In the early morning hours of July 12, 2001, police responded to the report of a traffic accident near Stafford. On their arrival, they found the victim’s car abandoned with the keys in the ignition and the engine running, the headlights and hazard lights on, and the driver’s window down. Police found the victim’s personal items in the vehicle, including her purse, credit card and medication.
After the evening news broadcast the victim’s disappearance, the owner of a motel near Camdenton recognized the victim’s picture as the woman who checked into a room with Mr. Zink. The motel owner provided the police with Mr. Zink’s motel registration card, and, using this information, the police apprehended Mr. Zink at his home. After police showed him evidence that placed him near the scene of the abduction, Mr. Zink waived his rights under Miranda v. Arizona,1 and confessed to killing and burying the victim. He led police straight to the spot in a cemetery where he said he buried the victim’s body, and the police discovered the body positioned just as Mr. Zink had described. Pathologists found that the victim’s neck was broken, she sustained injuries consistent with strangulation and being tied up, and she had eight broken ribs and between 50 and 100 blunt force injuries. Semen found in the victim’s anus matched Mr. Zink’s DNA, hair samples taken from Mr. Zink’s truck matched the victim’s hair, and paint left on the victim’s car from the accident matched paint from Mr. Zink’s truck.
In two videotaped confessions, Mr. Zink described the murder in detail. He said that he rear-ended the victim’s car on an exit ramp. In one confession, Mr. Zink told police that the victim voluntarily left the accident scene with him in his truck but later threatened to call police if he did not return her to her vehicle. In another confession, he said that he gave the victim no choice but to get in his truck, but that she willingly went with him after she was in the truck.
After he drove the victim around in his truck, they stayed for a short time at the motel near Camdenton. Mr. Zink then decided to kill the victim because he was worried he would go back to prison if she called the police. He took her to the cemetery and tied her to a tree. He told her to look-up, and then he broke her neck. He strangled her with his hands, and then with a rope, and stuffed her mouth with mud and leaves. He looked for a spot to bury her and then dragged her body to that spot with the rope. Because he was worried that she might revive, he stated that he stabbed the back of her neck with a knife to cut her spinal cord. He then covered the body with leaves, went home to get a shovel, and came back to the cemetery and covered the body with dirt.