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

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

Since that account was also a secret to Stephens Inc., compliance officer Phil Shellabarger immediately began an investigation. The following day, he and other Stephens representatives confronted Markle, who initially denied any wrongdoing but later admitted diverting profits to his mother’s account.

Because of his history of heart disease, he was placed on medical leave while his accounts were reviewed. A few days later, he was relieved of his key to the Stephens offices and his access to company computers was cut off.

The Negotiations

Markle came up with at least two different ideas for making restitution to his employer in order to avoid criminal prosecution, both of which would have required his mother’s cooperation. And that proved to be the sticking point.

When the embezzlement was discovered, his mother had approximately $1.2 million between the two accounts at Geldermann’s and Elders. Markle originally offered to leave all her money on account with Stephens Inc.; McCambridge would draw interest from the account during her lifetime, and the balance would revert to Stephens on her death.

Markle seemed to believe that Jack and Witt Stephens and Jack’s son, Stephens Inc. President Warren Stephens, were amenable to this solution. But McCambridge was not — even though she had been friendly with the Stephenses, especially “Mr. Witt,” while she lived in Little Rock and, as Markle pointed out in a bitter letter to his mother, it wouldn’t have cost her anything.

McCambridge also apparently rejected Markle’s second idea for reimbursing his employer: $600,000 in cash and the remainder of her estate at the time of her death.

Instead, on Oct. 21, McCambridge sent telegrams to the three Stephenses in which she denied any wrongdoing and even suggested that Stephens Inc. owed her money.

On Nov. 11, Stephens Inc. finally received an accounting of the Geldermann’s transactions and the extent of the company’s financial loss became more clear. According to Police Chief Hale’s final report, Warren Stephens demanded $1 million in restitution during a final meeting with Markle on Nov. 13.

“Mr. Markle seemed to believe this was a good proposal,” Hale reported, and he requested 30 additional days to come up with the money.

But days before that last discussion, Markle had contacted his life insurance company and confirmed that his $500,000 policy would be paid in case of suicide. His diary suggested that while he was making preparations for what he called “option ?,” he hadn’t firmly decided to kill his family and himself until he heard Stephens’ final offer.




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