Body found fits description of Georgia professor implicated in shooting

Saturday, May 9, 2009 | 5:09 p.m. CDT

ATHENS, Ga. — Police believe they found the body of a University of Georgia professor Saturday, 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. 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 did not 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.

Zinkhan 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 had 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 the University of Georgia 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 there was no motive for the shooting. Later, the FBI said interviews with family and friends indicated Bruce might 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.



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