Did Cynthia George conspire to kill her former lover?
In 2001, Jeff Zack was at an Akron gas station filling up his car when a man on a motorcycle pulled up and shot him execution-style in broad daylight.
The story behind Zack’s murder would soon unfold like a Dashiell Hammet novel, with Cynthia George playing the femme fatale, caught in the middle of a tumultuous love triangle between her Zack and John Zaffino, his murderer. Then there was the hard-boiled detective, Vince Felber…
For over two years, Felber built a case against George, wife of Tangier owner Ed George and mother of six children. The former beauty queen and airline stewardess had been in a long love affair with Zach until May 2001, when Zaffino finally caught her eye. Angry over the break-up, Zach began harassing George and her family. That’s when Felber says Cynthia George and Zaffino conspired to kill Zach. Still, Felber didn’t have definitive evidence that George was involved.
In 2003, Summit County Judge Patricia Cosgrove convicted George of murder, citing an abundance of circumstantial evidence. Cosgrove sentenced her to life. But two years later, an appeals court overturned the verdict and George was released from prison.
Yet Felber wasn’t done with the story. This month, his book “The Perfect Beauty” was released on St. Martin Press. In it, Felber chronicles every painful detail of his stormy investigation – from reluctant witnesses to interdepartmental strife over how to proceed. In the end, he stands by his case, which pinned George as Zaffino’s co-conspirator.
But it’s not the Georges who are up in arms over the book. It’s the Akron Police Department.
On April 22, Felber was demoted to “light desk duty” while the department began its internal investigation of the book, which it claims violated department rules. “It’s against rules and regulations for me to even talk about it,” Felber says.
It’s unclear what rules Felber violated – the department won’t comment. But what is evident is that Felber wasn’t afraid to take supervisors to task for impeding the progress of his case.
Not only does he criticize the department’s lack of basic police equipment, from modern tape recorders to the absence of cell phones, but he also portrays Captain Elizabeth Daugherty as a total nuisance. At one point, he claims that he was about to get a confession out of Zaffino, when Daugherty interrupted the interrogation and ruined their progress. ”Every seasoned police officer understood that you never interrupted an interview. An interview is sacrosanct,” Felber writes.
Felber says his only goal was to paint an accurate portrait of his investigation, in which he made mistakes too. “It’s not a perfect system,” he says.
Don’t tell Akron Chief Michael Matulavich that. – Denise Grollmus