April 14, 2002
In the dead-heat of a summer's night, two teenagers labored to dig a grave
near an abandoned home in Vershire, Vermont. Robert Tulloch and James Parker had
already targeted their victim, a homeowner who lived a few blocks away. They'd
never even met the man. But his house sat in a prosperous-looking neighborhood
on Goose Green Road, and the cars outside were new and expensive. They planned
to rob and kill him, then bury him in the grave they'd prepared.
The two teens weren't satisfied with their upper middle class existence. They
needed money to go to Australia where they planned to become
"bad-asses," upper middle class slang for master criminals. Since
working for travel money was beneath them, they planned to steal the money.
According to later court testimony, "Tulloch raised the idea of killing the
people they attempted to steal from so that there would be no witnesses to their
On the evening of July 19, the day after they dug the grave, the teens
dressed in black and armed themselves with Army knives, duct tape, and zip ties.
They drove to the home of their intended victim and cut the telephone lines.
Parker then hid in some bushes near the house while Tulloch walked to the door
and rang the doorbell.
They'd rehearsed for days. Now was the time to put their plan into action.
Tulloch planned to tell the homeowner that his car had broken down. He would ask
to use the telephone and, once inside, would pull his knife and subdue the
victim. When all was clear, Parker would enter the house and the two would force
the man to give up his credit cards and PIN numbers. Then they would kill him.
If there was a wife and children at home, so be it--they'd have to die, too.
"No witnesses," Tulloch had said.
But when the intended victim answered the door, the master criminals were
surprised. He was obviously suspicious and held a handgun in plain view.
Tulloch stammered out some lame excuse for interrupting the man, then quickly
left. Parker exited the bushes, tucked his tail between his legs, and also fled.
Because the homeowner was armed, the Vershire murder didn't happen.
But a few days later, the Dartmouth murders did.
At noon, on July 27, 2001, Tulloch and Parker talked their way into the home
of Half (in German, Half means "help") and Suzanne Zantrop. They
brutally knifed the two Dartmouth professors to death, stealing $ 365.00 and
credit cards. But as the master criminals fled the scene, they forgot their
knife sheaths. Police quickly identified them by their fingerprints.
Tulloch and Parker were captured a month later. On April 4, 2002, Tulloch
pled guilty to two counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to life
without parole. Parker plea-bargained his charge down to second-degree murder
and was given twenty-five years.
Why did the unidentified Vershire homeowner survive? Because he had a gun.
How many other intended victims are never attacked because they displayed a
firearm? When criminologists James D. Wright and Peter H. Rossi interviewed
convicted felons in ten state correctional systems, they found that nearly sixty
per-cent stated that they would not attack citizens that they suspected were
armed. Guns save lives.
If not, this story would be about the Vershire murder instead of the
Robert A. Waters is author of "The Best Defense: True Stories of
Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves with a Firearm." His new book,
"Guns Save Lives," is scheduled to be published in May. His home on
the web is: http://www.robertwaters.net.
Read other articles by Mr. Waters at http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com/Waters.