Tuesday, May 5, 2009

George Zinkhan still at large

University of Georgia professor George Zinkhan, who appears to have dropped off the face of the earth.

The big local news in these parts right now is the manhunt for University of Georgia professor George Zinkhan, sought for triple-murder. A professor! (Is nothing sacred?) It's right out of a LAW AND ORDER episode!

The whole thing came down on April 25th, and since then, the trail is cold as ice. Fox News account:

Police believe that Zinkhan shot his wife, 47-year-old Marie Bruce, along with 40-year-old Tom Tanner and Ben Teague, 63, at a community theater near the University of Georgia's Atlanta campus.

The three were members of a local theater group and were meeting when Zinkhan shot them.

"Holy Jesus," one person yelled in a 911 call. "Yeah, I was there, and he shot three people."

"He shot three people?" the 911 dispatcher said.

"Yes," the caller replied. "Um, two, two, two gunshots to one man. … It looks like one to the chest and another …"

Though the motive remains a mystery, Athens-Clark Police Station Capt. Clarence Holman told The Oak Ridger newspaper in Tennessee that Zinkhan, 57, argued with his wife before opening fire and may have shot Teague when he "tried to calm the situation.
The victims were members of Town & Gown Players, performing "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" at the popular Athens Community Theater. Athens is pretty close-knit, and this has been a shock to everyone. More:
"Ben, Marie and Tom were a part of our family, and as painful as their loss is for us, we know it is even more painful for their families," the theater group said in a statement Sunday afternoon. "There are no words we can use to adequately express our grief."

LaBau Bryan, a member of Town & Gown Players since 1988, said Bruce cast her in her first role with the group, in the "The Mikado." On her way to church, Bryan dropped off a small vase containing cuttings from an English dogwood, azalea and iris — one for each of the victims.

"It's a personal loss," Bryan said, crying. "It's a terrible, terrible blow to the theater."

It was midday Saturday when a few dozen members of the theater group were gathered at the Athens Community Theater a short distance from campus. Some described it as a reunion, a homecoming for current and former group members. Most were inside the theater, while a small group was gathered around a few benches outside.

Holeman, the police captain, said an argument erupted between Zinkhan and Bruce. Holeman said police believe Zinkhan walked away briefly, before returning with two handguns.

Each victim was shot multiple times, according to the county coroner.

Holeman said Zinkhan had his son and daughter with him when he went to the theater, but left them in the Jeep when the shooting occurred.

None of the 20 witnesses interviewed by police overheard the argument and couldn't say what prompted the shooting, Holeman said, though he described the slayings as "a crime of passion."

SWAT members, guns drawn, later swarmed Zinkhan's tidy middle-class suburb about seven miles from the campus and searched his two-story colonial house. They also searched his office at the university, which had issued a campus-wide alert immediately following the shooting as a precaution.

When Zinkhan dropped his children off, he told his neighbor, Robert Covington, that he needed someone to watch them for about an hour because of an emergency. The children are around the ages of 8 and 10.

Covington said when he asked Zinkhan's daughter about the emergency, "all she would relate to me was there was something about a firecracker."

Zinkhan, who has a doctorate from the University of Michigan, is a professor at UGA's Terry College of Business and had no disciplinary problems, university spokesman Pete Konenkamp said. Before joining the school in the 1990s, he held academic positions at the universities of Houston and Pittsburgh.

Bruce, a family law attorney who specialized in divorce cases, had been a member of Town & Gown Players for several years and currently served as the group's president. She was a graduate of the University of Georgia's law school.

Friends said she had performed just about every job imaginable at the theater — from playing leading roles to directing and taking care of behind-the-scenes work such as overseeing season tickets and collecting dues from members.

"She's been involved in Town and Gown for so many years, what hasn't she done? Maybe repaired the toilets," said Dina Canup, a former president of the group.

Teague, who played Prospero in William Shakespeare's "The Tempest" two years ago, was better known for his wizardry in building elaborate sets. He was among the group's longest-serving volunteers and considered a mentor by many. On his Web site, he described himself as "a confirmed theater bum."

"Yesterday Ben was murdered, which is hard to comprehend and impossible to accept," Teague's wife, university professor Fran Teague, said in a written statement. "It was a beautiful day, however, and he was in his favorite place with the people he loved."

Tanner had grown his own mutton-chop sideburns to play Dr. John Watson in the "Sherlock Homes" play that opened April 17. Performances were canceled yesterday. Tanner also loved to build eye-popping sets. "Most would call him a genius," Town & Gown's statement said.

"Tom's idea for the next production was to build the world's largest pop-up book," said Rick Bedell, who played Holmes alongside Tanner's Watson. "He was looking at the `Guiness Book of World Records,' and they had one that was 18-by-8 feet, and he was looking at 33-feet-by-8, something like that."

Attorney Hue Henry, who was also a member of the theater group and knew all the victims well, worked with Bruce and said his colleague was private about her personal life and didn't say much about Zinkhan.

"She loved to talk about her children but never talked about her husband or their relationship," Henry said in a telephone interview from Italy. "It never seemed
like a very close relationship. But I never saw anything that indicated she might be in danger, nothing to make me worry about her."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Zinkhan dumped his jeep, passport inside.

So he is still in the country:

Zinkhan had been issued a ticket from Delta Air Lines to fly to Amsterdam from Atlanta this past Saturday. Federal agents staked out the gate at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport but that flight came and went without Zinkhan aboard. Zinkhan had a part-time teaching position at Free University in The Netherlands and the school had purchased the ticket for him.

Police believe Zinkhan ditched his sport-utility vehicle, found in a wooded area along Cleveland Road in Bogart, not long after the murders near downtown Athens. Police responded to the shooting — which resulted in the deaths of Zinkhan’s wife, Marie Bruce, and friends, Tom Tanner and Ben Teague — at 12:25 p.m. on April 25. Zinkhan dropped off his preadolescent children at a neighbor’s house in Bogart about 10 minutes later. His vehicle was found Friday in a ravine about 2.5 miles away.

Holeman said police had no new leads Monday morning and that Zinkhan still has not been spotted.
Take a good look at the picture, and remember: still at large, do not approach.

If you see anyone acting professorish who looks like George Zinkhan, give a quick call to 706-613-3888 with any information.


CrackerLilo said...

I am so amazed at how cold the trail is. He must have planned this for a very long time. I hope the people of Athens, GA can find closure and/or justice soon.

mikeb302000 said...

I wrote about this the other day. One of the weird things is he didn't kill his kids too. I can't quite figure what that means, though.

I received a comment today which linked to a talk by Michael Moore, in which he blames the profusion of anti-depressants for all these horrendous shootings.

I keep blaming the availability of guns.

sheila said...

I've been following this one on nancy grace. I'm STUNNED that the 911 operators dropped the ball on this one. It seems to me they could have caught this guy shortly after it happened, should the calls had gone better.

Senseless tragedy

DaisyDeadhead said...

Body matches description of wanted Georgia professorASSOCIATED PRESS • May 9, 2009

ATHENS, Ga. — Police believe they found the body Saturday of a University of Georgia professor accused of killing his wife and two other people at a community theater two weeks ago.

Two guns were found with the body, purposely hidden by dirt and brush, that fit the description of marketing professor George Zinkhan, said Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Joseph Lumpkin said. The weapons were consistent with the guns used in the April 25 shootings near the university.

“There's nothing to indicate to us that it's not him,” said Jim Fullington of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The body was discovered about a mile from where Zinkhan's Jeep was found wrecked and abandoned in a ravine a week ago. Authorities hoped to have a positive identification and cause of death by the end of the day, but didn't immediately release details about how they thought he died.

Cadaver dogs found the body in thick woods about 10 miles west of Athens in Bogart, where Zinkhan had a home. Searchers had been looking in the area since the Jeep was discovered.

Zinkhan has been missing since police say he opened fire on a reunion for a local theater group. Authorities said they believed Zinkhan left his two young children in the Jeep at the time of the shootings.

He was last seen dropping the children off at a neighbor's house shortly after the shooting, saying there was an emergency.

At one point, more than 200 law enforcement officers scoured the forest where the Jeep was found.

Bulletins were also issued nationwide and authorities kept watch on airports in case Zinkhan tried to flee to Amsterdam, where he has taught part-time at a university since 2007. Federal authorities later revealed Zinkhan had an upcoming flight booked to Amsterdam, but the professor never showed up at the airport.

Zinkhan had been a professor in the university's Terry College of Business and had no disciplinary problems, school officials said. He had taught at UGA since the 1990s and was fired after the shootings.

The shooting victims were identified as Zinkhan's wife Marie Bruce, 47; Ben Teague, 63; and Tom Tanner, 40. Two others were injured by bullet fragments. Authorities said initially they had no motive for the shooting. Later the FBI said interviews with family and friends indicated Bruce may have been considering a divorce and said the shooting was likely a domestic dispute.

It was midday April 25 when a few dozen members of the theater group were gathered at the Athens Community Theater. Most people were inside the theater, while a small group was gathered around a few benches outside.

Police said an argument erupted between Zinkhan and Bruce, and they believe Zinkhan walked away briefly, before returning with two handguns. Each victim was shot multiple times.

Zinkhan's wife, a family law attorney, had been serving as president of Town & Gown Players, the local theater group that was having the reunion at the Athens Community Theater.

Tanner was a Clemson University economist who taught at the Strom Thurmond Institute of Government and Public Affairs in Clemson, South Carolina. Tanner was playing Dr. John Watson in the group's performance of “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.”

Teague was one of Town & Gown's longest-serving volunteers and was married to a popular University of Georgia English professor.