January 27 2001 - 2 Professors Killed in Dartmouth College Murders


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WHAT HAPPENED? (1)


On January 27th 2001, 2 married Dartmouth professors, Half and Susanne Zantop, were stabbed to death in their home in Etna, New Hampshire.


The perpetrators were 2 high school students and friends, James J. Parker and Robert W. Tulloch, ages 16 and 17 respectively. Parker plead to the lesser charge of 2nd degree murder in exchange for testifying against Tulloch, and was sentenced to 25 years. Tulloch plead guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.



THE VICTIMS (1)


Half Zantop met Susanne when they were both studying at Stanford in the mid-60s. They clicked, both originally from Germany.


Half was fascinated with geology and earned a BA in Freiburg University. Susanne was working on her masters in Political Science.


Susanne taught in the German department at Dartmouth, and Half taught geology and Earth Science. They were beginning to discuss retirement.


The two married in 1970 an had 2 daughters. One is a doctor, and the other is an international aid worker.



THE KILLERS


Parker's family had come to Vermont from Poughkeepsie, New York, looking for a calmer scene. Tulloch's family was originally from Florida, and also moved to Vermont looking for the same type of harmonious living. (2)


Both Parker and Tulloch were considered bright students. They got good grades, had normal families, belonged to a group of friends, and were interested in typical teenage boy things: music, sports and girls. (3)


But beyond their normal families and interests, they both had "dangerously inflated egos" and believed that they were better, smarter, and more important than everyone else. (3)


Friends since elementary school, they felt confined by the small town life that both of their families had moved to Vermont in search of. They wanted to leave the country for an adventure. (3)



THE MURDERS


In order to embark upon their life of adventure, they needed $10,000. The 2 boys went to the Zantop residence, posing as students doing a research project for school.


Their plan was to threaten them into handing over their bank cards and PIN numbers. Susanne was preparing dinner for a gathering that evening, so Half let them in and lead them to his office to answer their questions.


Later on, Parker said that Half was an "alright guy" and that they didn't need to kill him. However, Tulloch got mad when he told him that he should come better prepared with research questions, so he took out his knife and stabbed him in the chest and face.


When Susanne heard the commotion, she came to try to stop it, but Parker, allegedly on command from Tulloch, stabbed her. Then Tulloch stabbed her some more.


They were covered in blood, and left with $340. They left their knives behind.



CATCHING THE KILLERS (1)


A family friend coming for the dinner Susanne was preparing for found their bodies and immediately notified the police. Initially, they suspected that perhaps Half was having an affair, or they had a disgruntled student in one of their classes, but those all turned up to be false.


Three weeks after the murders, the knives left at the scene were traced to Parker. Parker told the police he had never been in any trouble, that he had an alibi for the night in question, and that he and Tulloch had the knives to build a fort, but eventually sold them. They visited Tulloch, but didn't think 2 random high school kids had anything to do with it.


Eventually, Parker's father found a note that said "don't call the cops" after he realized that Parker had left, and he called the cops. Around the same time, they matched Tulloch's boot prints with the ones found at the scene, and the fingerprints they had gotten from the boys matched up with the crime scene.


Thinking the police would be looking for their car, they decided to hitchhike. They told the driver they planned to go to California. The driver shared this with police over the radio. They stopped at a Flying J where an officer pretended to be another driver to pick them up and continue their trip, and they were arrested.



TRIAL AND SENTENCING


Shortly after they were caught, the police found that they had made 4 previous attempts over a 6 month period to get into houses and kill the occupants for money. (1)


Parker testified against Tulloch for a reduced sentence, and he agreed that proceeds from any movie or book deals he agreed to on the case would go to the family of the Zantop's. (1)


Tulloch's lawyer tried to use the insanity defense, but failed. (1)


At sentencing, Parker cried and expressed extreme remorse about his part in the killings. He was sentenced to 25 years for second degree murder, with the possibility of parole after 16 years. (1)


Tulloch did not express any emotion during the trial or sentencing, and didn't read any statement. He was sentenced to life without parole. In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled in an unrelated case that mandatory sentenced of life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional, and cases where this happened need to be re-reviewed. In August 2014, it was ruled that Tulloch would be reviewed for re-sentencing, but nothing has been reported yet. (1)


Parker and Tulloch are imprisoned in the same institution, and eat in the same hall, but their interactions are limited. They both have shown good behavior in prison and have the freedom to move around within the prison. Parker is involved in plays put on by inmates and does arts and crafts, plays guitar, and does yoga. (1)


Parker submitted a request to be released because he was a model inmate and had served 2/3rds of his sentence, but withdrew it following objections from his victims' daughters. He said he does not want to cause the family any more harm. (4)



REFERENCES

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_Dartmouth_College_murders

2. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/03/the-apocalypse-of-adolescence/302449/

3. https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/good-deed-bad-good-deed-bad-article-1.1881655

4. https://vtdigger.org/2019/06/19/killer-in-murder-of-dartmouth-professors-withdraws-bid-for-early-release/

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