15 Years Later, Murder-Suicide Fades From View (Fifth Monday)

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Sep. 30, 2002 12:00 am  

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, the day after the bodies were discovered, readers of the competing Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat learned that Markle had been on “medical leave” from his job at Stephens Inc. since early October. That was the company’s official statement, but it wasn’t the whole truth.

After a memorial service at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral the following Thursday, Stephens Inc. came clean: Markle had been placed on medical leave on Oct. 7, but his employment had been terminated the previous Friday, Nov. 13.

KARN radio station scooped the newspapers by reporting that the murder-suicide was related to discrepancies in Markle’s handing of accounts belonging to Stephens Inc. and his mother. The station didn’t reveal its source and its information was sketchy, but the radio report was the first to pinpoint the motive behind what Pulaski County Coroner Steve Nawojczyk would call “an act of macabre benevolence.”

The official report released by Little Rock Police Chief Jess F. “Doc” Hale on Dec. 4 would describe Markle’s risky five-year operation and its accidental discovery. (Five months later, after being accused of a petty theft, Hale would take his own life.) More details of Markle’s embezzlement would emerge through court documents and testimony.

Simply put, Markle would order trades through a Chicago brokerage, Geldermann’s Inc., without specifying whether the trades should be entered on the Stephens house account or on an account he had opened for his mother in 1982. At the end of each trading day, Markle would assign profitable trades to his mother’s account and losing trades to the Stephens account.

Such “post-allocation” was a blatant violation of Chicago Board of Trade rules and Stephens’ internal policy, but some Geldermann’s employees apparently were willing to bend the rules for a “good customer.” In fact, Markle probably was using the same system even before he joined Stephens in 1979, and he apparently chose Geldermann’s because a helpful friend had gone to work there.

The Stephens house account lost $5.2 million during the time that Markle controlled it — more than $1.3 million in the first 10 months of 1987 alone.

His performance for the company was the worst among Stephens traders in 1987, but 91.7 percent of trades in his mother’s account were profitable — a record that was literally too good to be true. The only losses in the McCambridge account were trades in precious metals, a commodity in which Stephens didn’t deal, so those losses couldn’t be assigned to the Stephens account.

There was no evidence that McCambridge knew of the scheme. She believed the $604,000 she gave her son to manage in 1982 was invested in safe Treasury bills and money markets — definitely not in commodity futures, which lose more often than they win. Instead, her signature was forged on the application and power of attorney that Markle used to set up and manage the account.

Over time, another $500,000 would be deposited in McCambridge’s account, for a total investment of about $1.1 million. Meanwhile, $1.18 million would be disbursed from the account — some to McCambridge, some to Markle and some that could not be accounted for because of incomplete documentation.

One of Markle’s contacts at Geldermann’s moved to another Chicago firm, Elders Futures Inc., and Markle began moving both the Stephens and McCambridge accounts from Geldermann’s to Elders in September 1987. That’s when the embezzlement scheme began to unravel.

Geldermann’s had been careful to mail all statements about McCambridge’s account to Markle’s home, but Elders sent a statement on the new McCambridge account to Stephens Inc., where it caught the attention of Bruce Bennett. Bennett questioned Elders about the previously unknown account for Markle’s mother, and on Oct. 6, a Geldermann’s officer revealed the existence of a McCambridge account at his firm as well.

 

 

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