Video: Police find murder suspect's car

updated 5/1/2009 5:41:04 PM ET 2009-05-01T21:41:04

Authorities on Friday swarmed a heavily wooded area in north Georgia where a wrecked red Jeep belonging to a former professor suspected of killing his wife and two others was discovered not far from his home.

There was still no sign of George Zinkhan, however. More than 200 law-enforcement officers were searching a 200-acre area. Some officers crammed into the back of pickup trucks and drove down dirt roads. Helicopters searched the dense forest from above.

Zinkhan has been missing for nearly a week. His Jeep was found overnight "well off the beaten path" in a ravine in Bogart, a rural community about 10 miles west of Athens, where Zinkhan lived and taught marketing at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business, FBI agent Greg Jones said.

There was no way to tell how long the vehicle had been there because the brush was so thick in the ravine, Athens-Clarke County Police Capt. Clarence Holeman said.

Authorities across the nation and in Europe have been looking for Zinkhan, 57, since the April 25 shootings.

Zinkhan is accused of killing his wife, 47-year-old attorney Marie Bruce, and two members of her community theater group, Ben Teague, 63, and Tom Tanner, 40, in front of a theater in Athens.

Police hadn't previously revealed a motive, but Jones said Friday that interviews with friends and family indicate the shooting likely stemmed from a domestic dispute between Zinkhan and Bruce. Authorities have some indication she was preparing to file for divorce, he said.

Zinkhan was last seen driving away in the Jeep after dropping his children off with a neighbor. The children were in the car during the shootings but weren't hurt.

A signal from one of Zinkhan's cell phones helped lead authorities to the Jeep, Jones said, but authorities refused to elaborate during a press conference in Bogart.

Local, state and federal authorities, some with dogs, searched the woods near the ravine late Thursday night. On Friday, the area was still teeming with investigators. A nearby elementary school was locked down as a precaution.

Scott Foshee, who lived three doors down from Zinkhan, said police also descended on his suburban neighborhood Friday morning as he was taking his children to school.

"Things were OK for a while. The police had told us there was very little chance he was still around so we all started to relax," said Foshee. "And then this morning, it started all over again."

Jones said authorities were piecing together some leads from evidence in the Jeep, but declined to give any details.

Avid hiker
Zinkhan is an avid hiker who has spent time on the Appalachian Trail. In 2003, Zinkhan wrote a short poem called "Appalachian Trail, Southern Terminus" for the American Marketing Association's Web site. The 2,178-mile trail's southern terminus is at Georgia's Springer Mountain, about 50 miles northwest of Athens.

Authorities said earlier this week that Zinkhan had a flight to Amsterdam booked for Saturday. Zinkhan has taught part-time at the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) in the Netherlands since April 2007.

Zinkhan's brother has said relatives have been working to help Athens-Clarke County police and the FBI find him.

The University of Georgia is warning students to be cautious until he's found.

Before joining the faculty at the University of Georgia, Zinkhan held academic positions at the universities of Houston and Pittsburgh. He has a doctorate from the University of Michigan and graduated from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in 1974.

The shooting victims were members of Town & Gown Players, which was staging a performance of "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" at the theater. Two others were hurt by bullet fragments.

Zinkhan's wife, had been serving as Town & Gown's president after years of volunteering with the group. Tanner was a Clemson University economist who taught at the Strom Thurmond Institute of Government and Public Affairs in Clemson, S.C. Teague was one of Town & Gown's longest-serving volunteers and was married to a University of Georgia English professor.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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