Murder at the Office

Murder at the Office

by Brent C. Doonan

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781933893082
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 05/01/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 303
Product dimensions: 4.26(w) x 6.94(h) x 0.83(d)

Read an Excerpt


By Brent C. Doonan

Expanding Horizons

Copyright © 2006 Brent C. Doonan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-933893-08-2

Chapter One


Truman Barton was stationed in Germany when his and his wife, Gladys's, only son, Mark, was born in 1955. The family stayed in Europe until they were relocated to Sumter, South Carolina, during Mark's childhood.

Located in the heart of South Carolina, the city of Sumter lies within Sumter County in the midlands region of the state. A little under fifty miles from South Carolina's capitol, Columbia, Sumter dates back to 1845. Sumter was named after General Thomas Sumter, also known as the "Fighting Gamecock" during the American Revolution. General Sumter was the basis for Mel Gibson's character in the movie The Patriot. Sumter was once a quiet farming community until the arrival of the Shaw Air Force Base in 1941, which boosted the local economy and diversified the area. The Shaw Air Force Base is located ten miles from Sumter and is home to the Ninth Air Force and headquarters for the Twentieth Fighter Wing of the United States Air Force. Today, Sumter, South Carolina, is also the home of the University of South Carolina.

The Bartons lived in a red brick house on a street lined with pecan and magnolia trees. Mark's father worked as a civilian contractor at the sprawling Shaw Air Force Base. A strict disciplinarian,Truman Barton was very stern with his son; the harsher the punishment, the better. Mark's father wanted to inflict a lesson that would make an impression, one that was not likely to be forgotten. In contrast, Mark's mother was thought of as a nice, quiet, gentle woman. She worked as a secretary at the local Methodist Church.

Throughout school, Barton was very introverted. Most of the other students considered him a loner. Gangly and awkward as a teenager, he had few friends and he wasn't involved in school sports. On occasion, peering out from horn-rimmed glasses, he was called a "nerd" or "geek." He did not have a girlfriend, but was very focused and excelled in his course work, scoring well on standardized tests, particularly in math and chemistry. Needing someone to confide in during his sophomore year in high school, Barton began talking with Harry Taylor, a psychologist. Mark talked with Dr. Taylor about feeling like an outcast at school and the anger of not being able to fit in.

Taylor often asked Barton, "Mark, why don't you try out for one of the sports teams this year? It could be a great opportunity for you."

"I'm an outcast. Why should I try to participate?" Barton replied.

"Well, you wouldn't be an outcast if you got involved. You would feel part of a team. I think it would be a step in the right direction."

Barton just waved his arm and sighed. Though eventually he grew to have an imposing physique at 6'4" and 205 pounds, he never tried out for any of the sports teams.

Instead of playing sports or joining a club, Barton began using his analytical abilities for more than just academics. Taking an interest in petty crimes, it was as if he began to embrace his talent for going undetected. Before, he had hoped to be noticed, but now he began to think of how he could disappear into the shadows.

"Whenever I go anywhere I size up how to break in, where the money is, what I can steal and how I can get away," he confessed to Taylor.

Taylor thought Barton was becoming more and more withdrawn. He again suggested other school activities, but they were quickly refused by Barton.

Over time, Taylor observed that Barton was becoming angrier and angrier and "fancied himself a master criminal."

Soon, simply thinking about his plans was not good enough, so Barton started to test them out. Several of his schemes resulted in success, working exactly the way he had thought they would, but at fourteen he was caught breaking into a drug store.

His parents were very disappointed with him. It didn't look very appropriate that the son of an employee of the United States Air Force and a secretary for a local church was a thief. His father punished him severely and hoped that would set his son on a straight course.

Then at the age of sixteen the long-haired teenager's interest in chemistry heightened when he began taking psychedelic drugs. He had heard about the possible results when morning glory seeds are taken after they have been chemically treated. With patience and the right steps, a powder can be extracted from the seeds. When the powder is mixed with certain chemicals it can have a potent hallucinogenic effect, very similar to LSD. With Barton's knowledge of chemistry it wasn't difficult for him to get the desired effects. Taylor thought after Barton began to take this drug he was never quite the same again.

At one point Barton had such vivid hallucinations that he went to the emergency room. The experience frightened him.

"He ingested a great deal of it and overdosed. He had hallucinations and had to go to the emergency room. It did something very bad to him." Taylor suspected that the toxic effects of the ingestion of the drug might have been exacerbated by the chemicals Barton used for extracting the drug.

Afterwards, Barton's behavior was dramatically different from the quiet student he was known as. He became frightened by visions of demons shooting up through the floor. Barton totally lost the ability to read and had to learn it all over again. He cut off all his hair, which at the time was a counterculture move, and took up the Bible. His newfound religious fanaticism and his shaved head further alienated him from his peers. A few years earlier he was hoping to be accepted by his peers, but after his overdose it seemed just the opposite. When he visited Taylor at home for their friendly chess matches, Barton started bringing the Bible with him and jabbered madly about finding "answers to all questions."

Because of Barton's strange behavior, Taylor lost touch with him. "He didn't make any sense. The drugs blew him away."

In 1973, a semi-finalist for the National Merit Scholarship, Barton graduated from Sumter High School. His school yearbook had gotten his name wrong twice. He was "Jack Barton" in 1971 and "Mack Barton" in 1972. His picture was missing in his senior yearbook. He was identified only as a "Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist."

One of Barton's English teachers described his social problems in high school, "If someone didn't fit into a group and find an identity, they could just slide through unnoticed. Mark was one of those."

After high school, Barton drifted briefly through Clemson University for one semester. He had another psychotic episode and was hospitalized. After dropping out of Clemson, he remained on antipsychotic drug therapy under the treatment of a psychiatrist throughout the rest of the school year.

When his treatments ended he enrolled at the University of South Carolina. While at college he learned how to synthesize methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant that strongly activates certain systems in the brain. Immediately after smoking or injecting it, the user experiences an intense sensation. The rush lasts only a few minutes, but can be extremely pleasurable. Users can become addicted quickly, and use it with increasing frequency in increasingly large doses.

Mark Barton was soon making the drug and selling it. He eventually began to use the substance to get high. Once again, at age twenty, he got caught trying to burglarize another drug store and was placed on probation. His drug abuse had caused him to take a year longer than normal to finish college. He graduated in 1979, with a bachelor-of- science degree in chemistry.

After graduating he moved from one dead end job to another. The same year he married Debra Spivey, a fellow student he had met while working as a night auditor at a local hotel. They lived in Atlanta, where Barton got a job testing cleaning compounds and then moved to Texarkana, Texas. There he got a position at TLC Manufacturing, a small company that made janitorial cleaning products. He began as a chemist with the company and within five years was promoted to manager of operations and then general manager. His salary was about $86,000 a year. The Bartons had their first child, a son, in 1988. Now Barton had the appearance of a normal, successful family man. To outsiders he seemed like an average father who wore Dockers and polo shirts and liked to chip golf balls in his front yard. It seemed as if his erratic behavior had subsided.

Barton's secretary of four years later commented that she saw a different side of him. "He thought people were out to get him. When somebody got on his bad side, you stayed there."

Behind closed doors, Barton was quick-tempered, devious and malicious. Barton recorded his telephone conversations with other employees, as he had a deep-seated grudge against one of the company's top salesman. To cause delays in the delivery of products, Barton elusively altered orders the man had placed.

Barton's personality underwent a change from a harmless prankster to someone who would have outbursts of uncontrollable behavior when he was unable to solve business related, chemical problems at work. There were incidents in which Barton threw things in his workplace. Most of his co-workers thought of him as not necessarily mean or rude, but as having an attitude similar to a spoiled child-a person who never could admit to doing wrong.

Barton's paranoia was not limited to the office. His wife could not do anything without his permission. Debra couldn't leave the house without telling him first where she was going, what she was going to do and when she was going to be back. He began to humiliate her, with the two often arguing in public. After Debra suffered a miscarriage, Barton cruelly belittled and mocked her. He referred to her by the depreciating nickname he gave her, "Stupid." At this point, though, neighbors didn't see much of the young family. The Bartons rarely socialized or went out in public, spending most of their evenings alone at home.

The Bartons joined a Baptist congregation with about 3,000 members. The family did little to acquaint themselves with the minister and the other churchgoers. However, they posed for a photo for the church directory, in which Barton is smiling, while a sullen looking Debra is seated next to him holding their one-year-old son.

Finally, Barton's odd behavior became too much of a distraction in the office. On September 13, 1990, he was fired by TLC's board of directors. They cited a deficit in his management capabilities and said they had to let him go. Barton interpreted his firing as a way for the company to save money. Employees later described him as being very upset and angry when he left.

One week later, in the middle of the night, Barton broke into the TLC offices through a loading dock door. Once inside, he strode to the room used for coffee breaks, moved a refrigerator and crawled through a window to get to the computers in the executive offices. After downloading confidential client lists, secret chemical formulas and financial data, he wiped the hard drives clean of information. Then after disabling both computers, he searched through the filing cabinets and stole the hard copies of the records he had downloaded. He also took two folders that contained the formulas for all of the products made by the corporation.

Mark Barton left the same way he got in.

Co-workers knew it had to be Barton. The police report indicated that all locks to the building were changed after he turned in his keys. A coworker told police Barton had told him, "There are ways to get into the business without using keys."

While talking to co-workers, police quickly learned of Barton's erratic behavior and firing. Swiftly labeling the former employee as the principal suspect, detectives went to talk to Barton at his home.

Sitting in Barton's living room, the police asked him about his whereabouts on the night of the break-in. Barton adamantly denied knowing anything about the burglary. When the detectives suggested he had a motive for wanting to hurt the company that had just fired him, Barton again proclaimed his innocence.

As the questions continued, Barton let a telling piece of information slip, saying, "Anyone could have entered through the loading dock door." The police had not disclosed the point of entry. Immediately the detectives knew that even if he was not the guilty party, he still must know something else. They continued to listen to him when Debra entered the room. Barton turned to her and said, "They think I stole the formulas." Once again, the detectives had not revealed the information that the formulas were missing. Again, Barton implicated himself by knowing details that only the guilty party would know.

When they left the house the detectives looked at each other and nodded, confirming their belief that Barton was guilty.

If they charged him with the crime there was an excellent chance they could get a conviction. Barton clearly had a motive. He had a history with the company and knew how to get in and he also knew where everything was and what he wanted to take. In addition, Barton's history of past attempted burglaries only strengthened the case against him.

The police charged him with felony burglary and Barton briefly went to jail, but surprisingly was released within hours. TLC told police they had settled the matter, withdrawing their complaint.

Company officials decided they did not want to pursue the case. Barton had bargained with his ex-employer for his release from jail. In exchange for his freedom he would return everything that he had stolen and agreed to leave the state of Texas forever, which he did. The company had to spend thousands of dollars to replace the files.

The Bartons left Texas sometime near midnight in a beat-up Ford pickup. All their earthly possessions were piled high in the bed and cinched down with twine. They drove for two days until they arrived in Macon, Georgia. The Bartons slept in the truck during the trip.

Soon after arriving, Barton set up a firm he compared with a "paper route." With hopes of starting over, the family began to try to rebuild their life together. Barton and Debra had their second child, a girl, in 1991. They bought a new house in Douglasville, Georgia. Barton found a job as a salesman for a chemical company. However, the relationship between Barton and his wife became rocky when he met a receptionist in her early twenties, Leigh Ann Lang. They entered into an affair just three days after meeting. Barton said, "She liked older guys. She made that known to everybody."

Nevertheless, he tried to keep up the veneer of normalcy at home. On Saturdays, Barton cooked breakfast for his children and joined them watching cartoons. Later he said that whenever Debra wasn't home, he and the kids would "run through the house and beat each other with pillows and just get totally out of hand."

Meanwhile, Barton and Leigh Ann spent most of their time at work flirting with each other. At night they had drinks with co-workers. He bought a new wardrobe and began perfecting a tan. Over time, his wife Debra grew suspicious of him and the two of them began to quarrel more and more. One night Debra wrote in her diary, "We will reap the wrath of Mark tonight." She wrote that she was able to tell something was wrong by the expression on his face while he was cutting the grass.

Each time they argued, Debra accused him of having an affair. He just shrugged and said she was being paranoid. Barton later said about Debra's suspicions, "The key to the whole thing was I started going to the tanning bed, and she didn't like that ... all throughout the relationship ... because I was in outside sales. She found her own dog's hair on me one time ... and she asked me if it was another lady's hair ... I just denied it."

At the same time, Barton began to get information on taking out a life insurance policy on Debra. He talked with an insurance agent and explained that he wanted to get a one million dollar life insurance policy on his wife.

The insurance agent read through the papers Barton had filled out. After reviewing them he asked, "Mr. Barton, why is it you want to get this policy?"

Barton said, "It's her idea. I used to be the president of a company and my wife began to enjoy it. She felt as time went on, she became as important as I was. She developed an extreme sense of self-worth."

The agent nodded and explained the premiums he would have to pay for the policy. Barton quickly realized he wouldn't be able to pay the premiums on a one million dollar policy, so he had to settle for $600,000 one.


Excerpted from MURDER AT THE OFFICE by Brent C. Doonan Copyright © 2006 by Brent C. Doonan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Misfit..............................................23
Chapter Two: A Venture into Day Trading..........................45
Chapter Three: Fortune's Tricky Smile............................61
Chapter Four: Incongruous Impressions............................76
Chapter Five: Hell Fire..........................................92
Chapter Six: Blood Bath..........................................103
Chapter Seven: Mortal Wounds.....................................121
Chapter Eight: A Nightmare Unfolding.............................136
Chapter Nine: Desperate Hours....................................150
Chapter Ten: Heroic Surgery......................................165
Chapter Eleven: Hazy Perceptions.................................180
Chapter Twelve: Agonizing Questions..............................194
Chapter Thirteen: Entering a Murderer's Mind.....................212
Chapter Fourteen: Day Trading: Ups and Downs.....................235
Chapter Fifteen: Painful Aftermaths..............................248
Chapter Sixteen: A Changed Life..................................263
Chapter Seventeen: Sorrow and Miracles...........................269
Chapter Eighteen: Victims and Survivors..........................279

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