When the five Markley children returned home from school on the afternoon of Friday, December 15, 1995, they were surprised to find that the door was unlocked but the house was empty. Their parents, John and Shelly Markley, had both been at their rural Bristolville, Ohio home when the children left that morning; although John normally would have been at work, his twin sister had died earlier in the week and he had taken a few days off to prepare for her viewing and funeral. The children had expected both of their parents to be at the house, but John’s red and silver pickup truck was not parked in its usual spot in the driveway. Inside, there were signs that the couple had left the house in a hurry, as a coffeepot was still boiling on the stove and Shelly’s purse was in the kitchen.

Shelly, who was a stay-at-home mom, was always at the house when her kids got home from school; on the rare occasion where she had to run out, she would make sure to leave a note on the table detailing where she was and when she would be back. On this particular afternoon, there was no note, indicating that Shelly hadn’t planned on going anywhere.

As the children looked around the house, they noticed a few other things that seemed unusual. Their father never went anywhere without his wristwatch, but it was sitting on a shelf above the stove. Shelly’s cigarettes and lighter were sitting on the kitchen table alongside a half-finished cup of coffee; the children knew their mother would never leave the house without taking her cigarettes with her.

Upstairs in their parents’ bedroom, the children discovered that the door to their father’s gun cabinet had been left open; John always kept the cabinet securely locked so the children couldn’t access his guns. None of the kids even knew how many guns their father owned, so they were unable to tell if any of the guns were missing. A small safe that their parents usually kept locked was also open, and there were birth certificates and other pieces of paper scattered around the master bedroom.

The five children, who ranged in age from 8 to 15, weren’t sure what to make of the situation. It was clear that John and Shelly had been prepared to go to the viewing for John’s sister that evening, as the clothes they planned to wear were carefully laid out on their bed. Somewhat confused, the children called relatives and tried to explain what they found at the house. Their aunt and uncle picked them up and took them to the funeral home for the viewing that evening, assuming that John and Shelly would eventually arrive.

After hours, John and Shelly were still not seen. At first, John’s family thought that the death of his twin sister Bonnie Donaldson might have been too much for him to handle. Bonnie had died two days before after a three-year battle with cancer. John’s siblings knew that the news had made him sad and angry. John might not have been able to handle the thought of going to her viewing. They still weren’t at the house, though, and they hadn’t tried to call anyone. In case John and Shelly came back, the kids’ aunt and uncle stayed the night at the house with them.

Family and friends of John and Shelly knew something was wrong when they didn’t show up to Bonnie’s funeral the next afternoon. Thomas Yeager, John’s brother-in-law, said that the couple’s disappearance was so out of character for them that he was scared. He and his wife Judy called the police and said the couple was missing.

Sisters and brothers of John told the police that John was very upset about Bonnie’s death. John had been sure she would beat her breast cancer ever since she was first diagnosed three years ago. He told everyone that he had never prayed so hard in his life because he was sure that God would heal his sister. Bonnie’s doctor told her there was nothing else that could be done to help her. John helped raise $15,000 so Bonnie could see a doctor in Mexico about trying an experimental treatment. It became clear that nothing they did could save Bonnie’s life. John then told everyone that he had lost all faith and was mad at God.

Investigators found out that Bonnie’s death was the latest in a string of deaths in the couple’s family. They lost their house in a fire in July 1993. John’s father died the following year. After a few months, one of the couple’s nephews killed himself. Family members were adamant that the couple would never have willingly left their five children, even though they had lost them.

Police found no signs of breaking in, and it didn’t look like anything had been taken. John’s 1978 Corvette was still parked in the garage where it usually was, but the tarps that were supposed to cover it were gone. His siblings saw this as a red flag and told police that John would never have left the car opened.

Bonnie had forgotten her purse, which had her wallet and ID in it, but the couple’s checkbook didn’t seem to be there. Investigators found out that the couple cashed a $1,000 personal check at 10:36 a.m. on the day they went missing by looking at their bank records. A teller at the Cortland Bank in North Bloomfield, Ohio, remembered that they had used the drive-thru to make the transaction. They were in John’s red and silver pickup truck with an unknown man.

People who knew John and Shelly found the deal a little strange. The money they took out was part of a $1,500 loan they got not long ago so John could buy new tires for his semi-truck. The loan was given to them a few weeks ago, and the check was deposited, but they hadn’t yet chosen the tires John wanted. It seemed strange that they would decide all of a sudden to take out $1,000 in cash. The family also wanted to know who the third person was; the teller could only remember that Shelly had been sitting between her driving husband and a thin man.

Aunts and uncles did what they could to keep the kids from thinking about what was going on. They brought them a Christmas tree to decorate and had the little ones write letters to Santa. Only one thing was on John’s Christmas list. He was the youngest of five kids and the only boy. Please bring his parents back to him, he asked Santa.

Investigators said it was beginning to look like foul play may have played a role in the couple’s disappearance after John’s pickup truck was found abandoned on Saturday afternoon. The truck was found in the Markleys’ parking lot, which is about 10 miles from their home. However, the truck’s keys were missing, but investigators found that it was in good mechanical condition. The couple’s cell phone was found in the truck’s cab. The outside of the truck looked like it had been driven off-road, which it had.

Family members of John said that he would never have left the truck in that state. He took great care of it and would never have driven it off-road. They were afraid that someone had killed the couple and then thrown their bodies away in John’s truck. It was strange that the tarps that were taken off of John’s Corvette were found in the pickup truck’s bed.

On Sunday, more than 100 neighbors and friends got together to look for the couple who went missing. They looked all over the hundreds of acres of land around their home in Bristolville but couldn’t find any signs of them. From above, helicopters flew over Bristolville and the nearby towns of Champion, Farmington, and Howland to look at the area. There was nothing found.

John and Shelly seemed to be living a perfectly normal life before they went missing. There were four daughters and one son between them. They had been married for 16 years. John drove a truck for a living, and Shelly took care of their children while he worked. They were happily married and didn’t have any money problems. Parents knew that John was the more overprotective parent, while Shelly was known as a loving mom who always found time for all five of her kids.

Friends and family of the kids tried for weeks to reassure them that their parents would be back soon. As a way to deal with the death of his twin sister, they told them, their father needed some time away. He and their mother would be back as soon as he felt better. From the beginning, it looked like the kids believed them, but by the time the new year came around, everyone could see that things were not going to end well. Lin Mason, John’s sister, and her husband Gene moved in with the Markleys to care for their five kids.

A few weeks after John and Shelly went missing, their family got a call from a man who said he had the couple hostage and would free them if they paid him a $10,000 ransom. When Linda Mason answered the phone, she immediately called the police. They quickly found out that the call came from Steven Durst, who used to work with John.

The couple had been missing for a while, and Steven was said to have told people before they went missing that John owed him money. However, detectives found no evidence that he had anything to do with the couple’s disappearance. They thought he was just trying to get money out of the situation, so he was arrested and charged with extortion, which is a felony. He was later found guilty and given a prison sentence of 4 to 10 years.

Family members thought Steven might have been involved with the disappearance more than police thought. They pointed out that Steven had been telling people that John owed him $1,000, which was the exact amount that was taken out of the Markleys’ checking account on the day they went missing. The bank teller couldn’t confirm that Steven was the man who was seen in the truck with John and Shelly, and police couldn’t find any evidence that he had anything to do with the couple going missing.

The only real piece of evidence that was ever found in the case was John’s truck. Few leads led investigators to believe that the couple was still alive, and the search quickly stopped. They have looked into the case several times over the years, most recently in 2015, but they still don’t have enough information to figure out what happened to John and Shelly. These people think that they were killed, probably on the day that they disappeared, but their bodies have never been found.

John and Shelly’s family has never given up hope that they will be found. As the years went by, they talked to psychics and appeared on a number of national talk shows. The disappearance of John and Shelly was also discussed on “Unsolved Mysteries.” The family is still trying to figure out what happened to the couple that December day, but they still don’t know. Their minds are set on the fact that John and Shelly are probably dead, but they still want to be able to bury them properly.

John Markley was 36 years old when he went missing in 1995. He has green eyes and brown hair, and at the time of his disappearance he was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed approximately 160 pounds. He has a scar on his back and one on his right forearm.

Shelly Markley was 31 years old when she went missing in 1995. She has blue eyes and brown hair and at the time of her disappearance she was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 125 pounds. She was wearing a gold ring with two diamonds and stud earrings. She has freckles and a scar on her right forearm.

If you have any information about John or Shelly Markley, please contact the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Department at 330–675–2540.

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