2001 Dartmouth College murders
|Date||January 27, 2001|
|Location||Etna, New Hampshire|
|Convicted||James J. Parker
Robert W. Tulloch
|Convictions||Parker: second-degree murder
The Dartmouth College murders were the double homicide of Dartmouth College professors Half Zantop (born April 24, 1938) and his wife Susanne Zantop (née Korsukewitz, born August 12, 1945), who were killed at their home in Etna, New Hampshire (a village near the town of Hanover), on January 27, 2001. Originally from Germany, each of them had been teaching at the Ivy League college since the 1970s. High school classmates James J. Parker, age 16, and 17-year-old Robert W. Tulloch were charged with their murders after investigators traced the sheaths of two SEAL 2000 knives found at the crime scene to Parker. The knives had been purchased online.
Half and Susanne Zantop
Half and Susanne met while studying at Stanford University in the mid-1960s. Fascinated with geology, Half had earned a bachelor's degree from Freiburg University, while Susanne was working on her master's degree in political science. After Half earned a geology Ph.D. in 1969 and worked as a field geologist, he and Susanne were married in 1970. They had two daughters, Veronika and Mariana. Susanne taught in the German department at Dartmouth College and was chair of that faculty. Half was popular among many of his students. They had begun contemplating retirement in the months leading up to their murders. The homicide investigation was led by the New Hampshire State Police Major Crime Unit and at times consisted of as many as 50 investigators from numerous police departments as well as the FBI.
First murder attempt
Andrew Patti, a resident of Vershire, Vermont (a town a few miles east of Chelsea, Vermont), says that Tulloch and Parker attempted to murder him and his family in the summer of 2000. Patti's tale appeared in the 2003 book Judgment Ridge: The True Story Behind the Dartmouth Murders by Mitchell Zuckoff, and in 2004 Patti shared his story in more detail with Massad Ayoob of American Handgunner magazine.
Patti states that on July 17, 2000, Tulloch and Parker went to Patti's remote house, armed with hunting knives, intending to murder the inhabitants and to steal their belongings. Near the house, they dug makeshift graves for their intended victims. Then late at night, Tulloch knocked on the door while Parker waited off to the side in the bushes intending to ambush the homeowner when he opened it.
Inside, the 47-year-old Patti, at home with his 11-year-old son, was alerted to the teens' presence by the sounds of his dog barking. Suspicious of the knock on his door at such a late hour, he answered the knock by going to the door and pulling back the window blinds without opening it. Behind his back he held a Glock pistol at the ready.
Claiming to be a stranded motorist, Tulloch asked to enter the house, but Patti refused. After receiving several more requests for entry, Patti became concerned enough to hold up his Glock where Tulloch could see it. Then Patti closed the blinds on the door and went back to call the police. When he got to the phone, he discovered that the line was dead. But when he returned to the door, Tulloch and Parker had left the house. They did not return.
Tulloch and Parker went to the Zantop residence on the morning of January 27, 2001. Posing as students doing research for a school survey, their modus operandi was to take the occupants by surprise, threaten them into revealing their PINs, rob and kill them. Being one who often welcomed young people into his home, Half allowed them inside while Susanne prepared a dish for a dinner she was hosting at home that evening. According to his confession, Parker admitted that Zantop was "an alright guy" and that they didn't need to kill him. Tulloch, on the other hand, was thinking the exact opposite, especially when the professor of earth science told him that he had to come more prepared. Tulloch believed that his comments, however well-intentioned, were a slap in the face. While Half turned away to look for a phone number, Tulloch took his SOG knife and repeatedly stabbed Half in the chest and face, cutting his own leg accidentally in the process. Susanne tried to stop him, but Parker stabbed her at Tulloch's orders. Tulloch stabbed her in the head and body. Covered in blood, they left with $340 from Half's wallet, but they forgot to take their knife sheaths from the scene. During interviews with investigators, Parker confessed that he was surprised '"that our plan didn't work".
Parker had informed authorities that the motive of the murder was to acquire money from the victims to furnish an adventurous lifestyle. Tulloch had convinced Parker that they would need $10,000 in order to go to Australia to live a new adventurous life. It has also been suggested that Tulloch is a psychopath and that the murder was simply a thrill kill.
The Zantops' bodies were found later that evening by family friend Roxana Verona who had come to the Zantop's house as an invited guest for dinner. Investigators believed at first that it was a crime of passion by someone having an affair with Half, but that idea was soon disproved. There were several false leads (Associated Press reported at least three persons of interest were interviewed by police and that "A task force set up after the murders also received hundreds of phone calls, letters and e-mails from people with wild theories about the killings"), but after finding a bloody footprint and the two distinctive knife sheaths at the scene, the police traced the knives back to Parker three weeks after the murders.
Upon meeting with him, they learned that 16-year-old Parker was not regarded as a troublemaker. As well as having a good alibi, he told them that he bought the knives with Tulloch to build a fort , but that they had sold them at a surplus store after finding they were too heavy. While he agreed to undergoing fingerprinting, investigators paid Tulloch a visit. Although they doubted that the pair were the killers and told him that he did not have to speak with them, Tulloch agreed to speak with them and gave the same story. Upon inquiring about the deep cut just above his right knee, he told them that he slipped on a rock and cut himself on a metal spigot. When they asked to fingerprint him and borrow boots for matching purposes, he signed a search warrant. The same request had not been made of Parker because it was suggested by a detective whom they had phoned to get his version of the story.
On the following day, Tulloch and Parker were discovered to have left their homes. Parker's father found a note stating "Don't call the cops," although he did. Police found that Tulloch's bootprints matched those found in the Zantops' home, and both sets of fingerprints matched those at the crime scene. A warrant was put out for Tulloch's arrest, while Parker, still a minor, was sought for questioning in the murders. Sensing that police would be looking for their car, they abandoned Parker's silver Audi at a truck stop in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and planned to hitchhike to California. A truck driver who picked them up in New Jersey announced their intent to travel west via CB radio, and a police officer pretended to be another driver and offered to pick them up. At the Flying J truck stop in Spiceland, Indiana, the pair were captured by authorities.
Robert Wilbert Tulloch was born the third of four children in 1983 in North Pomfret, Vermont. His parents Michael and Diane had struggled financially since they were married in 1977. Tulloch took his home birth as the sign of future greatness, which he referred to as the "humble beginnings of an intellectual giant." Michael Tulloch was shy and withdrawn, and preferred to run his carpentry shop at home. Diane works as a home nurse. Tulloch's three siblings are two older sisters and a younger brother.
Tulloch ran for and won the position of class president of his school's student council in Chelsea, Vermont. Despite winning a landslide victory, he did not attend team meetings, and when there, he often was bored, unprepared and impetuous. A number of other members tried to remove him from the council, but this failed when the principal declared impeachment unnecessary. It was reported that Tulloch was very upset with his fellow members. He also was a member of the school debate team, but, being unprepared, he would use insults and witty remarks against his opponents. One such debate involved a foreign-exchange student from Germany struggling to understand his questioning, to which Tulloch remarked "You're just a German. How can you not know?" Although his team had a considerable lead, the victory was awarded to their opponents.
After their capture and incarceration, Parker was declared an adult and liable to stand trial. He made a plea bargain with the state in which he would testify against Tulloch as a witness, plead guilty to second-degree murder, and receive a maximum sentence of twenty-five years to life with a possibility of parole after 16 years. The profits from any book deals or movie offers that he might agree to will go directly to the Zantops' children. Tulloch's lawyer tried, without success, to get the insanity defense, claiming that Tulloch suffered from mental illness. Parker was sentenced to twenty-five years, and Tulloch, pleading guilty, was given life imprisonment without parole. During the hearing, Parker wept and showed remorse during his apology for his part in the killings, but Tulloch showed no emotion and made no statement.
One of the prosecutors in this case was assistant Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, who later became the state Attorney General and a U.S. Senator.
Parker is being held in the New Hampshire State Prison for Men in Concord. He has been classified as a Custody Level 3 prisoner (medium custody), which means that he can go about the prison except for head counts and lock downs at night. This classification allows inmates to leave their cells until the mandatory lockdown at 11 P.M. Prison officials have reported that Parker takes part in play productions put on by inmates, works at arts and crafts, plays guitar and practices yoga. He will not be eligible for parole until 2026, when he will be 41 years of age.
Tulloch is held in the same prison (after beginning his sentence at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin). He is a Custody Level 3(medium custody) and eats meals in the same chow hall at the same time as Parker, although their contact currently seems minimal.
- Snow, Robert L. (2005). Murder 101: Homicide and Its Investigation. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-275-98432-8. (see pp. 73–77)
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- de:Half Zantop
- de:Susanne Zantop
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- Lennox, Sara; Robert Holub; Martha Wallach; Gisela Brinker-Gabler (Spring 2001). "In Memoriam: Susanne Zantop, 1945-2001". German Quarterly. American Association of Teachers of German. 74 (2): 197–200. ISSN 0016-8831.