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Man kills self after child sex charge

Authorities say alleged victim was not a student at Romeo Elementary, where man worked as teacher
1-11-2008 Florida:

A Marion County man was found dead Wednesday of an apparent suicide - the same day that Levy County authorities issued a warrant for his arrest on a charge of child molestation.

Randolph Coke Markham, who taught third grade at Romeo Elementary, died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a shed behind a relative's house in Morriston, authorities said. Inside the shed, Levy deputies found notes that Markham wrote proclaiming his innocence.

Markham, 28, faced a charge of engaging in sexual activity with a child younger than 12, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Evan Sullivan said.

Sullivan and Marion County School Board spokesman Kevin Christian both said that the victim was not one of Markham's students and that the crimes occurred away from school.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement received a complaint that Markham molested a child from 1999 to 2003.

The Marion School Board placed Markham on paid administrative leave in October, Christian said.

"Any time there are allegations of this nature, we take these actions," he said.

Sullivan said Markham knew about the warrant.

Markham had an attorney who had asked, if charges were filed, to be contacted. The lawyer would then arrange to have Markham turn himself in.

"That's not out of the ordinary," if the person is not an escape risk or a threat to the community, Sullivan said.

When Markham didn't show up when he was supposed to turn himself in, people began searching for him.

The body was found in a shed behind 7850 S.E. 175th Ave. in Morriston. Authorities say Markham hooked up pipes from a vehicle into the building, closed up and locked the structure, then pumped carbon monoxide inside.

Fumes were so thick that the person who discovered him also was overcome and fell to the ground, Sullivan said. A 911 call was made from the residence at 1:29 p.m. When rescuers arrived, they found Markham and the person who discovered him in the shed. Markham could not be revived.

Markham began teaching at Romeo Elementary in August 2006. He grew up near Romeo, where many of his family and friends live.

Romeo resident Nita Brass said she knew Markham all his life.

"He was always laughing, always having fun," Brass said of Markham. "He was as nice to talk to as anybody."

"I knew he had run into some bad problems," she said. "I guess he just couldn't take it." ..more.. by Joe VanHoose may be reached at or at 352-867-4124.

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