Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Killing of Jeff Zack

The Untold Story Revealed

After the verdict, the Beacon Journal carried a story about the downfall of Cynthia George. Born beautiful, she capitalized on it to advance herself and her ambitions. She grew up in a small bungalow, a coal miner's daughter, and she developed a dread of poverty. Yet neither that dread nor her Catholic piety had prevented her from acting in a way that threatened her marriage. Apparently, her desire for attention from men outweighed her other concerns.

Cynthia George
Cynthia George

Active in her high school, she was unable to afford college, where she had hoped to study art. She worked a series of mediocre jobs, but her fortune changed when she met Ed George in 1978. She was on the dance floor at his restaurant and bar. He had never been married, and she caught his eye. In 1984, they wed in style before 500 guests, although she came to view him as more a father figure than husband. He continued to work long hours and was rarely home.

Still, she lived in a million-dollar mansion, a far cry from her childhood home. Together they had five children and adopted two more, but even that wasn't enough to keep Cynthia from roaming. The nanny indicated that she had been more concerned with herself than her children. She spent a lot of money on clothing and was obsessed with her appearance.

In December 2005, Cynthia finally broke her silence to tell her story. The Cleveland Plain Dealer printed it in detail. Now 52, she explained that Zack had intimidated and frightened her. She had gone to the Zack home in 1998 to tell Bonnie about the affair, but instead of finding her, Cynthia ran into Jeff. She said he punched her in the stomach, throwing her to the garage floor. Then he grabbed her by the hair and dragged her up the steps. He pushed her into a closet and got an AK-47. Placing the end of the barrel in her mouth, he allegedly said, "You're not playing the game."

She talked about how Zack initially had made her feel special while her husband had made her the brunt of bad jokes. Zack had thought she "deserved better." He lied about being an oncologist, which had soon been revealed, but Cynthia had laughed it off. In fact, as an operator of vending machines, he had plenty of time for her, so she did not mind.

But, she claimed, when she wanted to break it off, he forced her with threats and intimidation to continue the relationship. He told her that her life was not her own to decide. He even threatened to hurt her children if she did not cooperate. He had instructions ready for her, which included a demanding schedule of calls to him. If she did not comply, he said, he would terrorize her family and torture her to death.

She grew depressed and a friend urged her to enter a beauty pageant. She did so, and came in third runner-up. She soon met Zaffino, who made her feel better. She claimed she purchased the motorcycle for him so he'd have a vehicle with which to rescue her.

Cynthia claimed she had wanted to testify during her trial, but two of her attorneys had insisted she not take the stand. While her story sounded good in places, it was never subjected to a cross-examination.

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