Markham faces second degree murder charge

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By Carol A. Clark

First District Court Judge Stephen Pfeffer found sufficient probable cause to try Los Alamos resident Jack Markham on second degree murder in the August death of wife Robin Markham.

Seven handguns were found in the Markham’s bedroom, including four 9mm handguns, which records show is the type of gun that killed the victim. A number of shotguns also were found in the bedroom.

The cause of death was three gunshot wounds to the chest, any one of which would have been fatal, according to an expert witness who testified during Thursday’s preliminary hearing in the Community Building.

Evidence presented Thursday indicated some type of struggle took place as several fingernails were ripped off her hands and there were bruises found below her fingernails and on various parts of her body.

Markham’s attorney, Damian Horn, asked if gardening could have caused her injuries. An expert witness said extremely vigorous gardening could see those results.

Markham, 55, spent the majority of the day hunched over in a wheel chair, staring down at the table in front of him. Horn, fought the first degree murder charge presented by the District Attorney’'s office.

“This was not premeditated,” Horn said. “If anything, one can assume a moment of passion and that would have to go to second degree.”

Assistant District Attorney Krishna Singh called for the stiffer charge. “In the 911 call, he said, ‘they were not arguing’ – after he said he killed her,” Singh said of Markham. “And he didn’t just shoot her once, he shot her three times.”

Singh told the judge Markham told the 911 operator he couldn’t walk, yet a witness saw him driving and he also went around the waterbed in his bedroom to get to the telephone to call 911.

“He was fully cognizant during the 911 call,” she said.

Pfeffer pressed Singh for evidence the crime was committed in a premeditated manner. “He was trying to get her to come over,” Singh said. “The victim had been estranged for over a week, she was only coming home to rest. He got angry on July 27 (911 domestic dispute call)...”

The judge reminded Singh the victim went to the home Aug. 1 and Markham didn’t kill her.

“Your honor, in domestic violence the anxiety builds,” Singh said. “She was gone for over a week. He had a whole week to contemplate her leaving him.”

Pfeffer disagreed, instead finding for second degree murder.

Horn said if convicted of first degree murder, Markham was facing 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole. A second degree murder charge could sentence Markham to 17 years in prison because of the firearm enhancement.

“The judge made the right decision,” Horn said. “There was no evidence whatsoever under New Mexico law to bind this over for first degree murder. This clearly is a tragedy ... We’d like a resolution to this for our client’s health and for the people of Los Alamos.”

Others involved in the case chose not to comment.

Markham has been in jail since being charged with an open count of murder for the death of his wife early in the evening of Aug. 4 in their Denver Steel home.