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

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

The Litigation

On Nov. 9, Markle voided the will he had executed a few months after his heart surgery in 1985, and he, two witnesses and a notary signed the handwritten will that was found in his briefcase. Unlike the first will, the new one made no provision for Chris and named no guardians for Amy and Suzanne.

In the new will, he estimated the net value of his estate at $890,000. He left $500,000 to his mother, which would bring her cash assets to approximately $1.7 million. His letters to her and to his attorney, Richard Lawrence, encouraged McCambridge to immediately pay Stephens Inc. $700,000, leaving her with $1 million to invest for income.

But Markle didn’t foresee all the legal questions that his deadly actions would cause. Eight lawsuits would be filed by his estate, Christina’s estate, two life insurance companies and McCambridge. Christina’s estate even suggested that she may have outlived John, which would have completely changed the chain of inheritance and settled a third of John’s estate — as well as Chris’ $250,000 life insurance policy — on his wife’s surviving sisters.

Eventually all eight lawsuits were settled out of court with a single, confidential agreement. This much is known: Three insurance policies on John Markle’s life totaling just over $653,000 were distributed in December 1988; $549,000 went to Markle’s estate, and McCambridge and her former husband, Fletcher Markle, each received $52,000.

Markle’s estate also sold the house and auctioned off many of the family’s personal effects.

Meanwhile, Stephens Inc. was pursuing numerous legal complaints against Markle’s estate, McCambridge and Geldermann’s. In out-of-court settlements, Stephens received $600,000 from McCambridge and $340,000 from Markle’s estate.

Stephens Inc. and McCambridge jointly sued Geldermann’s, arguing that Markle never could have managed the embezzlement scam without the Chicago company’s cooperation.

McCambridge sought $500,000 in actual damages — the difference between the $1.1 million she had given Markle to invest and the $600,000 she wound up with after settling with Stephens — plus $1 million in punitive damages for allowing Markle to set up an unauthorized account in her name. Her claim against Geldermann’s eventually was dismissed.

Stephens Inc. sought $6.2 million in compensatory damages — $5.2 million for all the losses Markle racked up in Stephens’ house account over the five-year period, plus almost $1 million for commissions paid to Geldermann’s during that time — and an equal amount in punitive damages.

Geldermann’s acknowledged that some employees had facilitated Markle’s scheme by allowing him to “post-allocate” the trades. But Geldermann’s argued during a three-week trial in December 1990 that only $854,000 in profits was skimmed from the Stephens account and that even that could have been prevented if Stephens had supervised Markle adequately.

“Jack Stephens trusted Markle and made a mistake,” Little Rock attorney O.H. “Bud” Storey, who represented Geldermann’s, told the jury.

The jury awarded Stephens actual damages of just under $1.4 million, plus $1 million in punitive damages. The court reduced the actual damages by $940,000 since Stephens had recouped that much through its settlements with McCambridge and the Markle estate, but appeals that stretched into 1991 failed to win reduction of the punitive damages.




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