LATEST: Augusta family, friends recall shooting victim at UGA

Sunday, April 26, 2009 6:06 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010 11:42 AM
  • Follow Latest News

The children of former Augustan Marie Bruce who was fatally shot at an Athens theater gathering are staying at their uncle's house in Dearing, Ms. Bruce's aunt, Daisy Phelps, confirmed tonight.

Marie Bruce was one of three people killed at an Athens theater gathering Saturday. Ms. Bruce's husband - UGA professor George Zinkhan - is the suspect in the  shootings.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Marie Bruce was one of three people killed at an Athens theater gathering Saturday. Ms. Bruce's husband - UGA professor George Zinkhan - is the suspect in the shootings.

Ms. Phelps said the children - a boy age 8 and a girl age 10 - are being cared for at the home of Ms. Bruce's brother, Lawrence Bruce.

It was just three weeks earlier that Ms. Bruce, her husband - accused shooter George Zinkhan - and their children were celebrating Easter in Augusta. They even had an Easter egg hunt at the home of Ms. Bruce’s mother on Skinner Road.

Everything seemed fine between the two “as far as we could tell,” said Ms. Phelps. “She certainly did not tell her mother about any problems.”

Ms. Phelps said today that no one in the family could have foreseen the weekend’s events, adding that news of Ms. Bruce’s death Saturday caused her mother, Betty Bruce, to collapse and be taken to University Hospital for treatment of a mild heart attack.

“When she got the news, she more or less collapsed...She’s all right and I’m going to bring her home tomorrow.”

Ms. Phelps said her family is stunned by what occurred. Police say Mr. Zinkhan, a University of Georgia professor, entered an Athens theater gathering Saturday afternoon and fired several shots, killing his wife, 47; Tom Tanner, 40; and Ben Teague, 63. Two others were wounded.

“We have no answers,” she said, adding that Mr. Zinkhan “seemed very nice. I will say he loved those children. He was good to them and they loved him, too.”

Mr. Zinkhan also “was such a highly educated man,” Ms. Phelps said, adding that he was supposed to leave in a week or two to go to Amsterdam, teaching on behalf of UGA. “He was nationally known.”

On Sunday, Ms. Phelps recalled Ms. Bruce as a Westside High graduate who first explored a career in teaching, attending then Augusta College for about a year and finishing her undergraduate degree at UGA. After four or five years of teaching, Ms. Phelps said, Marie Bruce attended law school at UGA, graduating in three years and becoming an Athens attorney. She said she was very involved in theater with the Town and Gown Players, a longstanding community group that was holding an annual reunion when the shootings occurred.

Ms. Phelps said her family hasn’t heard much since the shootings.

“We don’t know anything,” she said late Sunday afternoon. “...We don’t know where he is ... We are just so crushed. We just don’t know which way to turn.”

Authorities continued to search for Mr. Zinkhan, including a nationwide check of airports. A Richmond County Marshal’s Office deputy based at Augusta Regional Airport confirmed that the facility is among airports checking for Mr. Zinkhan to ensure he doesn’t try to leave the country.

Meanwhile, friends of the Bruce family were in shock. Ruth Croft, a next-door neighbor who knew Marie Bruce since she was 3, recalled her as “just a sweet little girl.”

“She was a lovely girl,” Ms. Croft said. “... and you won’t find a better parent than her mother.”

Ms. Croft said she watched Ms. Bruce grow up and eventually move to Athens. She recalled how she liked to act.

“And she was good at it,” Ms. Croft said.

Ms. Croft also said Marie Bruce and her mother were very involved at Warren Baptist Church.

“Anything that had to do with church, she was right in there helping,” she said.

Ms. Croft said she couldn’t have asked for better neighbors.

“I feel for her so,” Ms. Croft said, referring to Betty Bruce.

Growing up in Augusta, Marie Bruce earned achievements that were often noticed in her hometown newspaper.

From reading and writing awards in her school days, to being a semi-finalist in the Miss Augusta Pageant, stories and images of Ms. Bruce often appeared in the pages of The Augusta Chronicle.

In August 1979, a photo shows Ms. Bruce checking her makeup as a contestant in the Miss Augusta Pageant. A year later, a front-page story reports her as a semi-finalist in the 1980 Miss Augusta competition.

She would have been used to being on a stage because a story and photo from May 1980 show her during a rehearsal of The Malice of Empire – a play performed as part of Augusta College’s Third World Program and put on at the Performing Arts Theater.

In April 1976, Ms. Bruce, then at Tutt Junior High School, received an honorable mention in a short story contest of the J.B. White Literary Competition.

And a 1971 photo shows her and several classmates at the old Perrin Elementary School honored for their achievements in a summer reading program.

In December 1970, she is listed among a group of Brownie scouts donating $12.82 to The Chronicle’s holiday Empty Stocking Fund.

Comments (3) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
TheGeorgian
395
Points
TheGeorgian 04/26/09 - 08:38 pm
0
0
This is so ineffably sad. Now

This is so ineffably sad. Now the children will grow up without a parent because of a moment of stupidity. If the shooter had wanted to kill himself, fine. I wouldn't stand in his way. But he had no right to take the lives of innocent people because he was in a bad mood. Now that he's trashed the lives of several people one wonders what he does for a finale....

Junket831
0
Points
Junket831 04/26/09 - 10:21 pm
0
0
Our hearts go out to to the

Our hearts go out to to the families and especially the children left behind. They have lost the most.

stillamazed
1488
Points
stillamazed 04/27/09 - 12:53 pm
0
0
Bless them all, this has to

Bless them all, this has to be so horrible for all of them. Hopefully the children will be cared for by the family and will be able to get past this and grow to be happy and healthy.

Back to Top

Loading...