THE NUTTY PROFESSOR


WHEN WILL THIS STOP?!

ATLANTA — Three people were killed and at least one was injured in Athens, Ga., on Saturday when a University of Georgia professor opened fire at a community theater, police officials said.


George M. Zinkhan III, a professor at the University of Georgia, was being sought by the police.

The police identified the gunman as George M. Zinkhan III, a professor of marketing at the university’s business school. He was at large early Saturday evening.

The coroner for Athens-Clarke County, Sonny Wilson, said the shootings occurred around 12:30 p.m. Police officers responding to a call at the Athens Community Theatre, near downtown, said they had found three adults killed by gunfire. News reports said that one to three other people had been injured.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitutio n identified one victim as Marie E. Bruce, 57, the wife of Mr. Zinkhan and the president of the theater’s board of directors. Beth Kozinsky, the membership director for the theater, told the newspaper that the other victims were Ben Teague, 63, and Tom Tanner, 40, also theater officers.

Athens is 70 miles east of Atlanta.

An alert on the university’s Web site identified Mr. Zinkhan as “a suspect in a shooting off campus” and warned, “Use extreme caution if contact is made.”

Students were informed by a text alert.

“Some people are kind of freaking out,” said Carolyn Crist, a junior and the editor of the campus newspaper. “Some people are honestly nonchalant.”

A biography of Mr. Zinkhan, 47, on the university Web site said he was the co-author of two books, on consumption and electronic commerce, and had served as editor of The Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science and of The Journal of Advertising. He received a doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1981 and a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in 1974. He joined the faculty at the University of Georgia in 1994.

Either immediately before or after the shooting, Mr. Zinkhan dropped off his two children at the home of a neighbor. “He indicated that he needed someone to watch his kids for an hour,” the neighbor, Robert Covington, said in a telephone interview. “He said there had been an emergency.”

Mr. Zinkhan’s children are now in the custody of the police, Mr. Covington said.

Another neighbor, Dana Adams, described Mr. Zinkhan as disarmingly quiet. “He was the kind of strange character that did not talk,” she said. “But I never thought he’d do something like this.”

Josh Gurley, 21, a university junior who was in Mr. Zinkhan’s course on consumer buying behavior, said the professor unexpectedly canceled class last week and said students did not need to take the final exam.

UPDATE!

GEORGE ZINKHAN BODY FOUND

Fugitive muder suspect George Martin Zinkhan III dug his own grave and covered himself with debris before firing a single bullet into his head, investigators told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

His well-hidden body was discovered Saturday by cadaver dogs in thick woods about 1,000 yards from an elementary school.

His body was removed a few hours later and sent to the State Crime Lab. Athens-Clarke County police are holding a news conference at this hour.

The dogs found the body about a mile from where Zinkhan’s red Jeep Liberty was recovered more than a week ago in some woods not far from his home in Bogart, in Clarke County.

The body has tentatively been identified as Zinkhan’s until the state medical examiner can make a final identification using dental records.

When Zinkhan’s jeep was found on April 30, police swarmed over the area looking for traces of the fugitive. The body was found outside the original search area, sources said Saturday. According to WAGA-TV, searchers returned to the area with dogs on Friday with no results. They resumed the search Saturday morning.

U.S. Marshals, Athens-Clarke County police and officials from the coroner’s office were on the scene when an AJC reporter arrived at 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Officials took the body away at 1:45 p.m.

Georgia Bureau of Investigations spokesman John Bankhead said the body had been taken to the crime lab and an autopsy and identification would be completed by the end of the day Saturday.

The playground at Cleveland Road Elementary School was cordoned off as a crime scene. A short distance away, toddlers and their parents were attending a birthday party in the school’s gym.

Aaron Clanton, a teacher at the school, arrived Saturday morning around 10:40 a.m. for his son’s party that was supposed to take place at the school playground. Clanton said police were already on the scene. They told him Zinkhan’s body was found about 1,000 yards behind the playground, in the woods.

Zinkhan, 57,was the subject of a nationwide manhunt since April 25 when three people were shot dead at Athens Community Theatre near the university campus — Zinkhan’s estranged wife, Marie Bruce, and Ben Teague and Tom Tanner.

All three were members of the Town & Gown Players. They were attending a luncheon with a few dozen current and former members that afternoon.

Witnesses said an argument ensued between Bruce and Zinkhan, who left the party. He returned with two handguns and started shooting, hitting Bruce, Tanner and Teague multiple times.

Zinkhan then went back to his car, in which his daughter, 10, and son, 8, were waiting. He drove the children to a neighbor’s house and asked Covington to watch the kids because there was an emergency.

A respected professor of marketing at UGA’s Terry School of Business, Zinkhan eluded authorities for nearly two weeks.

Police believed they caught a break April 30 when they found the Jeep Liberty. But a search by dozens of heavily armed law enforcement officers over more than 300 acres of Clarke and Jackson counties failed to locate Zirkhan.

Last Saturday, authorities staked out Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. Zirkhan had purchased an airline ticket for a May 2 flight to the Netherlands, where he taught part time at an Amsterdam university and owned a home there. But again, there was no sign of him.

Police later said his passport had been recovered in the Jeep.

Law enforcement authorities intensified their search for leads in the case in recent days, distributing a GBI sketch of Zirkhan clean shaven and without a beard. The Athens-Clarke County Police Department on Thursday offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to his arrest

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