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Barton’s Wife Had Safety Concerns

July 31, 1999

ATLANTA (AP) _ Mass killer Mark O. Barton’s first victim in a murderous rampage last week _ his wife, Leigh Ann _ had been worried for her safety but loved Barton’s children and wanted to continue to be involved in their lives, her sister said Saturday.

``I’m sorry it happened to my sister but I’m not surprised,″ said Dana Reeves, Leigh Ann Barton’s older sister. ``I’ve felt that this has been coming for a couple of years.″

When Barton killed his 27-year-old wife with a hammer Tuesday, it was the beginning of the bloodiest mass killing in Atlanta’s history.

The next night he killed his two children from a previous marriage as they slept in the family’s suburban apartment.

The slayings were discovered Thursday when Barton, a chemist turned day stock-trader, walked into the offices of two brokerage firms and fired randomly at traders and employees. Nine died and 13 were wounded, with four still in critical condition Saturday.

Hours later, Barton killed himself as police pulled over his van.

The first funeral was Friday for Allen Charles Tenenbaum, a 48-year-old father of three. The grocer was gunned down while trading at All-Tech Investment Group.

Dean Mohammed Delawalla, 52, of Atlanta was being buried Saturday. Services for Mrs. Barton were scheduled for Sunday.

Ms. Reeves, who lives in Macon, said her sister left Barton in October, in part because she was frustrated after supporting her jobless husband for about a year. She worked as a sales representative for a company that sells cleaning supplies.

Ms. Reeves said she was wary of Barton after learning that his first wife and her mother had been hacked to death in Alabama in 1993. Barton was the prime suspect in the slayings, but police said they never had enough evidence to charge him.

``There was never really a comfortable feeling with him after that,″ Ms. Reeves said in a telephone interview.

Barton was having an affair with then-Leigh Ann Vandiver at the time of the Alabama slayings. If Barton killed his first wife, Ms. Reeves said, her sister knew nothing of it.

``She’s just an innocent victim that something terrible has happened to,″ she said.

Police found Mrs. Barton’s body covered with a blanket in a bedroom closet of the apartment. In a computer-printed suicide note Barton left for police, he said he was sorry for his wife’s murder.

``I killed Leigh Ann because she was one of the main reasons for my demise as I planned to kill the others,″ Barton wrote. ``I really wish I hadn’t killed her now. She really couldn’t help it and I love her so much anyway.″

Ms. Reeves said her sister would talk of fights with Barton, but would never answer directly when asked if he abused her.

``I know she had fears from him,″ she said.

``The last deep-down, heart-to-heart conversation we had, I asked her was she comfortable or scared. She said, `Yes, but my apartment has this security system and that makes me feel comfortable.‴

The couple separated in October but Mrs. Barton allowed her husband to move into her apartment a few weeks ago, her sister said.

Ms. Reeves saishe thinks her sister tried to reconcile with Barton because she missed his children _ Matthew, 11, and Mychelle, 7. She said Mrs. Barton treated the children as if they were her own, coaching Matthew’s soccer team and leading Mychelle’s Brownie troop.

``I know she had some concerns about the kids, wanting to be with them and wanting to be involved in their life like she had been,″ she said.

Ten shooting victims remained hospitalized after one woman was discharged Saturday from Grady Memorial Hospital. Four were in critical condition, including a 38-year-old woman shot in the temple and who may be blinded permanently.

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