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Father of Barton's 2nd wife had worried about her safety

Joe Vandiver
Vandiver  
 ALSO:
Atlanta gunman's children buried

Mourners remember gunman's wife as soccer mom, Scout leader

Georgia investigator: Enough evidence to arrest Barton for 1993 killings

Fatalities in the Atlanta shootings

August 3, 1999
Web posted at: 12:43 a.m. EDT (0443 GMT)

MACON, Georgia (CNN) -- The grieving father of the slain second wife of Atlanta mass killer Mark Barton said he often feared for his daughter's safety and once panicked when he couldn't reach her for several days.

Joe Vandiver said he knew his son-in-law had been a suspect in the hacking deaths of his first wife and her mother in Alabama -- and said: "It was always something that was constantly in the back of my mind."

"I was suspect of it. Unfortunately, my daughter had assured me on many occasions that Mark was innocent," Vandiver told CNN in a phone interview from his home.

Barton bludgeoned his wife, Leigh Ann Barton, 27, to death with a hammer in her sleep Tuesday night. The next day, he killed his two children and on Thursday gunned down nine people at two brokerage houses in Atlanta's deadliest ever shooting spree.

Vandiver called CNN after he objected to an on-air guest who used his daughter as a symbol of the need for gun-control legislation.

"I just don't want my daughter's death to come down to gun-control. He didn't kill my daughter with a firearm. He killed my daughter with a hammer," Vandiver said while expressing condolences to the families of the victims killed in Atlanta.

"I know Mark's problems were not guns," he said.

Vandiver added that no gun store could have prevented Barton from buying a weapon, even under the strictest of laws. "There was no legal reason why he couldn't buy a firearm," he said.

He said his daughter's killing represented a deeper "problem within our society" -- a society lacking both moral integrity and people willing to take responsibility for their actions.

"Certainly our society has degenerated in the last 30 to 35 years. It's certainly different than when I was a teen-ager," said Vandiver, an eight-year veteran of the Air Force who served in Vietnam.

A constant concern

He said he last spoke to his daughter two weeks ago after she returned from a business trip and called "to let me know she was safe and sound."

Asked if Barton's past -- a suspect in the 1993 double homicide of his then wife and her mom -- had worried him, Vandiver said it constantly did, especially as the couple's relationship became more rocky.

"Knowing what I know now, I probably would have done things a whole lot differently," he said. "(But) she never said any bad things about Mark."

Vandiver said one time he couldn't get a hold of his daughter for a couple of days, called her work worried for her well-being and was told she wasn't there. Panicked, he finally reached her on her cell phone. She had gone on a business trip to California without telling him, he said.

Vandiver recalled a conversation in April in which his daughter told him Barton had lost more than $150,000 day-trading while she was trying to make ends meet working and raising the two children, her step-kids. He also said Barton had become more controlling, including trying to dictate how his daughter would dress.

"I said, 'Honey, Dad's going to say this ... If you want to divorce him, leave him or move back home ... Dad's behind you 100 percent," said Vandiver, who is a Baptist by faith.

Asked if he believed his daughter was in heaven, he said, "No doubt in my mind, my friend. If there is a good hell, I hope that Mark Barton is there because he deserves to be there."

"No, I can't have any pity for Mark Barton."



RELATED STORIES:
Georgia investigator: Enough evidence to arrest Barton for 1993 killings
August 1, 1999
Atlanta chief: Office shooter had firepower for more carnage
July 31, 1999
Shooter lost $105,000 in month, but motive still a mystery
July 30, 1999

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