- The Washington Times - Monday, April 27, 2009

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) | A college professor suspected in the shooting deaths of his wife and two men outside a community theater hasn’t used his cell phone or credit card, leaving few traces as authorities searched for him Sunday.

George Zinkhan, a 57-year-old marketing professor at the University of Georgia, was last seen Saturday afternoon shortly after the shooting when he dropped his two young children off at his neighbor’s house, police said.

Authorities initially described one of the victims, Marie Bruce, as Mr. Zinkhan’s ex-wife, although police later said the couple was still married.

Investigators have received no tips about Mr. Zinkhan’s whereabouts and urged people to call police if they see his 2005 red Jeep Liberty with Georgia license plate AIX 1376.

State and federal authorities are assisting in the search. Investigators were monitoring airports in case Mr. Zinkhan tried to head to Amsterdam, where he owns a home, and speaking with law enforcement agencies in Austin, Texas, where he has relatives. But officials hope that Mr. Zinkhan will surface, said Athens-Clarke County Police Capt. Clarence Holeman.

“Criminals make mistakes. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a Ph.D., an M.D. or whatever,” Capt. Holeman said.

Friends of the victims dropped off flowers and lit candles Sunday morning in front of the Athens Community Theater. The victims - Mrs. 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” this weekend at the theater. Two others were hurt by shrapnel.

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

“It’s a personal loss,” Ms. Bryan said, crying.

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.

Capt. Holeman said an argument erupted between Mr. Zinkhan and Mrs. Bruce. Capt. Holeman said police think Mr. Zinkhan walked away briefly, before returning with two handguns.

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

Capt. Holeman also said Mr. 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, Capt. Holeman said, though he described the slayings as “a crime of passion.”

SWAT members, with guns drawn, later searched Mr. Zinkhan’s two-story Colonial house and his office at the university, which had issued a campuswide alert immediately following the shooting as a precaution.

When Mr. 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.

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