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UPDATE: Body of Georgia professor implicated in shooting found in woods

Saturday, May 9, 2009 | 9:51 p.m. CDT

ATHENS, Ga. — Cadaver dogs found the body of a wanted professor "beneath the earth" in the north Georgia woods Saturday, two weeks after police say he shot his wife and two other people to death outside a community theater, then vanished.

Searchers found two guns near the body of marketing professor George Zinkhan, 57, but police wouldn't say how he died. They did say it appears he buried himself in brush and dirt.

"A person who is not accustomed to the woods would never have found the body," said Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Joseph Lumpkin.

Zinkhan disappeared after the April 25 shootings near the University of Georgia, where he'd had a spotless record since arriving to teach in the Terry College of Business in the 1990s.

Bulletins were issued nationwide and authorities kept watch on airports in case he tried to flee to Amsterdam, where he had taught part-time at a university since 2007. Federal authorities later revealed Zinkhan had a flight to Amsterdam booked before the shootings, but the professor never showed up at the airport on the May 2 departure date.

Instead, cadaver dogs found his body about 10 miles west of Athens in thick woods in Bogart, where he lived. Searchers — as many as 200 at one point — had been scouring the woods since his Jeep was found wrecked and abandoned in a ravine about a mile away a week ago. The guns found with him matched the description provided by people who witnessed the shootings.

Neighbor Bob Covington called Saturday's discovery "another sad chapter to the story." Zinkhan dropped off his children at Covington's house after the shootings, saying there was an emergency. It was the last time anyone saw him alive.

"It's been two weeks of people being on pins and needles, every time you see a police car," Covington said. "I think this will ease a lot of tension. People can get back to their lives and move on from this horrible tragedy."

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab confirmed later Saturday that the body was Zinkhan.

Reached by phone at her home in Baltimore, his mother, Mary, said she was aware he'd been found.

"I've heard that news," she said. "I have nothing to say about it."

Police said Zinkhan argued with his wife, Marie Bruce, 47, outside a reunion for the Town & Gown Players, a local theater group. Bruce was a family law attorney who was serving as the group's president.

Police say he walked away briefly before returning with two handguns and killing her, along with Clemson University economist and actor Tom Tanner, 40, and Ben Teague, 63, a longtime theater group volunteer who was married to a popular University of Georgia professor. Two other people were injured by bullet fragments.

Police at first said they had no motive for the shooting. The FBI said later friends and family indicated Bruce may have been considering a divorce. Police believe their children were in Zinkhan's Jeep during the shootings but were not hurt.

Things were tense for a time in the quiet college town 70 miles northeast of Atlanta after school officials alerted students, faculty and staff to be on the lookout for Zinkhan. But life on campus started to return to normal after days went by with no sign of the professor, who was fired after the shooting.

University of Georgia President Michael Adams on Saturday expressed condolences to the friends and loved ones of the victims.

"Our hearts go out to each of them as they try to bring closure to and cope with the pain and sorrow these losses of life have caused them," he said. "May they ultimately find healing and peace."

Associated Press writer Dorie Turner in Atlanta contributed to this report.

 


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