Examining Workplace Homicide
Atlanta's Office Massacre
On July 27, 1999, in the early morning hours, 44-year old Mark Barton bludgeoned his wife, Leigh Ann, to death with a hammer as she slept in their Stockbridge, Georgia, apartment. The following evening he also bludgeoned to death his 8-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son from a previous marriage. The children's natural mother and maternal grandmother had been murdered six years earlier in Alabama. They too had been bludgeoned to death with a blunt instrument. Mark Barton had been a key suspect in the Alabama murder investigation but never charged with the deaths.
In the mid afternoon of July 29, less than seven hours after he brutally murdered his children, Barton went to the downtown offices of Momentum Securities in Atlanta's Piedmont Center. In an article entitled Guns & Day Trading, Sandra London describes what he was hoping to resolve:
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…
The brokerage provided 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.
Momentum's manager was running a little late. While Barton waited for the manager's return, he made small talk with some of the other day traders and staff in the office. He appeared to be in good spirits, smiling away as he chatted. They had no idea that Barton had just murdered his family and was armed with two guns.
Barton waited for the manager for approximately 20 minutes before he began to get weary. According to London, he whipped out a 9mm semiautomatic and a Colt .45 and with a gun in each hand he chillingly remarked with a smile, "It's a bad trading day and it's about to get worse." He then began to systematically shoot the people around him at close range.
Pandemonium broke out as men and women scrambled to escape the bullets that zipped past them. Eventually, the police were called to the scene. By the time they arrived four people were already dead and many more wounded. The nightmare was not yet over. Barton was able to walk past police unnoticed and cross the street to the other brokerage where he was also known to conduct day trading.
When he arrived at the offices of All-Tech Investment Group located on the third floor of Two Securities Center, he made his way directly towards the manager's office. He cheerfully greeted the staff as he walked toward the manager and his secretary. No one in the office was yet aware of the horrific events that had happened minutes earlier across the street.
Several minutes after Barton stepped into the manager's office, gun shots rang through the corridors. He then made his way towards the main trading room and with a gun in each hand Barton tried to shoot down everyone he saw. London stated that as he shot he remarked, "I hope this doesn't ruin your trading day." By the time the gunfire ceased, five more people lay dead in the All-Tech offices and many more were injured. Once again, Barton passed unnoticed by the police and fled from the office park on foot. The survivors and law enforcement officials were left behind to try and make sense of the carnage that confronted them.
Not knowing he had just massacred more than half a dozen people, witnesses saw Barton running from the crime scene. Other witnesses claimed to have seen a man fitting Barton's description walking quickly away from the offices and nervously glancing around. The suspicious man eventually disappeared into a wooded area and wasn't seen again until later.
Hours after the shooting rampage, Barton's whereabouts remained a mystery. The police vigorously searched the city of Atlanta looking for him but they were unsuccessful. However, investigators did find the remains of Barton's family in his girlfriend's apartment in the Atlanta suburb of Stockbridge.
When investigators arrived, they found the bodies of Barton's two children carefully laid side-by-side in their bed and wrapped in blankets. Everything was covered with the exception of their faces, which were neatly framed by the comforter. According to an article by Brian Hartman entitled "Final Words," Barton laid on top of his son's body a video game and on his daughter's a teddy bear. There was also a note lying on each of them, which was handwritten by their father. The note on the boy read, "I give you Matthew David Barton, my son, my buddy, my life. Please take care of him." The note found on his daughter read, "I give you Mychelle Elizabeth Barton, my daughter, my sweetheart, my life, please take care of her." It was believed the children had been washed before they were wrapped in the blankets.
Investigators found another note on the coffee table in the living room of the apartment. The letter was not handwritten like the others but written on a computer and printed out. The letter stated that Leigh Ann's body could be found in the master bedroom under a blanket. He claimed that although the killings resembled that of the 1993 murders of his former wife and mother-in-law, he was not responsible for their deaths. Barton stated that he killed Leigh Ann because she was responsible for his downfall. He stated that he killed his children because he didn't want them to suffer throughout their life as he had. He claimed that following his murder of the children he put them "face down in the bathtub to make sure they didn't wake up in pain."
Shortly after the letter was found, investigators searched for Leigh Ann's body. They found her remains on the closet floor of her bedroom. Like the children, she too was wrapped in a blanket with a handwritten note laid on top. The note said, "I give you my wife Leigh Ann Barton, my honey, my precious love. Please take care of her. I will love her forever."
The grisly deaths of Barton's wife and two children sent even more shock waves through an already stunned community. Many shook their heads in disbelief at how one man could be responsible for so much carnage. In the space of just three days, Barton claimed the lives of three family members and nine people at the brokerage offices. Moreover, he wounded 22 more victims who were being treated at area hospitals.
These figures do not account for the many other victims, including the countless numbers of friends and families of those lost that are left behind to grieve. The investigators' momentum increased as the death count climbed. They were anxious to prevent any more unnecessary deaths and they were intent on finding and capturing what was now one of Atlanta's most notorious mass murderers.
Almost five hours after the shooting rampage, Barton reemerged again at a shopping mall in Kennesaw. According to London, he threatened a young girl's life, yet she managed to run from him and call the police. Shortly thereafter, Barton stepped into his van and drove away. Soon a person spotted the widely publicized van and police were called to the scene.
Before long, Barton's van was followed by a swarm of inconspicuous police cars. Barton pulled into a gas station in Acworth, not realizing he was being trailed. Within moments the police surrounded his van. Brandishing their guns, they ordered Barton to get out of his vehicle. Suddenly, Barton turned one of his own guns on himself and blew his brains out. His suicide was a violent end to a series of horrific events that shocked the nation and awakened many to the dangers associated with workplace violence.