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Body found near Athens is missing UGA professor

Zinkhan accused of shooting wife, 2 others in April 25 incident in Athens

POSTED: May 9, 2009 7:56 p.m.

ATHENS — The body of former University of Georgia professor George Zinkhan was found earlier today in a wooded area about a mile from where authorities recently found his abandoned Jeep.

In a Saturday afternoon news conference in Bogart, just outside Athens, Athens-Clarke County Police said search dogs took about 10 minutes to narrow in on a body that was beneath the earth but not buried. Police noted the body had been covered with leaves, but also did not think anyone else was involved in the death.

Zinkhan had been on the run since police say the marketing professor opened fire on a reunion for a local theater group on April 25, killing his wife and two other people.  

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

Two weapons were found at the scene. Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Joseph Lumpkin said the weapons, a .38-caliber and a .22-caliber pistol, matched the guns used in the shooting at the Athens Community Theater. 

Lumpkin said he's only seen one other instance in his career where someone covered their body at the scene of a crime. 

He added that the body seemed to have a lot of decomposition, which kept him from immediately connecting it to the missing professor. He said he could not immediately be sure the body had been there since April 25.  

The body was found 1.3 miles from where Zinkhan's red Jeep was located about a week after the Athens shootings. Authorities said they believed Zinkhan left his two young children in the Jeep at the time of the shootings. He 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 wrecked in a ravine near Zinkhan's home in Bogart, a rural town about 60 miles east of Atlanta and 10 miles west of Athens.

Zinkhan's passport also was found in the Jeep. Bulletins were issued nationwide and authorities kept watch on airports in case Zinkhan tried to flee to Amsterdam, where he has taught part-time at a university there 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 UGA 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 they had no motive for the shooting. Later the FBI said interviews with family and friends indicated Bruce may have been considering a divorce and said the shooting was likely a domestic dispute.

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.

This story will be updated as developments warrant.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 




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