Money at the root of killing spree

Disastrous stock market losses and a sense of personal failure sparked Mark Barton's rampage in Atlanta, writes David Usborne

NEW DETAILS emerged yesterday about the life of Mark Barton, the chemist turned stocks and shares day-trader, who over three days last week killed all three members of his family before slaying nine in the offices of two day-trading firms. Together, they made the rampage no less shocking but, perhaps, less surprising.

The revelations included records of a state investigation in 1994 into claims that Barton had molested his daughter, then aged two-and-a-half, and the results of a subsequent psychological examination that characterised him as a person "capable of homicidal acts and thoughts". Confirmation also came that in recent weeks Barton had suffered a disastrous reversal of fortune in his day-trading activities.

Meanwhile, the political fall-out from the massacre, the worst in Georgia's history, was starting to accumulate. Members of Congress in Washington vowed to accelerate negotiations for the passage of a new gun-control bill while financial experts predicted the passage soon of new laws to regulate the world of day-trading, where fortunes can be made - and lost - in the time it takes to press a computer key.

Flags were ordered to be flown at half-mast across Georgia yesterday as the first funerals were held for the victims of Barton's killing spree. Portraits of those who were gunned down in the day-trading offices revealed them as mostly middle-class, family people who had joined the select community of day-traders to try to supplement their income while saving time for other hobbies, especially golf.

With his suicide as police pursued him on Thursday night, we are denied any sure understanding of what drove Barton to murder. But this might be seen as the all-American crime of the millennium's end. It was not about drugs, gangs or race, the more familiar ingredients of homicides here. It was about about money, about Wall Street, about pressure and about personal failure. As always, though, it featured guns.

Here are some of the elements: Barton, 44, was a white male in a stunningly prosperous society - especially here in gleaming Atlanta - who was seeing his own world fall apart. His second marriage, to his first victim, Leigh Ann Barton, had disintegrated. He had never escaped suspicion of involvement in the hacking death of his first wife and her mother in a camping ground in Alabama in 1993. And the day-trading that had so captivated him as a channel for his intense energies and as a source of new income had turned against him.

Momentum Securities, where four of the victims were slain on Thursday, has reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that Barton lost roughly $105,000 during 15 days of securities trading beginning on 9 June. The firm said that Barton had "a propensity for highly volatile Internet stocks". Before opening fire at Momentum and then crossing a busy road to the offices of All-Tech, another day-trading firm he had once frequented, he noted that Wall Street was on a down day and things would get worse.

"There seems to be an epidemic of people snapping," observed Dr Larry Buford, a dentist who has a practice in the building next door to All- Tech. "There are people like that today who have never known what it's like to be at the bottom and when it happens to them, then it's like their life is over."

Barton made no reference to his financial ills in the letters he left for investigators at the home where he bludgeoned Leigh Ann on Tuesday and the two children from his first marriage, Mychelle, eight, and Matthew, 11, on Wednesday. But he did portray boiling anger and righteousness. He planned to live long enough, he wrote, to kill "the people that greedily sought my destruction".

Yesterday scrutiny was focused on the murders in 1993 of Barton's first wife and her mother, Debra Spivey Barton and Eloise Powell Spivey. Alabama detectives have confirmed that Barton was always their prime suspect. Just before the deaths, Barton had taken out a $600,000 life insurance policy on his wife. "He was the number one suspect all the way through and still is," District Attorney Richard Igou said. But police could never place Barton in the campsite at the time of those murders.

The psychological evaluation came a year later when suspicions were raised that Barton may have molested Mychelle. David McDade, a Georgia DA, noted that the results were never formally recorded but that the psychologist reported to him that Barton "was certainly capable of homicidal thought and homicidal action". McDade said the reports "make me shudder to this day".

The psychologist, who has not been named, also detected intense anger in Barton about being investigated twice, for the murders and for the suspected abuse. This was the same anger, perhaps, that boiled over in him last week. He apparently complained that police had treated him "like a ghetto nigger". No charges were brought in the child abuse case either.

The Atlanta murders, meanwhile, have shone a spotlight on the day-trading industry as well as on the victims of Barton's rampage. The debate about regulating the business stems from statistics showing that while day-trading can generate fortunes for those who engage in it, it can ruin them too. Ninety per cent of those who try end up losing money, according to statistics. It transpired, meanwhile, that Barton's initial investment on his first day at Momentum Securities cost him no less than $100,000.

Among those who died was Dean Delawella, 52, a native of Pakistan who day-traded to earn extra money for his large family. "He just traded to have money to take care of them and to make a nice home here in America," his brother explained. "This was his dream from the moment he arrived in Atlanta."

The first funeral was held on Friday for Allen Tenenbaum, 48, who owned a food shop and treated day-trading as a hobby beside his other love, golf. He was at the day-trading firm only occasionally. "You can't explain it," said his brother-in-law, Freddy Allen. "It's just a tragic loss for no reason."

Suggested Topics
Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone