Why Did He Do That?


Dr. H. over at the General Blog of Crime posted some of her thoughts on the wanted now found dead Professor George Zinkhan case in Georgia:

…Then came news that the alleged shooter was not a student but a faculty member, George Zinkhan, and that one of the three victims was Zinkhan's wife -- and so the story unfolded as an all-too-familiar case of intimate partner homicide. But then Zinkhan disappeared, and a weeks-long manhunt turned up no trace of him until this past weekend when cadaver dogs discovered his body in a concealed grave he apparently dug for himself immediately before committing suicide.

And then, I think, it became clear that this story is quite unlike others we've heard:

Zinkhan's body was found in a small dugout area in the ground, covered with leaves and debris, and it was apparent that he took significant steps to try to conceal his body from being located," a statement from Athens police said.

Law enforcement officials determined that Zinkhan, 57, committed suicide after killing his wife, Marie Bruce, 47, Thomas Tanner, 40, and Ben Teague, 63, outside a theater in Athens on April 25.

I don't really have much commentary to add, other than to say that I'm puzzled about why he went to such lengths to conceal his body. While suicide is very often the final result of male-perpetrated domestic homicide, I can't quite make out why he would have wanted nobody to find his body.

A final act of cowardice? The consequence of a deeply disturbed mental state? Who knows? It certainly is unusual, though.
Why would the professor try to bury himself before committing suicide?

How about this guess as to motivation: he wanted to be remembered as someone who may have not been guilty.

If he was apprehended, the trial would have most likely produced a guilty verdict. If he was located after committing suicide, everyone also considers him guilty.

In contrast, if he is never found, he would have a somewhat of a legacy. The possibility that he was not guilty would always exist (perhaps he was thinking of this specifically with his kids)--keeping the focus of the story on him alluding authorities rather than taking the blame for the violent crime that he was believed to be responsible for.

Deciphering human behavior is certainly difficult work.

6 comments:

J. J. in Phila said...

There may be another reason, ego.

For the weeks Professor Zinkham was missing, he was "the guy outsmarting the police." Even postmortem, he was in the news and the subject of attention. That was something he never would have had in life.

For some people, that is a motive.

fayezie.com said...

it's sad and scary that HE gets to outlive his wife in "memory"/attention.

bleck! What's the criteria for clinically psychotic? the whole story about his burial is infuriating...the narcissism of it all...etc... if he's a phd he was smart enough to know that his body, though buried, would eventually be found, and obviously narcissistic enough to ensure that his legacy would remain (no pun intended) by his unique suicide.

Slamdunk said...

JJ: Certainly that is another explanation JJ, and I did mention that his rationale could be attributed to what he considered his legacy.

In my opinion, you usually see the taunting from career criminals and/or those with a deep hatred for the authorities. With Zinkham's case, he apparently was not a career criminal, and his hatred was directed at those he killed and wounded. If he wanted to, he could have left a suicide note tauting the police, but evidently did not.

As a result, I see his plan was to not ever be found--and the legacy/mystery would continue forever.

Faye: Agreed--all of the attention on Zinkham caused the victims to be mostly forgotten.

I would argue that the chances of finding a well-hidden body in dense woods with no search area to use dogs (in this case they were able to use dogs from the scene of his recovered car) would be significantly lower than most would think.

I tend to think that many other missing persons are buried never to be found.

Cindy Beck said...

In some cases, life insurance is the reason. In Zinkham's case, though, that would only have been true if his kids were the beneficiaries on his policy.

fayezie said...

on NPR this afternoon, actually i think it was on "georgia gazette", they said that the number of incoming calls to one of the women's crisis hotlines has had an increase following the murders in Athens...

They speculated that all the press surrounding the domestic case has prompted more women living in abusive or risky marriages/homes to reach for the lifeline.....

(darn, I wish i could find a link to the story)

Slamdunk said...

Interesting Faye--I did not see the story either. If you see the link, let me know. Thanks.