Atlanta looks for answers in wake of mass killing
Motive for trader's shooting spree a mystery
July 31, 1999
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Police on Saturday were still trying to piece together a motive after a Georgia man bludgeoned his wife and children to death this week, then followed those murders with an Atlanta shooting spree that left nine dead and 13 wounded before killing himself.
Some of the survivors of the shooting "identified Mark Barton as the person who perpetrated these acts," Atlanta Police Chief Beverly Harvard told CNN. "But we are still looking, trying to find answers as to why."
Barton reportedly lost $105,000 in the stock market between June 9 and July 27 and the shootings were conducted at day-trading brokerage firms, but authorities have not ascribed the losses as a motive for Barton's actions.
On Tuesday, Barton killed his wife, Leigh Ann, 27, investigators said. On Wednesday, he killed his two children by a previous marriage -- 11-year-old Matthew and 8-year-old Mychelle.
On Thursday, Barton went on to carry out Atlanta's worst mass murder when he opened fire at two day-trading brokerage firms, Momentum Securities and All-Tech Investment Group. He left a note suggesting a deeper anguish than financial loss, vowing to "kill ... people that greedily sought my destruction."
Barton eluded police for five hours after the shooting began, until he was surrounded at a service station in Acworth, Georgia, 32 miles (51 km) northwest of Atlanta. As police closed in, he shot and killed himself.
Barton first opened an account with Momentum Securities Inc.'s branch office in Atlanta on May 13, with an initial transaction of $100,000. He indicated his net worth was $750,000 at the time, records show, including $250,000 in available cash.
Barton's annual income was listed as $85,000.
A source familiar with Barton's trading activities said the 44-year-old chemical salesman lost money -- about $20,000 --on Tuesday. Asked if it was a considerable sum, the source said, "To you and me maybe ... but it wasn't an unusual day in regard to his profits or losses."
Momentum President James Lee said that Barton met the company's requirements to be a day trader.
"The documents he signed indicated that he understood the potential risks in the world of day trading," Lee said. "He was an experienced trader. It is important to remember that the trading decisions that he made were his own."
Linda Lerner, an attorney for All-Tech Investment Group, said there was nothing unusual about Barton's trading activities with her company. He was "going through a difficult divorce," she added.
"I don't know that you can necessarily tie his trading to these killings," Lerner said from All-Tech's headquarters in Montvale, New Jersey. "He was a customer until a couple of months ago, and then he went to another firm to trade. We're going through his account now to determine what his trading gains and losses were."
Barton left a computer generated note in the apartment where the bodies of his wife and children were found. He wrote that he had "been dying since October." and that his fears have "taken (their) toll."
"I have come to hate this life in this system of things," Barton wrote. "I have come to have no hope."
The note described how he killed his wife and children.
"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," Barton wrote.
Barton denied killing his first wife, Debra, and her mother Eloise Spivey, in a brutal 1993 slaying in Alabama.
"There may be similarities between these deaths and the death of my first wife Debra Spivey," he wrote. "However, I deny killing her and her mother. There is no reason for me to lie now."
Despite the denial, police in Cherokee County, Alabama, say Barton remains their one and only suspect. He was never arrested, they said, because they were never able to amass enough evidence positively tying him to the crimes.
A day after killing his children, Barton drove to Atlanta's upscale Buckhead district and walked into the All-Tech offices. He spoke with some of the employees and customers for about a half an hour, and then opened fire, killing four.
While frightened employees called 911, Barton slipped out and crossed the street to Momentum, where he began shooting again, killing five. Then he slipped past police who were searching the buildings and drove away.
Harvard said her officers were doing their jobs properly by focusing on searching the buildings.
"They had no reason to believe he was not still somewhere in the building," she told CNN. "The concern was that we had additional innocent people in the building. We had two buildings, each seven-story buildings."
Harvard also said a search of Barton's minivan found the two weapons he used in the Buckhead shootings. Two additional weapons were also found, along with 200 rounds of ammunition.
"Certainly, given the amount of weapons that he had, given the amount of ammunition that he had, we can only wonder at his intent," she said.
Correspondents Kate Snow, Jim Clancy , and Martin Savidge contributed to this report.
Shooter lost $105,000 in month, but motive still a mystery
All-Tech Investment Group Online
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