By Calvin Palmer
The University of Georgia professor suspected of a triple murder is still on the loose and police have no leads as to his whereabouts.
George Zinkhan, a 57-year-old marketing professor, disappeared after his ex-wife and two other men were shot to death outside a local theater company near the university campus in Athens yesterday.
“This guy could be anywhere,” said Capt Clarence Holeman of the Athens-Clarke County Police Deptartment. “That’s why we have a nationwide search.”
An alert has been issued for Zinkhan and his 2005 red Jeep Liberty with Georgia license plate AIX 1376.
Authorities were monitoring airports in case Zinkhan tried to head to Amsterdam, where he owns a home, or Austin, Texas, where he has relatives. Zinkhan has not used his credit card or an ATM machines.
Holeman warned the public to be on alert, saying that Zinkhan poses “a high level of threat for anyone who comes into contact with him”.
Police and witnesses say Zinkhan opened fire outside a community theater yesterday afternoon and allegedly shot and killed three adults and wounding at least three others.
The three victims — Zinkhan’s ex-wife, Marie Bruce, 47; Tom Tanner, 40; and Ben Teague, 63 –were members of Town & Gown Players, a local theater group that was staging a performance of Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure at the theater.
All three were shot multiple times, said Clarke County coroner Sonny Wilson, with Tanner receiving the most wounds.
Beth Kozinsky, membership director, said the theater company was hosting a homecoming picnic lunch yesterday for current and former members. She and others watched Zinkhan walk over from a parking lot and shoot the first victim at close range.
“We watched it happen,” Kozinsky said. “We were all in shock.”
Bruce, an attorney the Athens law firm of attorney J. Hue Henry, and Tanner had been serving as officers with the theater company, and Teague had been involved for several years, she said.
Holeman said investigators interviewed 20 witnesses. He said an argument between the suspect, who was well known to the theater group, and an unidentified man immediately preceded the shootings.
According to Holeman, witnesses told police that Zinkhan left the event and returned a few minutes later with two handguns. He fired both guns, walked away, got in a car and drove off.
After the shootings, Zinkhan took his two children, aged eight and 10, to a neighbor’s house. He told Robert Covington, that he needed someone to watch them for about an hour because of an emergency.
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 and Bruce were still living together in the house with their children, Covington said.
Zinkhan, who was awarded a doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1981, is a professor at UGA’s Terry College of Business and had no disciplinary problems, university spokesman Pete Konenkamp said. He joined the school from the University of Houston in 1994 and had previously held a position at the University of Pittsburgh.
“His track record is impeccable as far as his teaching credentials,” Konenkamp said. “He’s a respected professor on campus.”