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Mother just wants son back

Doug Mattson
Mike Markle
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Two boys played guns, like many will, using their hands as make-believe pistols. A year ago, Margie Markle might have been too busy to notice, but this time she froze.

The scene gave way to a lecture for the kindergarten stu-

dents at Notre Dame School in Marysville, where Markle has taught for 18 years.

“Why would we ever pretend to shoot someone else? Why would we ever pretend to shoot guns?” she asked the boys that autumn day.

“I told them, ‘My son was shot with a gun, and he was shot to death,’ and they just looked at me with these big eyes.”

Markle, 57, has gradually opened her own eyes to what happened Jan. 10, 2001. Her son, 24-year-old Mike Markle, was shot at close range while managing Lyon’s Restaurant on Nevada City Highway in Grass Valley.

With no notice, the company man, avid golfer and divorced father of two died at the hands of a stranger.

The violence of it didn’t strike Margie Markle until she watched a movie – “American History X” – in which one teen guns down another in a high school restroom.

“I had seen Michael in the casket. I had never seen him in my mind’s eye shot at point-blank range. It was so real. It was so emotional,” she said. “And I looked over at (a photo of) Mike and said, ‘Oh my God, this is what happened to you.'”

Many photos of Mike Markle, from childhood to fatherhood, adorn Margie Markle’s house. They’ll stay up because they provide comfort. Friends have helped her recovery. Some, on the 10th of each month, call to check in.

Strangers have also reached out. A three-term board member of the Marysville Joint Unified School District, Markle was taken to dinner by her opponent.

She has separated mental-health issues from gun-control issues, and feels nothing but curiosity about Scott Thorpe, the accused gunman, who allegedly believed the restaurant had poisoned him and asked for the manager before opening fire.

“My own thoughts are that he’s a sick man,” she said.

Stewing over the many issues won’t bring Mike Markle back, she said. She just wants him back. They were good friends who often talked into the wee hours, more so after Margie Markle’s husband died of cancer in 1991.

The emptiness struck her while Christmas shopping with her daughter, Betsy, a registered nurse. They weren’t having fun, they realized, and headed home.

“Someone snatched him, and all of a sudden he’s not there, and it’s something you have to live with,” Markle said. “There’s times you think it’s going to get easier, and all of a sudden it hits you. There was a time during this year when I thought, ‘This is worse than I thought it could ever be.'”

Mike Markle’s ex-wife, Tricia Gies, responded more angrily.

“I’d flip on the switch (to an electric chair) and leave him there for a week,” she said of Thorpe.

The 23-year-old works in Yuba Sutter Juvenile Hall and graduates from California State University, Sacramento, this spring with a degree in criminal justice. Dashed are plans to stay in the probation field.

“I don’t want to work with offenders anymore,” she said. “I’m going to work with victims.”

Because of their ages, Gies’ two children are coping differently. Austin, 3, doesn’t fully realize what happened. Tristyn, 6, needed counseling and summer school to assure her entrance into first grade last fall.

Tristyn’s thriving in the classroom once again, Gies said, “but she’s having a really hard time lately (because of the holidays). She draws more pictures of Mike, and she talks about him more and how she misses him.”

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