality. Frightened by visions of demons shooting up through the floor, he lost the ability to read for several weeks, and had to learn it all over again. At a time when the length of one’s locks carried powerful symbolism, the socially awkward teen abruptly cut off all his hair and took up the Bible, even bringing it along when he showed up at Grisham’s house for a game of chess, babbling on excitedly about finding “The Answer to All Questions.”
“He didn’t make any sense,” said Grisham. “I kind of lost touch with him, he became so strange. The drugs blew him away.”
Although Barton was demonstrably bright, he never reached the level of achievement expected of a boy from a good, stable, Christian home, who scored so well on aptitude tests. Grisham observed that impaired functioning of the intellect is consistent with early abuse in the home. Although Barton might complain about the home environment in general terms, the details remained shrouded in secrecy.
Barton attended Clemson University for one semester, but after another psychotic break, was hospitalized, withdrew from school and remained on antipsychotic drug therapy under the treatment of a psychiatrist throughout the rest of that school year.
Barton entered the University of South Carolina the following year, and it was there that he learned to synthesize methamphetamine. He was soon making it, selling it, and inevitably using it.
At the age of 20, he was caught again trying to burglarize a drug store, and placed on probation.
Graduating with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry in 1979, Barton moved to Atlanta and got a job as a night auditor at a hotel, where he met Debra Spivey, marrying her later that year. Finally he got a job in the chemical industry, testing cleaning compounds.
In 1984, he accepted a job offer from TLC Manufacturing Inc., and the young couple moved out to Texarkana, Arkansas, into a brand new home, where in due course, they were joined by their son Matthew.
By 1986, Barton had become president of TLC, where day after day he would retreat into his office, locking his door behind him. LeeAnn Burke, his secretary for four years, characterized her former boss as paranoid.
“He thought people were out to get him,” she said. He taped his telephone conversations with other employees, and Burke found her boss to be quick-tempered, devious and malicious. “When somebody got on his bad side, you stayed there.”
Barton bore a long-standing grudge against one of their top salesman, and would secretly alter orders he had placed, just to cause inexplicable delays in delivery of product.
“He was real controlling,” recalled Burke, who had to screen all of Barton’s calls.
She described how her boss kept control of his wife as well. “She couldn’t do anything without his permission. She couldn’t leave the house without telling him first where she was going to go, and what she was going to do, and when she was going to be back.”
Former neighbors could recall little of the young Barton family, who rarely socialized, spending their evenings alone at home.
In 1989, the Bartons joined the cavernous First Baptist Church of Texarkana, a media-oriented congregation 3,000 members strong with a demonstrative, theatrical worship service. But Reverend D. Terry Land, could recall nothing about the young couple, although Mark’s smiling face appears in an old church directory next to a somber Debra, holding their one-year-old infant.
Though Mark Barton always turned a happy face to the camera, he was less cheery behind the scenes. Co-workers recall that when his wife had a miscarriage, he made fun of her, referring to her by his usual pet name, “Stupid.”
Finally, Barton was fired on September 13, 1990 by TLC’s board of directors citing a deficit in his management capabilities. He walked out the door “visibly angry and upset” at the loss of his $86,000 salary, but he would soon be back. He had secrets to hide, tracks to cover, and vengeance to exact. And he had to do it in such a way that he would send a message to a world becoming steadily less than responsive to his machinations.
One week later in the dead of night, Mark Barton broke into the TLC offices through a loading dock door. From there he walked to the break room, moved a refrigerator and crawled through a window to get to the computers in the executive offices. That’s when he really went to work.
Confidential client lists, secret chemical formulas, and financial data had to be downloaded before wiping the hard drives. Then after disabling both computers, our enterprising thief had to rifle through the filing cabinets and snag the hard copies on his way out.
Everyone knew exactly who had done it. When police questioned Barton, he denied it, but carelessly incriminated himself by protesting that “anyone could have entered through the loading dock door.” Nobody had mentioned the point of entry.
Then as questioning continued, Debra entered the room, and Barton turned to her, saying, “They think I stole the formulas.” But again, the officers had not revealed that formulas were missing.
Charged with felony burglary, Barton briefly went to jail, but was released within hours when TRW abruptly told police they had settled the matter. They withdrew their complaint and had no further comment.
Barton packed his wife and child and left town. Within a year, he had a new house in Douglasville, Georgia, a new job as a salesman, and a new daughter named Mychelle.
On Saturdays, Barton would cook breakfast for his children and join them in watching cartoons. Later, he would say that whenever Debra wasn’t home, father and kids would “run through the house and beat each other with pillows and just get totally out of hand.”
It was in early 1993 that a 21-year-old receptionist named Leigh Ann Lang started flirting with Mark Barton at the Macon chemical company where he worked as a salesman. “She liked older guys,” said Barton. “She made that known to everyone.”
Like any middle-aged man carrying on with a woman half his age, he spruced up his wardrobe. The wife suspected he was fooling around, and she was right - not an uncommon situation on the surface, but the veneer of normalcy was shallow, and regardless of how the unstable core of Barton’s personality developed, it would not be able to withstand the challenges life presented.
Mark Barton told Milton Grisham in 1997 that he had renounced experimental drugs and occultism in a turn towards traditional family values of church, soccer and Boy Scouting. But he had been under intense pressure during the investigation into Debra’s murder, and in Grisham’s opinion, it would not be inconsistent for him to eventually relapse and revert to his earlier coping strategies, by using the easily-synthesized crystal meth to fuel the frenzy of his day-trading, its spikes and plunges triggering his hyper-reactive emotions. If, indeed, Mark Barton was speeding towards his terminal psychological collapse, crystal meth would certainly exacerbate any tendency towards a violent psychotic break.
Neighbors and acquaintances who encountered Barton in an everyday context saw him as a devout church-goer, a conscientious husband and father, and a moderately successful businessman. The ability to go on a homicidal rampage would be inconceivable in such an unremarkable fellow.
And yet, the potential was discernable to the trained eye, and it was seen as early as February, 1994, by a unidentified Cobb County psychologist who had interviewed Barton and told state officials the man could be a killer.
“I recall it as if it were yesterday,” said Douglas County District Attorney David McDade, after the massacre. “He said it was his opinion that Mr. Barton was capable of homicidal acts and thoughts. Ideations is the word I think he used.”
Although the psychologist did express his suspicions verbally, he did not mention them in his written report, which was limited in scope to an evaluation of the allegations of incest. Although the observations he did make stop short of stating in so many words that the man is homicidal, they certainly manage to convey in a few deft strokes the portrait of an established double murderer on his way to going mass.
“He appeared somewhat controlling, power oriented and very suspicious,” the psychologist wrote. “He appears to have been irritated by living in a household with a woman he considered much brighter than he and a woman around whom he felt he had to be ‘perfect.’”
“Everybody in this community knew that Mr. Barton was the prime suspect in the murder,” McDade said. “So it wasn’t like a new revelation, but it confirmed our gut feeling. It was just another piece of circumstantial evidence to add to the mix.”
Michael Hauptmann says that the FBI had also rendered an opinion on Barton’s viability as a suspect in 1994. “He fit the profile of a mass murderer,” Hauptman claimed. “I’d say whoever wrote the profile should get a pay raise.” However, an FBI spokesman has declined to comment on the case.
Although recognizing the signs of imminent violence and taking appropriate action to prevent its outbreak are admirable goals for law enforcement and mental health professionals, J. Monahan shows in The Clinical Prediction of Violent Behavior that such predictions are accurate in no more than one out of three cases.
At the time John Hinckley, Jr. and Charles Whitman committed their high-profile crimes, both were under the care of psychiatrists, and each had evaluations pronouncing them free of potential violence. Hinckley and Whitman resemble such high-profile assailants as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Sare Jane Moore, Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan, and John Wilkes Booth, in that none of these infamous gunmen had ever committed an act of criminal violence before they abruptly catapulted into the spotlight on the strength of a single act that would never be repeated again in their lives.
Even if Mark Barton could have been proven guilty of double murder in 1993, there was nothing about that crime that would serve as a reliable predictor of the mass slaughter of family members and business associates, followed by a suicide.
Athough the prediction of violence is an elusive goal, still, there is much to be learned from examining the psychological dynamics thrown into harsh relief by mass slaughter. Barton’s crimes are unique in modern criminal history, containing elements of all three major categories of multicide - spree, serial, and mass. His psychological diagnostic profile is likewise bound to contain more than one commonly-recognized type, and we will have to put together the broken pieces of the picture he left behind to make them fit into a comprehensible portrait.
Dr. Aubrey Immelman, a psychologist at St. John’s University, suspects that Barton might have had a “sadistic borderline” personality. “These individuals typically manage their behavior sufficiently well to cope with demands of their daily lives, careers, and relationships, but lack the necessary psychological strength and cohesion to maintain control in all situations, periodically erupting with precipitous and vindictive behaviors,” he told reporters.
“We need to see more clearly, to open our eyes, to stop using cliches about people - normal person, not normal person, good kid, bad kid - look in a little bit more of a complex fashion,” suggested Alan Lipman, a criminal psychologist at Georgetown University.
“That will help.”
“How can we restore our quality of life?”
Dean Delawalla’s daughter Shahala turned four the day her father was slain by Mark Barton.
Delawalla doted on his little princess, as well as his 15-year-old son, Faisal, who was encouraged to play hockey, soccer, tennis and football.
“You never think this could strike this close until it happens,” said Dean’s brother, Fred Delawalla. “And all of a sudden the realities sort of come to the surface, that you’re living in a glass world here.”
Over the past year, the 52-year-old husband and father of two had given up the practice of law to focus on options trading.
Now one week after his funeral, the slain attorney’s widow, Gulshan Harjee, has filed suit against the All-Tech Investment Group, as well as Mark Barton’s estate, the owners of the building, and the building’s security company. The trading firm is charged with “failure to supervise and to protect Barton from large financial losses that may have prompted the shootings.”
Attorney Michael Weinstock said that given Barton’s volatile personality and the hundreds of thousands of dollars he had lost while trading there, All-Tech should have known about the inherent potential for violence. “Shouldn’t these firms where so much pressure and high-risk trading is done every day check these people out?”
Harry Houtkin, All-Tech’s Chief Executive Officer, said he was not surprised by the lawsuit. “This is a tragedy, but in today’s litigious society, I expected this to happen.”
When mass murder claimed his life, Kevin Dial was fully prepared to die. The 38-year-old manager at Momentum Securities had just returned from a trip to his Texas home for a final visit with his father, Buddy Dial, who had been a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys.
“Kevin was the light of his life,” said Tom Alexander, attorney for the elderly football player, who is recovering from a stroke. “He was a very, very bright, wonderful young man.”
Suffering from an inoperable brain tumor, Kevin had told his father, “I have made peace with my tumor and I’ve made peace with my death. That peace has given me a totally different outlook on life itself.”
Eric Blaier, who works down the hall from Momentum, called Dial “Probably one of the happiest guys I ever saw.”
“I never saw the guy without a smile on his face - never, not once,” recalled Blaier.
At a Houston service attended by 1,200, Dial’s sister Sherri read a letter Dial had faxed to his mother the night before the murder, describing how he had made peace with his illness by treating every day as a treasure from God.
“I’m not saving anything,” wrote the doomed man. “If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see it, hear it or do it now.”
“No one knows of any enemies of Kevin,” said his brother David. “If someone didn’t like him, we would have to find out what was wrong with them.”
Russell Brown had been the love of her life. Patti Balon had quit her job two weeks earlier, just to spend more time with him, and share his “all-encompassing hugs that made you feel like he’d never let go.”
At his memorial service, she read through her tears, “I know all of you who worked so closely with him, because he told me all about you. Now it’s your turn. I want to hear all your stories about him, so we can keep him alive in our memories.”
Although a priest officiated at Brown’s service, out of respect for his beliefs there were few prayers and no hymns - just songs with a personal significance for the friends and loved ones gathered there, like “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
The 42-year-old day-trader’s baby sister Mary Beth had written a speech, but was too crushed to read it, handing over the job to her husband, David Bauss.
“He was forever the big brother,” read the burly firefighter with a quaver in his voice. “He taught me to drive in his brand new Trans Am, and didn’t even get mad at me when I ran a red light and smashed in the front end.”
Friends gathered around the urn containing Brown’s ashes mourned the loss of the good times they had expected to enjoy in the future. “I always thought we’d get together at Lake Lanier sometime for a longer visit,” said Ray Chase, who had known Brown in college. “Now we never will.”
Edward Quinn had just become a grandfather. Three weeks before his death, the 58-year-old retired UPS executive had flown to St. Louis to visit his newborn grandson, Bryce.
“He was a tremendous family man,” wept his son Michael Quinn. “He would bend over backwards in any way, shape or form to help his family out.”
Besides his family, the quiet life of the novice day-trader was comprised of three passions: his lawn, his fly-fishing and his golf.
“When he retired, his plan was to begin traveling the world and playing at all the great old courses across the planet,” said Ken Sternad, who had known Quinn for ten years. “That was his goal.”
“This is a time to call for deep faith in order to accept it,” said Monsignor R. Donald Kiernan, at a private mass at All Saints Catholic Church attended by over 800 mourners.
Scott Webb had been close to his father in Chesterfield, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. They enjoyed biking and jogging together, until the 30-year-old athlete left home to relocate to Atlanta for an upscale job in securities trading.
Though he had only been in Atlanta for two months, neighbors had a chance to notice his unusually sunny disposition.
“A lot of single people don’t take the time to be really kind to their neighbors,” said a neighbor, Susan Frey. “He was such a nice young man and always had the time for a beautiful smile.”
Charles Allen Tenenbaum, 48, was another day-trading runner. The vigorous young father of three enjoyed starting every day by jogging several miles.
Tenenbaum was the first of Barton’s victims to be buried, as the murder was on Thursday, and in accordance with Jewish custom, his funeral, attended only by close family, had to be completed before sunset Friday night.
The Great Savings Grocery, the family-owned store Tenenbaum ran, was closed for the weekend, but a steady stream of his customers came by to pay tribute to his memory with cards, flowers, and their presence.
“Everybody in the neighborhood liked him,” said Thomas Glass, who had worked for the family as a butcher for 33 years.
At a memorial service at Atlanta’s Congregation Or VeShalom attended by more than a thousand mourners, Tenenbaum’s daughter, 11-year-old Megan, read a poem.
“My dad is my shield, my protector, and my knight in shining armor. When in doubt, ask Dad.”
Ironically, just one week before his slaying, Tenenbaum had spoken with his wife about getting burial plots.
“I don’t think he had a premonition of anything,” said his rabbi, S. Robert Ichay. “But he knew that life was not always the way we imagine it, or the way we would like it to be - that things could happen. And therefore he was a great believer in doing things and not missing opportunities - and doing them with people he loved.”
As the president of his synagogue, Tenenbaum was a leader in the Jewish community. At the time of his death, he and his wife were planning a pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Israel.
Vadewattee Muralidhara had just been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land of India, and had returned with an inner peace, said family friend Dolford Payne, who had known the devout Hindu mother of two in her island home of Trinidad.
“She gave of herself without expecting anything in return,” he said.
The soft-spoken 44-year-old wife of a pediatrician and mother of two college students did not know Mark Barton, and was only at the financial center to take a computer course.
“The irony of this whole thing is that one of the reasons they left Trinidad is the crime and the violence,” said Payne.
“The one thing I would say is she was a very sweet-spirited person,” said Peggy Corbin, a family friend. “Just very dedicated to her children. They were her life.”
The memorial service at a funeral home in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree City was attended by 200 mourners. Afterwards, Muralidhara’s body was flown to Port of Spain, Trinidad, where in accordance with the Hindu religion, her soul was to be released from her body to spend twelve days of mourning with her family, then take its place in heaven on the thirteenth day.
Joseph Dessert had a big laugh and a big heart. Though he had few relatives, many friends remembered the 1958 graduate of the Marist Academy, where he had been a football star.
“He had great friends,” said Tony Nicholson, who helped to arrange his funeral. Tony had been his best friend since kindergarten. “But I can’t say that I was his closest friend, because he had so many.”
Nicholson couldn’t get used to the idea that Big Joe was really gone. “Yesterday, I was ready to call him and say let’s go to lunch like I did every week,” he said wonderingly. “I will miss him.”
The 60-year-old real estate broker had just entered the world of day-trading, and his long-time friends held to memories the connected with the way he lived, rather than how he died.
Roy Leffew holds onto the image of Joe eating a big plate nachos and bragging about running in 22 consecutive Peachtree Road Races.
“That’s the way Joe was, he was so fun to be with,” said Leffew. “I never heard him say a mean or out-of-the-way thing about anyone. It was always something good and encouraging.”
Reverend Marty Tingelhoff, Dessert’s pastor at River of Life Family Church, broke down several times as he recalled his parishioner and friend during the service.
“You’ll still see Joe,” he encouraged the mourners. “Remember that deep laugh. Remember him wiping away sweat, playing ball and hitting a passing shot by you. Those things will stay with us.”
“I thought he was a very nice guy. It hurts to think I won’t see Joe again” said Reverend Don Harp. “It hurts to think all these people have been taken out of our community.”
“We aren’t feeling very good about ourselves in Atlanta right now,” said Reverend Harp, senior minister of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, in a service held for an entire city in mourning and simulcast on CNN and all local TV channels. Reverend Harp conducted the service, and lessons of faith were delivered by leaders of Hindu, Christian, Moslem and Jewish communities.
Clergy from all faiths ministered to mourners seeking closure to this siege of numbing violence, to remind them as Reverend Harp did that “whatever our religious traditions, we do share faith in a divine presence. We have a divine ally who gives us strength.”
The interfaith service included the lighting of candles not only for victims of Barton’s crimes, but also for the six family members slain July 12 and the two police officers killed July 23.
“Hopefully, we can use this service to confirm our grief and to offer worlds of hope to the victims’ families and for our entire city,” Harp said.
“This morning, we have important things to think about,” said senior minister G. Daniel McCall at the Peachtree Presbyterian Church, a few blocks from the Buckhead shootings. “Everyone is asking in one way or another, how could this happen? We struggle with the questions. What can we do? How can we restore the quality of life that is deteriorating so fast in our nation?”
The answer, suggested Reverend McCall, lies in a combination of faith and gun control.
“No one is safe until everyone is safe,” echoed Reverend Joanna Adams, at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Buckhead. “Strong, immediate handgun
legislation is at least a step in the right direction. The national epidemic of violence cannot go on unabated.”
“When a Mark Barton loses his grip on reality and slips into psychosis and decides to start shooting, what we want is a fix-it God, who will somehow magically shield us from bullets,” preached Reverend Ted Wardlow of Central Presbyterian Church, right across from the state Capitol. “But God doesn’t do that, doesn’t step in to save us from the consequences of the guns we so worship and adore in our culture.”
But guns made up only one portion of the homicidal threat posed by Mark Barton. Besides what he could do with a hatchet, a hammer, and a bathtub, he could easily have gone out with an even bigger bang.
“I don’t think the city realizes how lucky we are,” said Michael Hauptmann, the criminal defense lawyer who had known Mark Barton only too well.
“With his extensive knowledge of chemistry and the availability of chemicals on the open market, he could have walked into that building with a homemade bomb sufficient to blow up the whole building.”
SLAIN BY MARK BARTON:
- Leigh Ann Barton, 27
Wife of Mark Barton
- Matthew Barton, 11
Son of Mark Barton
- Mychelle Barton, 8
Daughter of Mark Barton
- Russell Brown, 42
Day-trader at Momentum
- Dean Delawalla, 52
Day trader at All-Tech
- Joseph J. Dessert, 60
Day-Trader at All-Tech
- Kevin Dial, 38
Office manager, Momentum Securities
- Jamshid Havash, 44
- Vadewattee Muralidhara, 44
Trainee at All-Tech
- Edward Quinn, 58
Day-trader at Momentum
- Allen Charles Tenenbaum, 48
Day-trader at All-Tech
- Scott Webb, 30
Day-trader at Momentum
“We are all so upset about this.”
Sang Yoon was one of the first people shot by Mark Barton. He was one of the lucky ones - those who did manage to escape with their lives. These victims were damaged physically by their gunshot wounds, but some wounds will never heal, and many lives will never be made whole.
Yoon had taken a bullet to the left arm, entering right below his elbow and exiting near the wrist. Thanks to the fast, efficient emergency medical care he received, the arm will heal. But although he has been treated and released from the hospital, he may never recover.
The owner of a dry cleaning establishment has vowed never to return to the high-risk excitement of day-trading. When he escaped from Buckhead, he never wanted to come back. But he had to. His car was still there, and so were his keys.
And so the 34-year old husband and father of two was brought back to the scene by wife Misun. The Piedmont office was still preserved in its dreadful disarray as crime scene technicians worked to gather evidence.
“He saw the blood,” said Misun, and it brought all the terror back full force. Her husband drove straight home and has not left the house since then. “I think he’s scared,” she said.
“I’m just worried,” said a drawn and somber Yoon three days after the shooting. He watched the Braves game on TV as usual on Saturday, but he worried about some crazy man bombing the crowd or opening fire. He cherished the sight of his carefree children, but he worried about them too. Something could happen.
Yoon always had always comfort in his wife’s home cooking, and though Misun fixed all his favorite Korean foods for him, he just didn’t feel like eating.
He visited one of the other shooting victims at the hospital, and was overwhelmed with emotion.
For this ambitious young immigrant, the great American dream of taking the high road to a fabulous future for his family are dashed. Those endless seconds of anguish and terror have been forever linked to day-trading.
“I think I may buy another dry cleaning business,” he said.
Others are more philosophical.
“You can’t blame it on day trading,” said Fred Herder, recalling the many times he had spent in casual conversation with the volatile trader he liked to call “Rocket” because of the excitement he showed whenever his stocks soared. “We were pretty friendly,” he allowed.
The bullet Barton placed in Herder’s back struck three vertebrae and remains lodged there. His left leg has nerve damage, and he has no idea how long it might take him to recover. But he’ll be back in front of a terminal as soon as he is able.
Yusef Liberzon had looked to day-trading as a way of earning a living that would be less plagued by violence than driving a taxi. The 39-year-old Jewish immigrant had brought his Christian wife to America to escape the religious persecution they encountered in the Ukraine.
“We are all so upset about this,” said Alex Bershadsky, a family friend. “He was such a hard worker. He had worked to come here; he had worked to pay for his mother to come here. He had worked to try and make a family. And then this happens. It is just so terrible.”
Liberzon had bought a condominium and planted a garden. He kept driving the taxi while gradually expanding into day-trading, and his wife gave facials at a spa. Today, the man who had come so far in search of the good life is a flat-liner.
He had been teaching a friend about day-trading when he fell over onto another day-trader, who escaped unharmed. “We don’t know whether he intended that or not, said Bershadsky, “but he ended up saving someone else’s life.”
The following incomplete list of wounded victims was published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
WOUNDED BY MARK BARTON:
- Leigh Ann Barton, 27
Wife of Mark Barton
- Matthew Barton, 11
Son of Mark Barton
- Mychelle Barton, 8
Daughter of Mark Barton
- Russell Brown, 42
Day-trader at Momentum
- Dean Delawalla, 52
Day trader at All-Tech
- Joseph J. Dessert, 60
Day-Trader at All-Tech
- Kevin Dial, 38
Office manager, Momentum Securities
- Jamshid Havash, 44
- Vadewattee Muralidhara, 44
Trainee at All-Tech
- Edward Quinn, 58
Day-trader at Momentum
- Allen Charles Tenenbaum, 48
Day-trader at All-Tech
- Scott Webb, 30
Day-trader at Momentum
- Brent Doonan, 25
Northside Hospital: Critical but stable condition
- Meredith Winitt, 22
Worked at All-Tech
Northside Hospital: Critical but stable condition
- Brad Schoemehl, 24
Atlanta Medical Center: Stable condition
- Scott Manspeaker, 27
Atlanta All-Tech employee
St. Joseph’s Hospital: Fair condition
HOSPITALIZED, NAMES NOT RELEASED:
TREATED AND RELEASED:
- A 38-year-old woman
St. Joseph’s Hospital: Serious condition
- Six people at Grady Memorial Hospital
Three in critical, two in satisfactory, one in good condition
- One man, at Northside Hospital, for a puncture wound in left arm.
- One woman, at Grady Memorial Hospital, for a flesh wound to her shoulder.