When one hears the word professor, thoughts of an intelligent, calm, sweater and wire-rimmed glasses wearing figure usually come to mind. Professors are revered, and possess various degrees, awards and are generally pillars of their community. They say there’s a fine line between brilliance and insanity and these five killer-professors, all took flying leaps over that line, leaving the world of academia and diving into madness.
See Also: Most Gruesome Workplace Murders
1. George Zinkhan
A 57-year-old marketing professor at the University of Georgia committed a triple murder outside of a busy Athens’ theater in front of multiple witnesses. On April 25, 2009, Professor George Zinkhan showed up to the theater where he had a disagreement with his wife, Marie Bruce. He reportedly went back to his car where their two children were waiting, grabbed the two handguns he had stashed in the vehicle and went back to shoot his wife and two others the couple knew, Tom Tanner and Ben Teague.
Zinkhan fled the scene and dropped off his children, ages 6 and 8, with a neighbor, before hitting the road, heading for his hometown in Bogart Georgia. Police discovered that Zinkhan purchased an airline ticket to the Netherlands, but he didn’t make it that far. Once officers located his abandoned red Jeep Liberty, they brought out the cadaver dogs to continue the hunt. George Zinkhan was found dead of a self-inflicted bullet wound to the head, in a grave he dug for himself.
Other than rumors of marital problems and possible personality clashes at work, there was no confirmed motive uncovered by authorities. What police did find, however, was directions to another colleague’s house, obtained the day before the shootings. Barbara Carroll had reportedly warned the business department of the University that employed them, about Zinkhan’s mental stability calling him “dangerous”. She then went into hiding herself, with police officials keeping a watchful eye on her house until the news came in that his body had been found.
2. Ernesto Bustamante
Psychology professor and graduate advisor Ernesto Bustamante, was a well-respected member of the University of Idaho’s faculty. A 22-year old student named Kathryn Benoit began studying under his guidance and soon the two were involved in a romantic affair. The relationship took a turn for the worst and the great professor began harassing his former fling. Benoit, fearing for her safety, reported to university officials that she was being sexually harassed and had been threatened with a loaded gun on multiple occasions by the professor.
The university already knew that professor Bustamante suffered from bi-polar disorder and had received complaints about his conduct in the past. It was later discovered he engaged in multiple instances of sexual misconduct, using his authority to coerce female students into having sex with him and hosting “sex orgies”. Bustamante’s erratic behavior and threats of violence, extended beyond his obsession with Ms. Benoit- it was also reported he had, on various occasions, discussed shooting other students. The university asked him to resign, after doing so, he took out all his rage on Benoit.
In August of 2011, the night before the first day of the new semester, Professor Bustamante waited in an alley outside of Kathryn Benoit’s home. She went out on her back porch to smoke a cigarette and he shot her. He fired off a dozen rounds before speeding off, to shoot himself in the head, in a nearby hotel room. When authorities found his body, they discovered he was in possession of six other firearms, the documentation from Ms. Benoit’s complaint file, and four bottles of medication used to treat anxiety, depression and bi-polar disorder.
3. Amy Bishop
Forty-seven-year-old Amy Bishop taught biology at the University of Alabama, where she waltzed into a faculty meeting and opened fire because they voted against granting her tenure. She shot and killed three of her colleagues and wounded three others, back in 2010. Among the fatalities were Bishop’s boss, Gopi Padila and two professors named Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson.
While her lawyers scrambled to put together an insanity defense, Bishop ended up pleading guilty to capital murder, dodging the death penalty but securing life in prison without parole.
This, however, was not the first time Bishop turned to murder as a solution for her life’s frustrations. The death of her brother, Seth Bishop in 1986 was originally ruled as an accidental death. Ms. Bishop, who was 21-years old at the time, claimed the gun had gone off accidently while she was attempting to unload it.
In light of her recent crimes, her brother’s case was re-evaluated by prosecutors in Boston and stumbled on to some interesting facts that were not mentioned in the report sent to the District Attorney’s office. Ms. Bishop ran out of her suburban home after shooting and killing her brother and tried to steal a car at gunpoint. She apparently ignored repeated requests to drop the gun after police responded to the scene. An enhancement and review of old crime scene photos of Ms. Bishop’s bedroom revealed she had a newspaper clipping describing someone killing a relative with a shotgun and stealing a getaway car from a dealership.
As if Amy Bishop’s history wasn’t bad enough, her husband, James Anderson Jr., spewed threats to kill a Harvard Professor by the name of Paul Rosenberg in 1993. Rosenberg was mailed two six-inch pipe bombs connected to 9-volt batteries, shortly after theses threats were made. Bishop worked in a Children’s Hospital neurology lab, until Dr. Rosenberg reassigned her because she “Could not meet the standards required for the work.”
Both, Bishop and Anderson were questioned after Dr. Rosenberg received the bomb that thankfully failed to detonate. Their home was searched and receipts for various screws, gunpowder, and epoxy were found, but the items couldn’t be definitively tied to the bomb, so the couple was never charged.
4. Eric Muenster
A Harvard German professor by the name of Eric Muenter, went on quite the crime spree around the beginning of World War I. While his obsession with the criminal acts and insanity of others existed for some time, the trail of breadcrumbs leading to his own inner demons and criminal impulses, didn’t begin until after his wife Leone, gave birth to their second child and died 10 days later. Oddly enough, Muenter refused to allow an autopsy but sent medical examiners, his wife’s intestines and stomach, then quickly buried her and left for Chicago. This strange attempt at covering his tracks didn’t stop authorities from discovering the cause of Leone’s death was arsenic poisoning, leaving her town-skipping husband the prime suspect.
Muenter moseyed on down to Texas, changed his name to “Frank Holt” and then immersed himself in his studies before returning to his career of teaching at Cornell University. The German nationalist, picked up bomb designing as a hobby somewhere along the way and decided to put one to the test in a US Capitol reception area on July 2, 1915. No one died in the explosion, but within the week, he had planted two more. One was hidden in the NYPD Headquarters and another was aboard the SS Minnehana. As if the explosive Easter-egg hunt he sent officials wasn’t enough, he then decided to assassinate one of the richest men in America, J.P Morgan. Armed and ready to kill, Muenster waltzed right up to J.P Morgan’s Long Island estate home and shot him twice. Thankfully the wounds weren’t too serious and failed to kill him.
5. James St. James
Award-winning psychology professor James St. James at Millikin University in Illinois, managed to hide a dark secret for 46-years before it all began to unravel in 2013. As it turns out, his real name is James Wolcott and he committed a triple murder on August 4, 1967, in Texas.
After a night of sniffing glue at a rock concert, 15-year old James Wolcott decided to arm himself with a .22 rifle and kill his entire family. He shot his father, Gordon Wolcott, twice in the chest, before shooting his mother Elizabeth in the head and chest, then went to his sister Libby’s room and shot her in the chest and face. Wolcott played the victim, running out of the house to get help for his family. The rifle was soon discovered in the attic and Wolcott confessed in great detail.
When questioned about his motive for committing such atrocities, he said he hated his family, he believed they were going to destroy him and went on to complain about how loudly his mother chewed food, how annoying his sister’s accent was and how he hated his father for controlling the length of his hair and forbidding him to attend peace rallies. Peace rallies of all things.
Wolcott was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to spend a few years in a mental hospital that released him by the time he turned 21-years old. Wolcott changed his last name to St. James and went on to study Psychology and secured a teaching career at Millikin University without ever disclosing his past. It was a reporter for the Georgetown Advocate, who tied the professor to the crimes of his past and exposed them. While talk of him “stepping down” spread across town, he did no such thing. In fact, Professor St. James still works there today.
As many teachers have warned classrooms full of bright-eyed students, you should never judge a book by its’ cover. Looks certainly can be deceiving. No matter how much a person appears to have their life in order, one never truly knows what’s boiling just below the surface.
Do you know of any other nutty professors? Let us know below…