Police, Feds Hunt Georgia Professor After Picnic Shooting Kills Three

The University of Georgia marketing professor accused of killing three people when he allegedly opened fire Saturday on an Athens, Ga., theater group has vanished, leaving behind a stunned and fearful community.

"There's been nothing to indicate he's still in the area," Athens-Clarke County Police Department Capt. Clarence Holeman told ABCNews.com today. "There's three murder warrants on this guy. I think he'd want to get as far away from Athens as he can."

The Associated Press reported today that federal authorities said George Zinkhan, 57, who allegedlyshot and killed his estranged wife and two others, has a ticket for a May 2 flight to the Netherlands, and authorities were unable find his passport during searches of his home and his office. Police have said he has a house in Amsterdam where he teaches part time.

University of Georgia spokesman Pete Konenkamp said Zinkhan was thought to have been a fair professor who was well-liked, if not a bit distant.

"I've seen a mixed atmosphere," he said of the reaction on campus to Saturday's shootings. "Many are going on with their day as normal. And then there are those who are a bit unnerved by this."

UGA junior Josh Gurley, who was in Zinkhan's undergraduate marketing class this semester, said he was stunned to get a text message from the school on Saturday that his professor was believed to be responsible for the shootings.

"He was kind of a nice guy," Gurley told ABCNews.com today. "But he was kind of off, kind of weird. He wasn't very personable."

But the students never expected anything like what police are alleging, he said. Now the face of the man he sat in front of every Tuesday and Thursday at 8 a.m. is plastered all over the news and cops are all over campus.

"It's just kind of surreal," he said.

According to state records, Zinkhan earned nearly $213,000 last year, not including an addition $10,123 for travel.

Holeman said Zinkhan -- who was last seen driving his red 2005 Jeep Liberty, Georgia license plate number AIX 1376 -- has family in Texas and several states on the East Coast. He declined to specify exactly where those relatives are located, saying he didn't want to tip Zinkhan off that police were looking for him in those places.

Police are also considering the possibility that Zinkhan may have holed up somewhere and committed suicide, Holeman said.

'He's Always Been Strange'

Police say Zinkhan drove to a reunion picnic for volunteers of the Town & Gown Players outside the Athens Community Theatre Saturday, with his two children in tow. His son and daughter, ages 8 and 10, were left in the car while he allegedly stormed the gathering with two handguns and started shooting.

When he left, his estranged wife Marie Bruce, 47, and two longtime theater members, Thomas Tanner, 40, and Bob Teague, 63, were dead, each shot multiple times. Zinkhan then reportedly dropped off his children with a neighbor and disappeared.

Holeman said police were still piecing together a motive, but it appeared Teague was shot when he tried to stop Zinkhan and Bruce from arguing.

"There was an argument between him and his wife, and [Teague] intervened," Holeman said.

As for Bruce, Holeman said he's heard rumors that Zinkhan thought she was having an affair, but declined to comment on speculation.

Neighbor Dana Adams said she saw Zinkhan sitting in his car before he left for the picnic on Saturday. She said he got in his car, sat for a bit and then left.

Adams said the couple's children would come play with hers, and while Bruce was always talkative and friendly, she said Zinkhan was eccentric and not very friendly.

"He's always been strange," she said. "They were very different."

But Adams said she never noticed anything that was amiss. The two were working in their garden the weekend before the shootings she said.

Now that the police and media trucks have left the neighborhood, residents are mostly expressing sympathy for Bruce and for the kids.

"They were sweet kids," she said. "They were very obedient, good kids."

No Immediate Danger to University Community

Holeman said members of the theater group and students and staff at the university don't appear to be in any danger, despite the fact that Zinkhan's whereabouts are unknown.

"I think the people he meant to kill, he killed them and left," Holeman said, adding that Zinkhan's children are now staying with Bruce's brother.

"I've talked to my friends who were there, and they said he was very methodical and went in and just started (shooting)," Dina Canup, a Town & Gown member since 2001, told The Associated Press. "It's just unfathomable."

The Web site for the Town & Gown Players now includes a small tribute to each of the three members killed and offers a guestbook where people can leave online condolences.

"I feel crippled and overwhelmed with sadness but then I remember how incredibly blessed and better I am for having known them," wrote one mourner, identified online as Kate Benfield.

Bruce was described on the Web site as someone who had participated in the theater group in nearly every capacity "from leading lady to president of the board to chief cook and bottle washer."

While the rest of the community is still reeling from the shootings, especially from a longtime professor who had no criminal record, Holeman said little surprises him anymore.

"You get these things happening all over the country now," he said, pointing to the massacre earlier this month at a civic center in Binghamton, N.Y.

The university, where Zinkhan had taught since 1994, posted a statement from President Michael Adams on its Web site warning the community there to "use your best judgment in taking precautions while this suspect remains at large."

"We are saddened by the shooting that took place Saturday, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of all those who have been affected," the statement read. "As we grieve, we are determined to move forward."

The university has made grief counselors available and promised extra security and police presence. The school is now in its final week of classes.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.