Current News from The Looking Glass:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Final Problem

A bizarre and unsettling 24 hours here in Athens dear readers...

"You crossed my path on the 4th of January,' said he. 'On the 23d you incommoded me; by the middle of February I was seriously inconvenienced by you; at the end of March I was absolutely hampered in my plans; and now, at the close of April, I find myself placed in such a position through your continual persecution that I am in positive danger of losing my liberty. The situation is becoming an impossible one."

-PROFESSOR Moriarty, speaking to Sherlock Holmes in "The Final Problem"

A nationwide search continues today (Sunday April, 26th) for a University of Georgia PROFESSOR who police say shot and killed his wife and two men at an Athens theater gathering on Saturday.

Current and former members of Town and Gown Players, a long-standing community theater group off Prince Avenue, had gathered for an annual reunion about noon when George Zinkhan started arguing with someone, left briefly and returned with two handguns, according to Athens-Clarke police Capt. Clarence Holeman.

Zinkhan fired several shots, Holeman said, killing three people: Tom Tanner, 40; Ben Teague, 63; and Zinkhan's wife, Marie Bruce, 47. All three were involved with the theater company. Two other victims were wounded and taken to Athens Regional Medical Center.

Zinkhan left his two young children in the car, and after the shooting, dropped off the children with a Bogart neighbor and left, saying there was an emergency, according to police. The children did not see the shootings, authorities said.

Holeman raised the possibility that the shooting could be a crime of passion.

"I can only speculate," he said. "Some people are saying it could be a love triangle or something like that."

Zinkhan appeared to target Tanner, Teague and Bruce, said Rick Bedell, an actor with the Town and Gown Players, but he did not know why.

"It was deliberate," Bedell said. "He shot these three people specifically and walked out.

"They were good people, and I have no idea why (Zinkhan) went nuts," he said.

Police and a SWAT team searched Saturday for Zinkhan anywhere they thought he might go, including Zinkhan's house on Chesterfield Drive in Bogart, his office in Brooks Hall on campus and Bruce's downtown law office, but did not find him.

Police said Zinkhan, 56, was last seen driving a red 2005 Jeep Liberty with a Georgia tag number AIX 1376. Police have not found the car, so he may still be driving it, Holeman said.

Authorities nationwide are looking for Zinkhan, including checking at airports to ensure he doesn't try to leave the country, Holeman said. Zinkhan has relatives in Austin, Texas, and may be on his way there, he said Saturday. Zinkhan also owns a home in The Netherlands.

"We'll be searching until we find him," he said via email today.

Marie Bruce juggled a family and law career and still found time to act and serve on the board of Athens' Town and Gown Players.

Ben Teague put his carpentry skills to work building great stage sets for more than a decade.

Tom Tanner joined the long-standing troupe later, but added technical skills that made the tiny sets sparkle.

Colleagues and neighbors of the theater gathered in small groups outside crime-scene tape Saturday afternoon, waiting for news and for police to release the guests who had gathered at the Grady Avenue building. By Saturday evening, actors, directors and theater supporters were gathering to comfort each other in the wake of a triple murder outside their longtime performance space.

The theater troupe's annual reunion was just breaking up around noon Saturday when University of Georgia marketing professor George Zinkhan opened fire with two handguns, according to Athens-Clarke police Capt. Clarence Holeman.

He fired several shots, Holeman said, killing his wife, Bruce, and two men, Tanner and Teague. Two others were injured.

Tanner, who had worked for the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, was playing the role of Doc Watson in the Town and Gown Players' production of "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Problem."

As news spread of the murders, theater fans and Boulevard neighbors scrounged for news about whether police had identified the victims or caught Zinkhan.

"I went down to the scene today and I think everybody is in shock," said Athens-Clarke Commissioner David Lynn, whose district covers the area. "The professor was highly thought of and from what people say to me, at the top of his game, highly functional. How does someone go from such a highly rational person to something like this?"

The clamor surrounding Athens' TWILIGHT Criterium, one of the largest events of the year, added to neighbors' discomfort. [TWILIGHT Criterium]

"When helicopters continue to circle the neighborhood, that's disconcerting," Lynn said. "There are 30,000 people downtown and when you hear a siren, you wonder whether that is related to the event."

Gathered with friends, and well over a hundred locals just blocks from the scene of the event well after midnight last night; Don Chambers howled "There's a WEREWOLF MOON rising over the pines..."


Anonymous said...

Is there really a character named "Doc Watson" in this Sherlock Holmes play? I thought he was a guitar player.

FilmNoir23 said...

Yeah, Dr. Watson... wise ass. Your point?

Anonymous said...

My point: Somebody who doesn't know that Sherlock Holmes's friend is named Dr. Watson and not "Doc" Watson ought not to be writing for a newspaper.