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In New Hampshire, the big murder case in the news is the Zantrop murders. A pair of teens killed the married college professors, in a scheme to steal ATM cards for cash. They schemed their way into the house, stabbed the husband in the chest, and then when his wife came to his aid, they slit her throat.

Scroll about two-thirds of the way down into the story, in the section titled "Looking for trouble". Notice that the teens attempted this same scheme earlier at another house, but they were greeted at the door by a man with a gun in his hand. The teens departed from that scene, and that family is still alive...

John Rich
Houston, TX

KABA NOTE: The successful use of a gun to thwart these thugs happened, according to this report, on July 19, 2000, in Vershire, Vermont.

Gun Helped Thwart Murderers Who Went and Killed Elsewhere

Originally published here as:
"Tulloch gets life terms; Parker: 'I'm sorry'"
April 5, 2002
Union Leader Staff

HAVERHILL, NEW HAMPSHIRE — In the end, the once inseparable best friends couldn’t have been more different. 

Former class clown James Parker, of Chelsea, Vt., sobbed and looked helplessly at his teary-eyed mother in the gallery yesterday as he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for his role in the murders of two Dartmouth College professors. 

Unable to read his prepared statement through his tears, the shackled 17-year-old simply turned toward the daughters of Half and Susanne Zantop seated in the courtroom. 

“I’m sorry,” he said. “There’s not much more that I can say than I’m just really sorry.” 

In contrast, former honor student Robert Tulloch sat seemingly unmoved during a separate hearing three hours earlier as a prosecutor detailed how he stabbed Half Zantop while the earth sciences professor screamed and fought for his life. When Zantop’s wife, Susanne, rushed to her husband, Tulloch turned to Parker and gave the order, “Slit her throat” 

The 18-year-old Tulloch, described as arrogant and cocky by hometown friends, offered no reason for the savage slayings or words of remorse to the Zantops’ family and friends before he was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences in state prison with no chance for parole. 

Acting against his lawyers’ advice, Tulloch pleaded guilty in Grafton County Superior Court to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of murder-conspiracy after an hour-long change of plea hearing. 

In doing so, Tulloch avoided a lengthy trial where he planned to use the insanity defense. 

His guilty plea followed extensive detailing of the rob-and-kill scheme Parker and Tulloch hatched more than six months before the Zantop murders that Parker provided investigators with after agreeing to turn state’s witness in their case against Tulloch. In exchange, Parker pleaded guilty Dec. 7 to accomplice to second-degree murder and received a lesser sentence. He will be eligible for parole in 25 years. 

Veronika Zantop, with her sister Marianna at her side, tells the court of the emotional pain they are suffering. (AP) 
“There is no statement in the entire world that can capture the absolute disbelief, horror, pain and sadness that I and my sister and my family and friends have experienced since my parents were murdered,” the Zantops’ elder daughter, Veronika Zantop, 30, told the teens before each was sentenced. 

In a tearful and trembling voice, she explained her 62-year-old father’s name in German, means “to help.” 

“My father lived up to his name. In many ways, he and my mother exemplified the spirit of giving to community and opening the door to perfect strangers, which was abused in such a horrific way that their death seems like the greatest violation,” added Zantop, while her sister, Marianna Zantop, 28, stood beside her in the courtroom, lightly stroking her sister’s back in a gentle gesture of support. 

A deadly ruse

Complete strangers to him, Half Zantop invited Tulloch and Parker into his Hanover home Jan. 27, 2001. Interested in environmental issues, he believed their concocted tale that they were students from the Mountain School in Vershire, Vt., doing an environmental survey, the state’s top homicide prosecutor, Kelly Ayotte, said yesterday. 

Instead, the teens planned to tie up the Zantops with duct tape and zip ties hidden in their backpack, steal the Zantops’ ATM and credit cards, threaten the couple for the PINs with two foot-long, military-style knives, and then kill them, Ayotte said. 

Familiar and impressed with the Mountain School’s programs, Zantop invited the teens inside his study where, for about 10 minutes, he answered Tulloch’s phony questions while Parker took notes. 

When the interview ended, Parker thought he and Tulloch would leave as they had in their earlier robbery attempts, Ayotte said. 

But Zantop “told them they needed to be more prepared and he wanted to give them a phone number of someone in their area they could talk to help them with their survey,” Ayotte said. 

When Zantop couldn’t find the number in the telephone book, he opened his wallet to look for it, giving the teens a glimpse of the wad of cash inside, Ayotte said. 

Tulloch then reached inside the backpack for one of two foot-long, military-style knives stashed inside and lunged at Half Zantop from behind, Ayotte said. Tulloch began stabbing Zantop in the chest and slicing his face while Zantop struggled to defend himself, she added. 

“Half was screaming, screaming terribly,” Ayotte said. 

His screams drew his 55-year-old wife, Susanne, from the kitchen where she was preparing lunch, Ayotte said. 

Parker, who by now had pulled the other knife from the backpack, grabbed Susanne Zantop when she came into the study, Ayotte said. 

“She was grappling for her husband and tried to grab his leg. She was screaming,” Ayotte said. 

As Parker tried to hold her back, Tulloch stopped stabbing Half, looked over at Parker and said, “Slit her throat,” Ayotte said. 

Parker slit Susanne’s throat and she fell to the ground. Tulloch then slit Half’s throat, went over to Susanne and repeatedly stabbed her in the chest and the back of the head with such force he pierced her skull, Ayotte said. 

Crucial evidence

The teens took Half Zantop’s wallet, quickly gathered up their belongings, ran out the front door and fled to Vermont in Parker’s mother’s car. 

But in their haste, they forgot the knife sheaths, one of which later revealed Parker’s fingerprint. It would be a critical mistake. 

The sheaths enabled investigators — lacking a motive and any connection between the Zantops and their killers — to match them to two SOG Seal 2000 knives. The national search of the knife purchases led police, more than three weeks later, to the bucolic town of Chelsea, Vt., where Parker ordered a pair of the knives over the Internet in early January, Ayotte said. 

“That was a clear path to Parker and Tulloch,” Ayotte told reporters at a news conference outside the courthouse, where she and state Attorney General Philip T. McLaughlin praised investigators for their efforts in solving the crime. 

“The victims of this crime, the Zantops’ daughters, Marianna and Veronika, have suffered terribly as a result of the loss of their parents. To be able to bring some closure to the criminal aspect of this is justice,” Ayotte said. 

During Parker’s sentencing, prosecutor Michael Delaney said the state and defense stipulated that Parker could reap no profits through movies, books, magazines, television or radio shows or any other manner from his story of the crime that has captured the region and nation’s attention. If Parker breaches the agreement, all profits will be given to the Zantops’ heirs. 

Tulloch’s sentencing on the murder-conspiracy charge was delayed while the state proposed a similar agreement for him. 

Judge Peter W. Smith must review and approve the agreements. 

Making the deal

McLaughlin said the state agreed to negotiate a plea deal with Parker after Parker’s lawyers approached prosecutors last fall. The state lacked DNA evidence against Parker and prosecutors were concerned they could only get a second-degree murder conviction with a possible 30- to 35-year sentence if he was convicted at trial. 

Prosecutors also believe Tulloch was the leader of the two, he added. Striking a deal with Parker enabled the state to get a first-hand account of what happened to strengthen their case against Tulloch, and it made the state’s strong forensic case against Tulloch meaningful to a jury, he said. 

While yesterday’s convictions brought the horrific case to a close after 14 months of investigation and court proceedings, questions still linger. 

“It is our hope the media will continue” to maintain an interest in the case to help uncover the motivations that led the teens to kill, McLaughlin said. 

“These kids were not alcoholics . . . These were bright kids. They were socially connected kids. They were kids mainly like any other kids,” he said. 

Looking for trouble

Bored with small town life in Chelsea, Vt., long-time friends Tulloch and Parker, then 17 and 16, dreamed of heading off to Australia in the spring of 2000, Ayotte said. 

They quickly tired of trying to fund their wanderlust through legal means, and soon plotted ways to illegally get the $10,000 they figured they needed, Ayotte said in court. 

They stole an all-terrain vehicle in Vermont and mail from mail boxes in neighboring towns, hoping to obtain credit cards, she said. 

Frustrated with these schemes, they decided to jump people getting out of their cars, forcing them at knife point to reveal the PINs to the ATM and credit cards and then kill them, she said. 

“Tulloch raised the idea of killing the people they attempted to steal from so that there would be no witnesses to their crimes” and told Parker they would have to be able to kill people so they could be “bad asses” when they went to Australia, Ayotte continued. 

After scoping out houses on Goose Green Road in neighboring Vershire, Vt., they put their plan into action July 19, 2000. 

Suited up in black, Tulloch and Parker, armed with older Army knives, duct tape and zip ties, approached the house at night. Before going to the door, they cut the phone lines and dug a grave in a lot of a nearby abandoned home where they planned to bury their victims after they robbed them, Ayotte said. 

Tulloch went to the door while Parker hid in the bushes. Tulloch planned to say their car had broken down and ask to use the phone, but when a man answered with a gun in his hand and refused to let him in, Tulloch left.

They then bought two sets of stun guns — Tulloch’s mother discovered the first set and made him return them — and looked at houses in Rochester, Vt., with binoculars. Their plan was to wait for people to arrive home, knock them out with the stun guns when they got out of their cars, drag them inside, tie them up and force them to reveal their PINs before killing them, Ayotte said. 

After buying the military-style knives over the Internet on Jan. 1, 2001, the teens tried to talk their way into a Rochester, Vt., home pretending to be students doing an environmental survey. The owner refused to let them inside. 

Targeting Hanover

The pair then turned their sights to Hanover were they believed “people have a lot of money,” Ayotte said. 

They approached a Trescott Road house a week before the murders with the knifes strapped to their legs. They got as far as the door when they turned back. 

On Jan. 27, 2001, the teens drove Parker’s mother’s green Subaru station wagon back to Trescott Road and pulled into the driveway of an “expensive-looking house,” Ayotte. They knocked, but no one was home. 

They then drove next door to the Zantops’ house “because it looked expensive” and was secluded, she said. 

After killing the Zantops, the teens drove back to Vermont and washed the blood off the knives and car floor mat in Thetford, Vt. They began “freaking out” when they realized they forgot the knife sheaths, she said. 

They drove to Tulloch’s house where Tulloch changed out of his blood-covered clothes before heading to a Barnes and Noble in Burlington, Vt., Ayotte said. They “looked at books on killing and how people deal with killing, including how soldiers deal with killing,” she added. 

They spent the night at Tulloch’s house and stored the knives in make-shift sheathes in his bedroom. They also burned Tulloch’s bloody pants and Zantop’s wallet, after taking the $340 from it, in a woodshop furnace at Parker’s house, Ayotte said. 

Fearful that police would find them through the knife sheaths, they took a bus to Colorado on Jan. 30. 

The night before they left, Tulloch told his girlfriend, Christiania Usenza, he had done something bad, Ayotte said. 

“Christiania asked him, ‘How bad?’ He said, ‘Really bad,’” Ayotte recounted. He also admitted he got the wound on his knee from a knife and not from a maple syrup spigot as he told classmates. 

The two left without their parents’ knowledge, but were forced to return home when Tulloch’s injured knee became worse. 

Tulloch and Parker checked news reports daily to see if police were on to them, Ayotte said. 

“They didn’t hear anything in the news about the knife sheaths, so they believed that the police didn’t know anything about them,” she said. 

After tracing the knife purchases to Parker, police interviewed both teens Feb. 15 and obtained their fingerprints and Tulloch’s boots. 

After the interviews, “they were panicked and they wanted to get out of town,” Ayotte said. 

That night, the two communicated over the Internet using AOL instant messaging and fled in Parker’s Audi after their parents went to bed. They abandoned the car at a Sturbridge, Mass., truck stop and hitched rides with cross-country truckers before being caught in Spiceland, Ind., Feb. 19. 

“It’s a house of cards. It took me 17 years to build and I just blew it down and I can’t get it back up again,” Ayotte recounted Tulloch’s comments to authorities in Indiana. 

“He also repeatedly said, ‘I’m sorry, Jim,’ and that he wished he hadn’t involved John Parker’s son,” Ayotte said. 

After interviewing the teens Feb. 15, investigators didn’t have probable cause to obtain arrest warrants on Parker and Tulloch simply on the basis of the knife purchases, Ayotte said. They had checked out many places where people bought two pairs of similar knives and this alone was insufficient to arrest or keep a watch on the teens, she said. 

It was only after an investigator discovered the next day that Tulloch’s boot matched the footprint at the crime scene that they obtained the arrest warrant for him. An arrest warrant was issued for Parker after the teens were discovered missing and Parker’s fingerprint matched that on the knife sheath found in the Zantops’ home, she said. 

Investigators recovered impressive forensic evidence, including a bloody footprint that matched Tulloch’s boot at the crime scene and two knives in Tulloch’s bedroom — one with DNA matching Susanne Zantop on it and the other with DNA matching Susanne and Half Zantop. They also found both Tulloch and Susanne Zantop’s blood on Tulloch’s boot. 

(Union Leader staff reporter Paula Tracy contributed to this report.)

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