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

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

Despite an erratic Hollywood upbringing, John Markle was a brilliant if eccentric student. He earned his master’s degree in economics from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1968. He and Christina married in July of that year.

John joined Salomon Brothers in Dallas in 1972, the year his mother was nominated for a Tony Award for her Broadway role in “The Love Suicide at Schofield Barracks.” The next year, Markle received his Ph.D. in economics from UCLA. Also in 1973, Mercedes McCambridge performed as the voice of the demon in the classic horror film “The Exorcist.”

The Markle family was lured to Little Rock in 1979 by Stephens Inc., where John was the firm’s economist and one-man futures-trading department. He handled a corporate account for the firm’s founders, Jack and Witt Stephens. A few months before his death, Markle told Forbes magazine that he had no position limits that he knew of.

At Stephens, his pessimistic view of the American economy earned him the nickname “Dr. Doom” — indeed, he had his greatest trading success when interest rates were on the rise in the early 1980s.

Markle’s idiosyncrasies were legendary: He was described as temperamental, rude and “socially retarded”; he favored purple shoes; he insisted on wearing a leather Harley Davidson cap while trading and required his assistant to wear a particular hat as well. He threatened to kill a co-worker with an AK-47 and later loaded his arsenal of guns into the trunk of his car to prove that he could make good on the threat.

But he wowed his employers by generating at least $3 million in trading profits during the first three years of his employment. He was made a vice president after only eight months, the fastest ascent in Stephens history, and he answered only to Jack Stephens, who would later admit that he knew little about the type of futures trading that Markle was doing. Rumors that he was mishandling accounts were never pursued, mainly because Markle was a frequent target of unflattering gossip.

The Markle family purchased the renovated house on Main Street for $125,000 in 1980. When he applied for a home improvement loan in January 1987, Markle listed his annual income as $140,000 — $135,000 in salary and $5,000 in dividends and interest income.

He and Chris and their two little girls settled into the community. To be near them, McCambridge, long divorced from Fletcher Markle, moved into the Quapaw Towers for a couple of years beginning in 1981. In 1986, she played the mother of a suicidal daughter in the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s production of “’Night, Mother.”

The Markle girls attended The Anthony School for a while, and at the time of their deaths Amy was enrolled in Mann Junior High and Suzanne was in fourth grade at Gibbs Magnet School.

The Markles were financially secure and had a number of close friends, but theirs was clearly not a picture-perfect family life. In August 1986, John was arrested in Little Rock and charged with soliciting a prostitute. The charge of solicitation was dropped, but he pleaded guilty to public intoxication. Marijuana was apparently a regular part of John Markle’s life.

After the killings, the police investigation would show that Markle routinely cashed three or four checks totaling $600-$1,000 a week. “Where this cash was spent would be purely speculative,” Detective Michael Roche wrote in his case summary.

John Markle was also a heavy smoker whose high-stress lifestyle led to a sextuple heart bypass surgery when he was 43.

 

 

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