ATHENS — A Georgia professor who shot three people outside a community theater targeted his wife’s male friend first, then turned the gun on her and a third person, authorities said Tuesday as they released new details of the killings.
The two-week international manhunt for marketing professor George Zinkhan, 57, ended Saturday when cadaver dogs found his body in a shallow grave he’d dug for himself in the North Georgia woods, not far from his home.
Authorities said Tuesday that he shot himself in the head but did not leave a suicide note.
Police have not released a motive in the April 25 killings, but Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Jim
Fullington said Zinkhan was having "marital difficulties" and receiving marriage counseling.
Police say he killed his wife, Marie Bruce, 47; Clemson University economist Tom Tanner, 40; and Ben Teague, 63. All were members of a local theater group gathered that day for a reunion at the Athens Community Theater, a short distance from the University of Georgia campus where Zinkhan taught.
Fullington said Zinkhan targeted Tanner first, though he would not say why. Teague was "at the wrong place, at the wrong time," Fullington said.
Authorities believe Zinkhan left his two young children in the car during the shootings. He was last seen dropping them off at a neighbor’s house soon after, saying there was an emergency.
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 since 2007.
Nearly a week after the shootings, police found his passport and his wrecked Jeep in a ravine in a wooded area near his house on the outskirts of Athens, a college town 70 miles northeast of Atlanta.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers scoured the area for days but it wasn’t until Saturday that a team of cadaver dogs found his body hidden in a small dug-out area about 15 inches deep.
"It was apparent he had taken significant steps to make sure his body wasn’t located," said Maj. Mark Sizemore of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.
Authorities said Zinkhan used a shovel to carve a hole and then dumped dirt and debris on himself before shooting himself in the head with a handgun. A gray sports bag with his clothes and another gun were found at his side.
His body had been there between five and 14 days. In his abandoned Jeep, authorities found Zinkhan’s cell phone, laptop, wallet and a map to the home of Barbara Carroll, a fellow University of Georgia professor. Sizemore said the map had been printed the day before the shooting.
Carroll told her colleagues in an e-mail obtained by The Red & Black, the UGA student newspaper, that she believes Zinkhan planned to kill her, too.
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.
He’d shown signs that he may have been looking to leave Athens. In March, he interviewed for a position in the University of Alabama’s business school but was not offered the job, said school spokeswoman Cathy Andreen.
Authorities said many of the mysteries surrounding the shooting may never be solved.
"There are some questions that we will never know the answer to," Sizemore said.