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Suspected Atlanta killer was focus of earlier murder probe

July 30, 1999
Web posted at: 4:09 a.m. EDT (0809 GMT)

CEDAR BLUFF, Alabama (CNN) -- The man suspected of killing 12 people, including his wife and two children, in the Atlanta area Thursday was once the lone suspect in a double homicide in Alabama -- the 1993 hacking deaths of his first wife and her mother.

No charges were brought against Mark Barton in the double homicide of wife Debra Spivey Barton, 36, and Eloise Spivey, 59, who were killed in a trailer along the banks of Weiss Lake near Cedar Bluff, Alabama, on Labor Day weekend in 1993.

Cherokee County Sheriff Roy Wynn said prosecutors did not believe there was enough evidence to get a conviction in the case at the time, although law enforcement officials "still feel like we did." Wynn expressed regret over the Atlanta killings.

"I think it's a very tragic thing. We could have stopped this thing before it ever happened," Wynn told CNN. "Like I say, he was our prime suspect."

Cherokee County District Attorney Mike O'Dell -- who was not the district attorney at the time of the killings -- told CNN affiliate WGNX "there was no way" his office "could have comprehended what happened today would happen."

He said there was insufficient evidence to bring a conviction at the time.

Marty Powell, a cousin of Barton's first wife, said he last saw Barton at the funeral of the two victims and described him as "colder than a cucumber."

"Everybody in the family thinks it was him," he said. "If they had stopped him then, there would be 12 more people alive tonight."

Notes from Barton were left at the scene of the suburban killings of his second wife, his son from his first marriage and his step-daughter -- his second wife's child from a prior marriage.

Georgia investigators said the notes denied his involvement in the Alabama case.

Victims in the Atlanta shootings
July 30, 1999
Suicide of Atlanta shooting suspect ends 'unspeakable day'
July 29, 1999

WGNX - CBS Atlanta
Welcome to Centre, Alabama - Home of Weiss Lake
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