Article and Photo by Greg Davis
Posted on November 16, 2017
Little Rock, Arkansas–November 16, 2017, marks the 30th anniversary of an event that would leave people wondering how could someone do that to their own family? For one former Little Rock police officer, it would be something that would stay with him for years to come. As a young patrolman with a little over one year of experience and working the midnight shift in downtown Little Rock, Todd Armstrong was sitting in his patrol car off Main Street near 19th Street talking with his sergeant. It was approximately 4:00 a.m., and it had been a very stormy night. The police radio system was partially down due to the storms. Only car to car communications was working. That meant there was no communication between dispatch and the officers.
As the two sat in their patrol cars, a man in a Volvo station wagon approached the officers’ vehicles. Armstrong got out and the man said, ”Thanks for meeting me here,” and Armstrong responded, “I don’t understand, I didn’t know I was meeting you here.” The man said, “I’m Richard Lawrence, and my client John Markle lives across the street and called me saying it was an emergency and, he wanted me to meet with him tonight. So I called 911 and asked for someone to meet with me here.”
Lawrence and Armstrong made their way over to the house. As they got to the porch, Armstrong noticed the door was cracked open about 12 inches. He could see a briefcase with a note attached. He thought to himself, “That is odd.” He told Lawrence to step back as he drew his gun and entered the house.
Armstrong quickly noticed a male body lying on the floor next to a desk just inside an office. The person was apparently deceased by what looked like a self-inflicted gun shot. Armstrong called for backup, and his sergeant was there in just a few seconds. Armstrong called on his radio and requested that dispatch hold the net. This meant there would be no radio traffic until they could investigate further.
They began to search the house. Lawerence had advised the officers earlier that Markle had two daughters and a wife who also lived at the residence. As Armstrong moved past the refrigerator, he noticed kids’ drawings on the door. He moved upstairs where there was a TV in the hall on a cart with just snow on the screen and static noise. Upon entering a bedroom, he found the body of a child that appeared to be deceased in the bed. He went to another area of the house looking for the other girl. During this time, his sergeant located an adult female body in another bedroom, also with a gunshot wound. This was Chris, the wife of Markle.
Armstrong could not find the other girl. He thought she had to be in the home somewhere, so he returned to the same bedroom and found the other girl’s body next to the first girl, partially hidden under a bed sheet. The girls, Amy, 13, and Suzanne, 9, had both been shot. At this time, it was apparent to the officers that this was a murder-suicide.
While it was hard to understand such a tragedy, it later became public that John Markle had been fired three days earlier for embezzling money while working for investment firm Stephens, Incorporated.
Armstrong would go on to spend another 17 years as a Little Police officer, but this would be one of the most gruesome scenes he would ever encounter. In 1987, there had been very few murders involving family members being killed by another family member. When similar events happen in the news now, Armstrong says he always remembers back to that horrific night at 1820 Main Street.