15 Years Later, Shocking Markle Murder-Suicide Case Fades From View

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Mar. 31, 2014 12:00 am  

He spotted two police cars in the parking lot of the nearby Safeway supermarket (now a Harvest Foods location), and he asked one of the officers to accompany him to the house.

The storm door was unlocked and the front door was slightly ajar, so Officer Jeffrey Armstrong walked in. He found Markle’s dead body in a downstairs study. The time was 4:17 a.m.

Within minutes, the bodies of Amy Michelle, 13, and Suzanne Marie, 9, were found together on the bed in Amy’s second-floor bedroom. The body of Chris Markle, who had turned 45 the previous week, was found on the waterbed in the master suite that occupied the entire third floor of the house.

In the study near Markle’s body were a Western-style .45-caliber Colt revolver and a .38-caliber Charter Arms revolver. The third murder weapon, a .38-caliber Colt revolver, was found in an upstairs bathroom. (Fifteen other firearms were recovered from the house, but they apparently weren’t used that night.)

Also near John’s body was a rubber “old man” Halloween mask spattered with blood, and on the desk in the study was a note handwritten on a pad of yellow legal paper. The date and time — “11/16/87 at 2:30 a.m.” — were written on the note. Otherwise, all it said was:

“Let it hereby be stated as true that I, John L. Markle, murdered my wife, and two children, Amy and Suzanne, and then committed suicide myself. My wife had no knowledge or part in this. I think the evidence shall so prove.” It was signed “John Markle.”

In the hallway next to the study was a black briefcase. Attached to it was a note to Lawrence. Inside were:

  • two letters to Lawrence marked in the order in which he was to read them;
  • a long letter to Markle’s mother;
  • 64 $100 bills;
  • a $5,000 cashier’s check;
  • a spiral notebook;
  • a handwritten will; and
  • assorted personal papers such as car titles and birth certificates.

Police investigators would conclude from blood analysis that Markle wore the rubber mask as he shot Amy four times, and probably while he put five bullets in Suzanne and three in Chris. A couple of hours later, he phoned Lawrence and then shot himself in both sides of his head simultaneously using the revolvers that were found with his body. That no one in the neighborhood reported hearing more than a dozen gunshots was explained by the thunderstorm.

Lab tests would reveal that all four Markles had trace amounts of Elavil, an antidepressant that causes drowsiness, in their systems. John and Chris both tested positive for Valium and marijuana, and John had ingested an appetite suppressant and a small quantity of alcohol.

John Markle

John Lawrence Markle was born early on Christmas Day 1941 in Hollywood, Calif., to Mercedes McCambridge, a 23-year-old radio actress, and her husband, writer William Fifield. When John was 8, McCambridge would win the Academy Award as best supporting actress for her screen debut in “All the King’s Men,” a political drama that was also named the “best picture” of 1949.

By then, her marriage to Fifield was over and she was married to Fletcher Markle, a film and TV director who adopted her young son.



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