Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Killing of Jeff Zack

Lover's Triangle

Jeff Zack typed the name "Cynthia George" into a search engine. After a ten-year extramarital love affair, she had broken up with him. They'd had their troubles of late, but he had not expected to lose her. Now he was trying everything of which he could think to reconnect. If he realized that she was involved with another man, he either did not know or did not care how dangerous that person might be. He was persistent.

Jeff Zack
Jeff Zack

It was the morning before Father's Day, and as he performed his obsessive search, Zack's wife and son were in another room nearby, unaware of what he was doing. Without any explanation to them, he left home. He didn't even take time to put on his shoes. But he usually went out on Saturday mornings to purchase supplies from BJ's Wholesale Club to fill his various vending machines. It was his routine, so they thought nothing of it.

He drove his Ford SUV to Home Avenue in Akron, Ohio, and stopped at a gas pump to refuel. He did not know that someone waiting for him was now watching him.

The other man involved with Cynthia George knew Zack's regular visit to the store and was in the parking lot, seated on a motorcycle. Anyone who noticed him would have seen that he was dressed all in black and had even shielded his face with a dark visor. He looked like some sort of Ghost Rider, strangely out of place on a summer day. But he was all too real. He touched a holstered revolver, recently purchased, to reassure himself it was ready.

When he spotted Jeff Zack's car at the gas pump, he rode over and pulled up behind him. Getting off the bike as if preparing to fill it, the dark biker walked calmly instead to the passenger-side window of Zack's SUV, lifted the gun, and fired a single shot. It shattered the glass and hit Zack square in the head. He slumped over onto the steering wheel in a spray of blood that covered the inside of the windshield and driver's window.

Carolyn Hyson, the pump attendant, stood only a few feet away, too surprised to move. The biker appeared to look right at her, although she could not see his face through the visor, before remounting to roar away. Afterward, she was amazed that he hadn't shot her as well. Clearly, this was a calculated hit.

Once she was able to act, Hyson shakily called 911 to get the police and an ambulance there. She was able to describe to responding officers the Ninja-style gray-and-black motorcycle with lime-green stripes, and the heavy-set man with a gun who had ridden it. However, for Zack, it was too late. At the age of 44, he was dead, killed by a single copper-jacketed hollow-point bullet.

The biker made a call before he rode over the state line to Pennsylvania, where he intended to establish an alibi and get rid of the bike. Having purchased it recently, he apparently had only one use for it.

It took detectives only a day to connect Jeff Zack with Cynthia George, who was married to the wealthy owner of the Tangiers Restaurant. They even knew that one of her seven children had probably been fathered by him. However, she already had a lawyer and he blocked their inquiries. They also learned about Cynthia George's new paramour, John Zaffino, but he had an alibi: he was at a car show that day in Pennsylvania.

Nothing about this case was going to come easy. In fact, over a year would pass before police had a solid piece of evidence. In the meantime, they learned what they could about the victim. This case was heavily covered in the Akron Beacon Journal and Cleveland Plain Dealer, as well as by the A&E series, American Justice because the woman with whom Zack had been involved was the wife of a prominent businessman, well-known in the community. The case proved to be a sordid Midwestern version of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. In fact, the intrigue would grow more complicated the more was learned about the adulterous web of Cynthia George.

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