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Billboards Help Search for Wanted Professor



04.30.2009

By Chip Towers

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Thursday, April 30, 2009

ATHENS, Ga. - A Georgia outdoor advertising group from Cumming is helping authorities in their search for accused triple-murderer George Zinkhan III.

The Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia, in conjunction with similar organizations across the country, has created what in effect are giant, electronic wanted posters for Zinkhan that are being beamed out on billboards along highways in 10 states.

All told, an image of Zinkhan under the heading of “Violent Felon Alert” eventually will be placed on more than 200 electronic billboards nationwide, according to Conner Poe, executive director of the OAAG. It’s already on more than 75 billboards in Georgia alone.

“We’ve had a lot of them up since Monday morning,” Poe said. “We already have a relationship with the FBI and GBI and help them with Amber Alerts and Kimberly’s Calls and things like that. Whenever the FBI has a dangerous suspect on the loose around Georgia, they’ll contact us. But in this case, I heard about what happened in Athens over the weekend so I just went ahead and made the call to the GBI. They got me in touch with the Athens-Clarke Country PD and I went ahead and offered them the chance to do it.”

Currently the message is on billboards in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Maryland, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Kansas. Poe said what states the message appears in comes directly from information provided by police. However, Poe said it is also dependent on billboard availability and organizational relationships, such as membership in the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. For instance, police wanted the ads placed on electronic billboards in Massachusetts and Utah but none were available. The message soon will also be in Alabama in South Carolina.

While billboard space can be sold for thousands of dollars, Poe said his organization is able to do it as a public service for almost no expense.

“It only takes about five minutes to do once you have the information,” he said. “This technology is instant. Once the original artwork is done, all it takes is somebody at a computer to point and click, then it is sent by satellite directly to those billboards.”

Athens-Clarke County police, which remains the primary investigating authority, certainly was glad to get the help.

“It could lead to the case being solved,” said Officer Kyle Blagg of Athens-Clarke County’s Information Management Division. “It can’t hurt anything obviously. It’s a tremendous asset with the message being on most of the major roadways. It will improve our chances of somebody seeing him or seeing the red Jeep. If nothing else, it should keep it in people’s minds.”

Zinkhan, a 57-year-old UGA marketing professor, has been identified as the gunman who fatally shot his wife, Marie Bruce, and fellow Town and Gown Players members Tom Tanner and Ben Teague, outside of the Athens Community Theatre this past Saturday. Zinkhan has not been seen since dropping off his two children at a neighbor’s house about 10 minutes later.

The funeral for Bruce, 47, was held Thursday morning in Augusta. The memorial service for Teague, 63, will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at the University of Georgia Chapel on North Campus in Athens. Tanner’s family has asked for details of his funeral to be kept private. Bernstein Funeral Home of Athens is handling.

 

 

 


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