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Professor, motive still missing in Ga. slayings

The manhunt for a University of Georgia professor suspected of killing his wife and two men widened Tuesday as the campus prepared to remember the victims at a vigil.
George Zinkhan
Authorities have launched an international manhunt for University of Georgia professor George Zinkhan.Robert Newcomb / University of Georgia via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The manhunt for a University of Georgia professor suspected of killing his wife and two men widened Tuesday as the campus prepared to remember the victims at a vigil.

Law enforcement agencies across the nation and in Europe have been enlisted to search for marketing professor George M. Zinkhan, who has not been seen since the shootings near campus Saturday. The FBI said Zinkhan had a plane ticket for the Netherlands for May 2 and left behind an empty passport wallet.

His relatives have been working to help Athens-Clarke County police and the FBI find him, his brother told The Associated Press. But authorities are still struggling to find a motive.

"If they were having any type of problems, the family knew nothing about it," said Daisy Phelps, an aunt of Zinkhan's wife, Marie Bruce. Phelps said Zinkhan, Bruce and their two children had just celebrated Easter with the family.

"We're all torn up about this. It's awfully hard to talk about it because we just don't understand. We don't know why. We don't know," Phelps said, breaking into tears. "All we know is my niece is dead."

Athens-Clarke County Police Capt. Clarence Holeman said interviews with witnesses have yet to yield a motive. He and other local authorities acknowledged the marketing professor is likely long gone.

Gunfire erupted midday Saturday at a gathering of a local theater group at the Athens Community Theater. Killed were Bruce, a 47-year-old attorney, and two members of her theater group, Ben Teague, 63, and Tom Tanner, 40. Zinkhan, 57, disappeared after the shootings.

Remembering staff, students
Classes resumed Monday on the campus where Zinkhan had taught since the 1990s, with events proceeding as scheduled. The school is holding its annual vigil Tuesday night to honor students, faculty and staff who have died during the past year. The event was planned months ago, but UGA President Michael Adams said it would hold special significance coming so soon after the shootings.

The school's police patrolled the campus with assault rifles as a precaution, but University Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said there was little reason to believe Zinkhan was still in Athens, a town 70 miles east of Atlanta.

An FBI agent said Zinkhan might try to change the date on his Amsterdam ticket and try to leave early. A colleague said Zinkhan recently bought a phone that could be used overseas.

Warren French, a business ethics professor and longtime friend, said Zinkhan has traveled to Amsterdam twice a year — at Christmas and during summer break — for the last two years. He has taught part-time at the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) since April 2007.

Police said Zinkhan left his 8- and 10-year-old children in the Jeep during the shootings, then dropped them off with a neighbor before disappearing. Holeman said they were in the custody of Bruce's brother.

"I have these children in my house and that's all I can think about now," said a woman who answered the phone at that brother's house Monday, who identified herself as his wife. She said the family had no further comment.

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