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       January 19, 2012 12:03 PM

 Bloodbath in Atlanta


People admired Mark Barton for overcoming misfortune. In 1993, his first wife and her mother were brutally murdered. But his two children were spared, and in 1995 Mark remarried. A Cub Scout leader and steady churchgoer, Mark (at left)  seemed like an ordinary, happy forty-four-year-old, devoted to his two children.

But beneath the happy facade, he was deeply troubled.
On July 29, 1999, he went to All-Tech, an Atlanta day-trading firm. At 2:55 PM, it was crowded with staffers, and 30 day-traders sat at their computers. Some greeted Mark warmly and asked where he'd been for the past two days. What they didn't know: hidden beneath his shirt in the waistband of his khaki shorts were two loaded handguns.

"It's been a bad trading day and it's about to get worse."


They also didn't know what had just happened across the street at Momentum Securities, another investment firm. A day-trader at both companies, Mark sometimes made huge profits. But lately he'd been on a losing streak and had lost his trading privileges at Momentum. The check he'd written to cover his debts had bounced, so he went there first.

An imposing six-foot-four, 220 pound man, he asked to speak with a manager and chatted with the day-traders and staff. But after waiting 20 minutes, he took out a 9mm Glock and a Colt .45 and said with a smile: "It's been a bad trading day and it's about to get worse." And began systematically shooting people at point-blank range.

One managed to call police, but Mark left the building and went to the All-Tech office across the street. No one there knew about the bloodbath at Momentum. Mark cheerfully greeted two staffers and chatted with them. One noticed red spots on Mark's forearms and hands, but figured Mark had been painting and splattered himself.

You're gonna love this!


Mark went to the office of Brent Doonan, the All-Tech manager, and called, "Brent, come here. You're gonna love this!"

Seeing Mark's smile, Brent thought he was going to give him a check for the $30,000 he owed him, so he followed Mark to the main office. Brent's business partner Scott Manspeaker, 27, and Kathy Van Camp, 38, were in the office working at their computers. Mark shut the door and closed the blinds on the windows facing the trading floor. Then he pulled out two handguns and fired both of them at Brent, striking him with lethal hollow-point bullets.

One slug tore through Brent's liver and spleen and exited his back, narrowly missing his heart. Another hit his elbow and lodged in his arm. Brent fell to the floor. In severe pain, but conscious, he heard more shots. One hit Kathy in the temple, severing an artery. Two more disabled Scott. Certain that Mark intended to kill him, Brent played dead. The five shots that hit these three victims took less than ten seconds. To Brent it felt like an eternity.

People in the trading area heard the shots. Three escaped through a side door. Others ducked under their desks. Seconds later Mark entered the trading floor and walked along the 25-foot row of desks, shooting people. After emptying the clips in each gun, he reloaded and announced: "I certainly hope this doesn't ruin your trading day!" 

Chaos, a manhunt and a hideous discovery

Meanwhile, unaware of the shootings at All-Tech, police rushed into Momentum Securities. Blood spattered the walls and bodies lay on the floor, shot at close range in the head or the back. Outside, there was chaos. A crowd gathered as rescue workers helped survivors. Not knowing he was the shooter, several people saw Mark get into his green mini-van and drive away. 

Atlanta police set up roadblocks and began a statewide manhunt for Mark Barton. Mayor Bill Campbell briefed the press: 9 people were dead and 22 were injured, some critically. Police knew Mark lived nearby with his wife and two children. At his suburban home, police made a hideous find. They found the children first.

Dressed in pajamas,  Mathew, age 11, and Mychelle, age 8, lay side by side in bed. Their skulls and faces had been beaten to a pulp. Mark had placed their favorite toys beside them: a doll with blond curls, a teddy bear, a video game and some Boy Scout patches.

Kill me if you can


Beside their bodies were Mark's handwritten notes."I give you Mathew Barton, my son, my buddy, my life. Please take care of him."

Another said: "I give you Mychelle Barton, my daughter, my sweetheart, my life. Please take care of her."

In the living room police found a computer print-out directing them to the body of Leigh Ann Barton. Mark said he had killed her Tuesday night and killed the children on Wednesday night (the day before the workplace shootings).

He admitted the murders resembled those of his first wife and mother-in-law, but adamantly denied killing them. "There's no reason for me to lie now," he wrote.

Why did he kill his children? He feared they would inherit his mental illness. He killed his wife because "she was one of the main reasons for my demise. I have come to hate this life and this system of things. I don't plan to live very much longer. Just long enough to kill as many of the people that greedily sought my destruction." The note ends: "You should kill me if you can."

 A dark past

Born in 1955, Mark was the only child of an Air Force worker stationed in Germany. His parents later moved to Sumter, SC. He was intelligent but emotionally distant and ostracized by his peers. However, he excelled in math and science, and was a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. As a teenager, he began taking drugs and was hospitalized several times for overdoses.

His drug use continued during his first year at Clemson University. He was arrested for burglary but put on probation. After suffering a breakdown, he underwent drug therapy and psychiatric treatment. In 1979, he graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in chemistry.

He moved to Atlanta, worked a series of jobs and married Debra Spivey. In 1988, their son Mathew was born. But Mark was paranoid and would not allow Debra to do anything without his permission. In public, he often called her "Stupid." He got a job as general manager of a manufacturing company, but due to his odd behavior, he was fired in 1990. Enraged, Mark broke into the office a week later, downloaded confidential client lists and secret chemical formulas. Police charged him with felony burglary, but he quickly made a settlement with the company.

Misfortune or murder?


The Bartons moved to Georgia. Mark got a job as a salesman at a chemical company and met 22-year old Leigh Ann. They began an affair. Debra knew, but didn't challenge him. In 1991, their daughter was born. One weekend in 1993, Debra and her mother were found bludgeoned to death in a camping trailer. Having recently taken out a $600,000 life insurance policy on Debra, Mark was the prime suspect. Police also knew about his affair with Leigh Ann, but Mark had an alibi and police couldn't find enough evidence to charge him. Leigh Ann provided the alibi.

Soon after the murder, she moved in with Mark. The children were grieving for their mother. Moreover, Mychelle, age 2, told a care worker that Mark had fondled her in a sexual manner, but with no evidence to support the claim, police were unable to charge him.

[family photo at left]

Despite the allegations, Leigh Ann married Mark in 1995. Soon she began to regret it. Mark alternated between bouts of depression and paranoid delusions. Leigh Ann began to fear for her life and those of the children. Her fears increased when Mark lost several hundred thousand dollars while day-trading. In July 1999 his world was crumbling and he was a very angry man.


The end of the road

Five hours after the shootings, as the sun set over a shopping mall in Kennesaw, GA, Mark tried to hijack a car. But the woman ran away and notified mall security. Another woman recognized him from news bulletins, saw him get in his green van, and called 911. Minutes later a policeman in a cruiser spotted him, called for backup and followed the van. Mark pulled into a gas station and circled the parking lot. Police blocked the exit. When they yelled at him to get out of the van, Mark shot himself in the head and died instantly.

In his note, he asked to be buried near his children, but their grandfather, Bill Spivey, wouldn't allow it. The children were buried with their mother, Debra Spivey Barton, and grandmother, Eloise Spivey. Bill Spivey was certain Mark Barton had murdered them.

In a span of 3 days Mark murdered 12 people in Atlanta: his second wife, his two children and nine people at the two securities firms. Had police not stopped him, it might have been worse. Inside his van they found, five handguns and 200 rounds of ammunition. 

The survivors

All of the 22 wounded workplace victims survived but all suffered intense post-traumatic stress. One, Fred Herder, committed suicide in 2002. Kathy Van Camp lost her sight and much of her sense of taste and smell, but she survived. So did Scott Manspeaker and Brent Doonan.

[with his son at left] sold his stake in All-Tech to Scott, moved to Wichita, and wrote a memoir (see below) about his traumatic experience and the grievous injuries he suffered. His recovery was arduous, but Brent is thankful to be alive and cherishes the precious moments he spends with his wife and son.

Mark Barton's crimes are difficult to categorize. I put this in my serial killer category, but could easily have assigned it to domestic homicide. Some call Mark Barton a mass murderer and consider the Atlanta massacre a workplace homicide. 

See more details on this and other cases in DARK DEEDS, Volume Two: Serial killers, stalkers and domestic homicides

I'd love to hear your comments and thoughts about this case. What's your opinion? Please leave a comment!


Sources: Murder at the Office: A Survivor's True Story, Brent C. Doonan, 2006

"Ten Years Later, Buckhead massacre resounds," Bill Torpy, Atlanta Journal, 2009

"Shootings in Atlanta: The Notes," NY Times, 7/31/1999

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[ Posted by Myrna Griffith, January 21, 2012 8:41 AM ]
     So sad. Money or lack of seems to cause more trouble than it's worth. What a shame Mark's mind could not have been healed in time to prevent this.

[ Posted by admin, January 21, 2012 8:58 AM ]
     I agree it's unfortunate bordering on criminal that his mental problems were not addressed sooner, as far back as when he (apparently) killed his first wife. As for the money aspect, his trading losses may have been what triggered the shootings, but it certainly did not cause him to murder his wife and children. His note cited his fears that his children would inherit his mental disease as his reason for killing them. This warped kind of thinking was clearly symptomatic of his illness.

[ Posted by Art Smukler, January 21, 2012 5:36 PM ]
     Wonderful job, Susan. Mark Barton seems like a sociopath who, like so many sociopaths filling our prisons, reacts with rage and no guilt, if he doesn't get what he wants. People like this are untreatable and obviously very dangerous. Thanks! Art

[ Posted by Micki Peluso, January 21, 2012 8:59 PM ]
     Wow!! That's something you expect to see on "Criminal Minds", the TV show. It seems there are more crazies out now than ever before and it makes one wonder why. You did a great job on the story BTW>


[ Posted by admin, January 22, 2012 8:35 AM ]
     Thanks for the comment, Micki. And I agree, there do seem to be many disturbed individual these days. But maybe this is because we instantly hear about them in the media. And, of course, there is always the "gun issue." He didn't use the guns to kill his first or second wife and his children, but many people would have survived at the trading centers had he not had guns and plenty of ammo.

[ Posted by mj potenza, September 29, 2013 10:06 AM ]
     Well written and interesting article

[ Posted by Debbie Lyons, April 24, 2014 3:10 AM ]
     I read the book, Murder in the Office, shortly after the book came out. It is an excellent book and a must read for all crime buffs. I love reading interesting stories. This story was most interesting. Once you pick it up, I guarantee that you will not put it down until you finish. My heart goes out to Brent Doonan and his family. May God continue to bless him and the others who were affected by this horrible tragedy.

[ Posted by admin, April 24, 2014 12:42 PM ]
     Thanks for the comment. I read the book, too. This was truly a terrible crime. So many lives lost, and so many others severely impacted both physically and emotionally. Brent Doonan was lucky to escape with his life. A brave man.

posted by SUSAN FLEET   January 19, 2012 12:03 PM  Serial Killers 


Domestic Homicide (11)
Serial Killers (11)
Something Different! (1)
Stalkers (9)
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