by Gwen Moritz
Posted 9/30/2002 12:00 am
Updated 4 months ago
"There is something about the explosive smell of money in Little Rock's Ozark air that turns a young man's thoughts to suicide."
Thus begins an article titled "Allegations Regarding Vince Foster, the NSA, and Banking Transactions Spying, Part XXXI" that is published on the Internet by J. Orlin Grabbe. It is one of the few Internet articles that describe the November 1987 deaths of John Markle, a futures trader at Stephens Inc., and his wife and two daughters.
Grabbe, whose home page also features photos of nude women and an essay on the faking of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, goes into little detail about the Markle case, dwelling primarily on the business dealings of the Stephens "empire." But he clearly suggests that the Markle case was not a straightforward murder-suicide.
"He was fired on Friday the 13th (Nov. 1987). He had been asked, they said, about an unidentified, out-of-state brokerage account he controlled, and its relationship to a Stephens corporate account. Rumors would circulate saying maybe he was putting profitable trades in the secret account, and sticking Stephens with the unprofitable ones. But that's all they were, rumors. For Markle himself wasn't talking."
Grabbe makes no reference to the letter Markle left for his mother in which he declared himself guilty of adding profits to his mother's account and losses to the Stephens account.
"Three days after Markle was fired, there was a furious thunderstorm in Little Rock, during which, it is said, John Markle killed his wife, his two young daughters, and then himself. And to do the job, he used three different handguns. That's what they said.
"Curious deaths, those. But this was Stephens country, and no one wanted to ask very many questions. They found it much safer to talk about the violent weather."
The idea that Markle could have shot himself in both sides of the head simultaneously seems to be the detail that is hardest for doubters to swallow. Indeed, Little Rock Police Chief Doc Hale said he had never before seen that particular method of suicide.
An Associated Press article about the Markle case was posted on FreeRepublic.com, a self-described "conservative news forum," in 1998 and is still available online (www.freerepublic.com/forum/a102747.htm).
The person who anonymously posted the decade-old story made the following comment: "Seems most everyone in Little Rock has a taste for self inflicted gunshot wounds.... If Klinton [sic] survives til 2000 will there be anyone alive in Arkansas(?)"
Forum participants also questioned why one person would use three guns to kill four people and found it suspicious that Hillary Clinton would attend a memorial service for the Markles.
But among people who were tangentially involved, there appears to be no question that the case was just what it appeared to be: A murder-suicide by an angry, depressed man who had brought shame and financial ruin on his family.
Lamar James, who wrote the Arkansas Gazette's first articles on the crime, said he compiled a list of possible sources of information that, when printed out, stretched eight feet. He continued to contact names on the list for months afterward.
"It was the longest list of source numbers I ever compiled on a case I was covering, including the Gene Simmons and Alice McArthur cases," he said. "I don't recall anyone questioning Markle's involvement at the time."
Steve Nawojczyk, then the Pulaski County coroner, said Markle's connection to the billionaire Stephenses made police investigators hyper-aware that their work would be scrutinized.
"I remember it being a big conversation of the cops at the scene. They knew that this was what we called a red-ball case — which meant that your eyeballs would be red from working on it — so they were crossing all the t's and dotting all the i's," Nawojczyk said. "They investigated the heck out of it."