Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Killing of Jeff Zack

The Dark Rider's Trial

Zaffino went to trial on February 26, 2003. Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Michael Carroll offered evidence for his theory that Zaffino had snuffed out Jeff Zack because of Zack's inability to let go of Cynthia George after she ended their affair. He argued that Zack had made harassing phone calls to the George residence and had become involved in a feud with Zaffino over Cynthia. Since Zack had not gone away quietly on his own, Zaffino then plotted to get rid of him permanently. He'd made an aborted attempt in May and completed the act in June.

On March 7, Cynthia George was brought in to testify, but instead of clarifying her role, she invoked the Fifth Amendment, citing her constitutional right to not incriminate herself. Her husband did likewise.

The prosecution's best witness was Christine Todaro. She testified about Zaffino's response to her question about the man he'd assaulted. The tapes of her subsequent conversations with him while wearing a wire were played for the jury.

Zaffino's attorney, Lawrence Whitney, claimed that the evidence proved nothing. It was circumstantial at best. Truthfully, there was no smoking gun and no eyewitness who could identify the shooter. Zaffino did not testify on his own behalf or admit to an affair with George. He remained mum.

On the same day as closing arguments, though, after a four-hour deliberation, the jury convicted Zaffino of aggravated murder. He declined comment and was then sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole for at least 23 years. However, Zack's wife, Bonnie, addressed Zaffino during the sentencing, accusing him of being merely a fall guy, taking the heat while Cynthia George continued to live her opulent lifestyle. Zack's son asked him, "Was it worth it?" Both apparently wanted him to speak out and reveal the whole truth.

Jeff Zack with son (face obscured)
Jeff Zack with son (face obscured)

The question remained whether Cynthia George would be charged with anything, but at that time the police would not reveal their next move, except to say she was indeed a suspect and that they were continuing to investigate the possibility that more than one person had been involved with Zack's murder.

In December 2003, the District Court of Appeals upheld Zaffino's conviction, but Zaffino remained uncooperative.

Nearly a year later, the A&E Network aired a show about the case, "Who Whacked Zack?", which focused on the possible extent of Cynthia George's involvement. The pressure was on to make an arrest, and the police were in fact building a case.

On January 10, 2005, while Cynthia was out shopping at a Bath and Body Works store, she was placed under arrest and charged with both complicity and conspiracy to commit aggravated murder. Taken to Summit County Jail, her bond was set at $10 million. She would now have her own day in court. Given her status in the community, interest in the trial was great.

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