Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Mystery persists in 1995 disappearances

The Associated Press

        WARREN, Ohio — The Markley children arrived home from school one afternoon about five years ago to find the door unlocked, the coffee pot on and their parents gone — forever.

        John and Shelley Markley were never heard from after they disappeared on Dec. 15, 1995. Last year, they were declared legally dead.

        Three of the couple's five children have now returned to live in the home the family once shared in Bristol Township, about 10 miles north of this eastern Ohio city. The children wish they could find out what happened to their parents, but they also grudgingly recognize that the events of the last five years have given them a maturity beyond their years.

        “I know I'm still a kid, but I see things differently,” Stacey Markley, 19, told the Tribune Chronicle. “We were made to grow up fast.”

        Days before the Markleys disappeared, John's twin sister died of cancer. The calling hours were the evening of Dec. 15, 1995, and it was the birthday of the Markleys' only son, Johnny. He was turning 8.

        The couple's oldest daughter, Ruthie, was 15, followed by Stacey, 14, Bonnie 13, and Crystal, 12.

        There was no sign of a struggle when the youngsters got home from school that day, but the gun cabinet was unlocked and ajar, the girls said. Their parents' lockbox safe was open and sitting on the sink in the master bathroom.

        Their dad's watch was in the kitchen, and a half cup of coffee was on the kitchen counter next to their mom's cigarettes.

        It was later learned that at 10:36 a.m. John and Shelley Markley, accompanied by a slender man, drove their red, Chevy pickup truck through the drive-through window at Cortland Bank's North Bloomfield branch. They cashed a personal check for $1,000.

        They were withdrawing money deposited weeks earlier when the couple had received a $1,500 loan to buy new tires for John's semi-truck, said Trumbull County Sher iff's Detective Jane Timko.

        After living with relatives, the three oldest girls — Ruthie, Stacey and Bonnie — are now back living in their parents' house, along with Ruthie's husband, Travis Orr. Johnny, who turned 13 on Friday, lives with his paternal grandmother, and 17-year-old Crystal lives with her aunt and uncle.

        The sisters admit they've struggled without their parents. They miss their mother, who managed to take all five children with her when she went grocery shopping, and their father, a disciplinarian who refused to let his daughters date until they were 16 but was full of love for his family.

        Being the oldest, Ruthie was constantly reminded by well-meaning, but perhaps misguided, adults that she needed to be strong for her younger siblings.

        Ruthie, who is now pregnant with her first child, said she could never really deal with her parents' disappearance. “I told myself, "You've got to turn cold. That's how I'll deal with it.'”


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