Wife's affair played role in killings, papers show

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George Zinkhan: Ex-UGA professor had secretly recorded a conversation with his wife about her affair, a police affidavit says.

ATHENS, Ga. --- Former University of Georgia professor George Zinkhan III -- who shot and killed his wife and two others April 25 -- apparently was preparing for a divorce, according to court records.

Police have refused to discuss why Mr. Zinkhan killed his wife, Marie Bruce, and fellow Athens theater troupe members Tom Tanner and Ben Teague.

Mr. Zinkhan and Ms. Bruce had "marital difficulties," police said in a prepared statement two weeks ago, and the former business professor appeared to specifically target Mr. Tanner, shooting him first.

But authorities would not elaborate.

Documents obtained by the Athens Banner-Herald on Wednesday from Magistrate Court help fill in some blanks about events that led up to the killings.

Athens-Clarke police Sgt. Christopher Nichols said in search warrant applications that officials seized computers and a digital recorder that held telling clues from Mr. Zinkhan's house in Bogart, Ga., and his UGA office.

A document from a computer in the marketing professor's office in UGA's Brooks Hall "spoke about Mr. Zinkhan wanting to rebuild his relationship with his wife," Sgt. Nichols wrote.

Police have said the couple attended counseling for their marital problems, and two months before she was killed, Ms. Bruce, an Augusta native, removed her name from a joint bank account, according to a search warrant.

Mr. Zinkhan was "gathering information for a divorce" and secretly recorded a conversation with his wife, Sgt. Nichols stated in a search warrant application.

"The substance of the recording was concerning Marie Bruce's affair with Thomas Tanner," he wrote.

Sgt. Nichols believed "the murders were the result of continued contact between Marie Bruce and Thomas Tanner," he said in the affidavit.

In all, Athens-Clarke police applied for nine search warrants -- three for Mr. Zinkhan's house on Chesterfield Road near Georgia Square Mall, two for bank safe deposit boxes, and one each for his UGA office, the Jeep, the contents of the laptop inside the SUV and a storage unit on North Chase Street.

Investigators removed nothing from the storage unit or safe deposit boxes, which police thought might "contain other information that Mr. Zinkhan saved pertaining to the affair" between his wife and the other victim.

Authorities who searched Mr. Zinkhan's house seized more guns -- a revolver and two rifles -- and ammunition.

ONLINE EXTRA

View the search warrant applications obtained by The Athens Banner-Herald on Wednesday here. [PDF format]