Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Examining Workplace Homicide

Who is Mark Barton?

Mark Barton, police photo.
Mark Barton, police photo.
Truman Barton, who worked for the Air Force, was stationed with his wife Gladys in Germany when the couple welcomed their only son, Mark, into the world in 1955. The family lived in Europe until they were relocated to Sumter, South Carolina, during Mark Barton's early youth. Barton was an intelligent child, although he was emotionally very distant. During his school years, he was considered unsociable and was ostracized by the other students. However, he was very focused and excelled in his course work, especially in math and chemistry.

During his mid-teens, Barton began to experiment with hallucinogenic drugs. His experimental phase quickly turned into drug abuse, which likely served as a means to escape his lonely childhood. In fact, his drug abuse landed him in the hospital on several occasions following accidental overdoses.

Barton's drug use continued into his college years at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina. While attending school, London stated that he even went so far as to resort to burglary during this particularly shaky period in his life, which was probably a means to get cash to pay for his habit. He was charged for the crime and eventually released on probation. However, London wrote that Barton did make an effort to get some help by undergoing drug therapy and psychiatric treatment after suffering a mental breakdown.

Hartman stated that Barton finally graduated in 1979 from the University of South Carolina with a degree in chemistry. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he worked at a series of jobs. At one of his jobs he met and fell in love with Debra Spivey, whom he married later that same year. It seemed as if Barton's erratic behavior was slowly beginning to stabilize as he become more content.

In the mid-1980s, the couple eventually moved to Arkansas after Barton landed a position as president of a manufacturing company. In 1988, their first child, Matthew, was born and was followed several years later by a daughter, Mychelle. Although the Bartons seemed like a happily family, Mark's behavior was cause for concern.

Barton became increasingly paranoid and controlling, especially of his wife Debra. He began to publicly degrade her. Eventually, over the years the marriage began a steady decline. Simultaneously, Barton's work also began to slide and in 1990 he was fired from his position. According to London, Barton was so enraged by his job loss that he sabotaged data files at the company where he had worked. He was eventually charged with the crime, which resulted in a brief stint in jail before being released after a settlement with the company.

Shortly thereafter, Barton moved his family to Georgia where he found a job as a salesman at a chemical company. It was there that he met and fell in love with another woman, 22-year-old Leigh Ann Lang. Debra knew about the affair but didn't outwardly reveal her knowledge of the other woman.

In 1993, tragedy struck when Debra and her mother were hacked to death in a camping trailer with a blunt instrument during their vacation. Barton was immediately considered the key suspect in the killings. Investigators believed that Barton's motive was a life insurance policy recently taken out on his wife that paid more than half a million dollars and his interest in pursuing a relationship with Leigh Ann. However, Barton had an alibi and investigators were unable to produce enough evidence to charge Barton with the crimes.

Now that Debra was dead, Barton was free to court Leigh Ann, who moved in with him just weeks following the murders. The couple planned to marry soon and become the "happy family" they both longed to be. Yet, the idea of happiness was a thought that was far removed for Barton's children who had just lost their mother. To make matters worse, Hartman stated that shortly after the murders, 2-year-old Mychelle allegedly told a care worker that her father fondled her in a sexual manner. There was little evidence supporting the girl's claim and investigators were unable to charge Barton with sexual abuse.

Intriguingly, despite the murders and the allegations of sexual abuse, Lee Ann married Barton in 1995 and decided to make the best out of the unusual circumstances. However, the problems were not far behind and just a short period after their marriage Leigh Ann began to fear that she made the wrong decision in marrying Barton. Her new husband began showing signs of mental deterioration, lapsing in between depressive episodes and paranoid delusions. Leigh Ann became increasingly fearful for her life and the children's, yet she tried hard to keep up appearances of a stable and happy family by engaging in activities with the children and going to church. 

The couple's marital problems worsened when Barton made a series of bad investments with the money he obtained from his ex-wife's death. In 1999, he lost several hundred thousand dollars of personal income while day trading at Momentum Securities and All-Tech. He had initially hoped to increase the money so that he and Leigh Ann would never have to work. Yet, his plan backfired and he ended up owing as much as he hoped to have earned.

Simultaneously, Barton's dreams and his mental state began to rapidly diminish. By July 1999, he was at his rope's end and he was becoming increasingly angry at the cards fate had dealt him. He decided to exact his revenge over a period of three nightmarish days filled with murder. It would also result in one of the largest and most gruesome occupational homicide cases in Atlanta's history.

No one will ever know exactly what it was that caused Barton to brutally murder his family and then go on to kill nine other people in a shooting rampage at his office. It would be hard to believe that his financial losses were the primary motivation for such a massive outlet of anger, although it is highly probable that it fueled the flames. It is likely that it was a combination of an unhappy childhood, drug abuse, a life long history of depression and psychosis, as well as job related stress associated with his recent failures that led to Barton's unusually violent behavior.

However, what is known for certain is that the Barton case is not an isolated one and workplace homicide is a problem that continues to plague the entire business sector in every nation on earth. Yet, still very little is known about it and why it occurs. Unfortunately, it is a problem that will continue to remain until more is understood about how to prevent it.

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